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from The Collected Works
Jesus and the Unknown God –Part 1
In the historical drama of revelation, the Unknown God ultimately becomes the God known through His presence in Christ.
This drama, though it has been alive in the consciousness of the New Testament writers, is far from alive in the Christianity of the churches today, for the history of Christianity is characterized by what is commonly called the separation of school theology from mystical or experiential theology which formed an apparently inseparable unit still in the work of Origen.
The Unknown God whose theotes was present in the existence of Jesus has been eclipsed by the revealed God of Christian doctrine.
Even today, however, when this unfortunate separation is recognized as one of the great causes of the modern spiritual crisis; when energetic attempts are made to cope with the problem through a variety of crisis and existential theologies; and when there is no lack of historical information about either the revelatory process leading up to the epiphany of Christ, or about the loss of experiential reality through doctrinization; the philosophical analysis of the various issues lags far behind our preanalytical awareness.
It will be necessary, therefore, to reflect on the danger that has given the Unknown God a bad name in Christianity and induced certain doctrinal developments as a protective measure, i.e., on the danger of the gospel movement derailing into gnosticism.
In his Agnostos Theos (1913; rpr. 1956, pp. 73ff.), Eduard Norden has placed the problem in its historical context and refers back, on this occasion, to its first presentation by Irenaeus in Adversus Haereses (ca. 180). Irenaeus lets the doctrinal conflict between gnosticism and orthodox Christianity turn on the interpretation of Matt. II:25–27:
In orthodox doctrine, the God revealed by Jesus is the same God as the creator god revealed by the prophets of Israel; in Gnostic doctrine, the Unknown God of Jesus and the Israelite demiurge are two different gods.