In one episode of Peanuts, Charlie Brown lists the four combinations of the relationship between two persons, each being a something or a nothing and ends with, ‘and I’m nothing’. Linus responds, ‘For a nothing Charlie Brown, you’re really something’.
Of course, all human beings are the same something, neither more nor less. In contrast, each angel is a something in itself. Michael, Raphael and Gabriel are all archangels, yet each is a something different from the others. Angel is a general category not a specific something.
Archangel is to Michael, Raphael and Gabriel as animal is to dog, eagle and fish. Angels cannot be of the same nature, the same kind of something. There can be no principle by which one could be distinguished from another within the same kind of something, because angels are pure spirits.
In contrast to angels, humans are a composite of two principles, form and matter. We are all of the same form, the same something, that of thinking animal. We differ due to a second principle, which is that of particularity, namely matter.
We can all be the same something and yet differ as beings because of the principle of matter. Also, we are of the same something because we are all descendants of Adam, where descent is possible due to our materiality.
Not everyone agrees that a dog, an eagle and a fish differ as somethings. Invoking the principle that like begets like, and noting that man and the modern pig have a common ancestor, Richard Dawkins concludes that pigs and humans are the same something as are also lemons because all living things are traceable to primitive organisms through modified descent.
In contrast, another biologist, Kenneth Miller, identifies evolutionary modified descent as continuing creation, thereby implying that the modifications are changes at the level of something, that pigs and humans can be different somethings, even if they have a common ancestor.
As continuing, this appears to be inconsistent with revelation, which seems to imply that continuing material creation (continuing evolutionary modified descent, according to Miller) ceased with the creation of Adam.
The multiplicity of men at the level of something is explained by the material principle of particularity, while the multiplicity of angels at the level of something is explained by their differing from one another as something, i.e. in nature.
Both men and angels cannot explain their own existence due to the real distinction between their something and their act of existence. Their existence is explained by the existence of a being that explains its own existence by the fact that its something is identical to its existence.
God is the real Something in his very existence. He affirms, “I am, who am” (Ex 3:14) and “Before Abraham came to be, I am” (Jn 8:58). Having made material creation out of nothing, God made man out of the slime of the earth, breathing life into him (Gn 2:7).
From our perspective, in the jargon of Charlie Brown, God is Something and we are nothing. Yet, what does Something think of himself? He says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rv 22:13). He also says, I am the way the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), which are three aspects of reality, namely the good, the true and the existent. And, yet he also says in perfect compatibility, “learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).
It is astounding that God could be humble. To illustrate this humility, St. Paul notes that clinging to his nature as God almighty was not in his personality, but he emptied himself into the form of a slave being obedient to death, even to death on a cross (Phil 2: 6-8).
What does the Something, the All in All, think of us, nothings? He is the good shepherd, who lays down his life for us his sheep (Jn 10:11), who remain his sheep even when we stray, in which case he continues diligently in his love for us until he finds us (Lk 5:4). The list could go on and on, because he will never abandon us even if our mother could forget us (Is 49:15).
The list could go on and on not only because God’s love for us in inexhaustible, but because the mode of human knowledge is one of perspective. One intellectual perspective excludes our contemplation of another equally appropriate perspective because our intellectual knowledge depends upon sense knowledge in which each set of sensations is particular (material), thereby necessarily excluding all others.
This is especially poignant in theology, in which one perspective seems to us to be incompatible with another perspective. Thomas Van highlights this as the source of apparent paradox in theology in an essay, “Beyond Our Ken: Henri de Lubac’s Paradoxes of Faith” Beyond.
One such paradox is the good news of revelation: As the object of Something’s love, every Charlie Brown, for all his being a nothing, is really something.