How many levels of being are there (re-thinking Gunton)?

One book that left an indelible impression upon me was Colin Gunton’s Triune Creator.  In many ways it is simply fantastic.   One of the things that always stuck with me was Gunton’s insistence that there were two levels of reality:  created and creator.

And I agree. Gunton goes on to say that given above, there is no such thing as a “chain of being.”  I think I know what he’s talking about but the way that is phrased makes other biblical and systematic formulations problematic.

Gunton goes on to say that many of the fathers agree with him.  And sure enough, the evidence is there.  And I really don’t want to dispute Gunton’s overall thesis, which I think is quite helpful.  Rather, I want to re-examine the “chain of being” argument.

I agree with him that there are two levels of reality, Created and uncreated.  However, I do not believe that this formulation should be seen as two flat planes, one simply infinitely higher than the other.  Nor do I see all sentient creatures as simply coexisting on the same plane (created reality) while God is on another plane (uncreated reality).

I think I can prove this by Psalm 8 and the angels.

5Yet you have made him a little lower than(N) the heavenly beings[b]
and crowned him with(O) glory and honor.

My Hebrew is rusty but I don’t think “heavenly beings” means “Triune God.”  If it doesn’t, then we have introduced a continuum in creation.  The angels exist higher than man.  I love what Etienne Gilson says on this, The study of angels helps clarify our understanding of beings who are not humanoids (and also excluding the class of mammals entirely) but are not God(s), either.  Later I want to explore the intermediary beings Gilson mentions.

Does any of this refute Gunton’s thesis?  No (though of course he might disagree with it).  It simply qualifies it.


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