In honor of the season, I’m going to talk about “Wise Men.”
Back in 2008, a Catholic friend of mine was having trouble understanding why God waited until only 6000 years ago to introduce himself to humanity, when so much paleontological evidence evidence points to there having been human beings for over 100,000 years. I sent him an email that said:
Here’s my personal answer to the basic question you asked. While my opinion draws on Mormon doctrine, it’s my own personal theory, not official doctrine.
Genesis 2:7 says: And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
While many people use the words “spirit” and “soul” interchangeably, in Mormon doctrine, the word “soul” refers to a union of physical body and immortal spirit. Mormons believe that humans existed as spirit children of our Heavenly Father prior to the formation of the earth, and that part of God’s plan involved our spirits obtaining physical bodies.
While the Mormon Church officially takes no position on evolution, it is firm that Adam was the first man.
So, my own personal theory to resolve that conflict is that if God used evolution to create those bodies in the form he wanted, then the first of those bodies to become a “soul” by being given a human spirit was Adam. Thus, the physical ancestors of Adam, while genetically human, were merely creations of God rather than children of God.
What is the eternal status of pre-Adamic humans? That’s up to God, of course, but I don’t really see how that differs from the question of the eternal status of chimpanzees.
Therefore, in my view, the answer to your question of why God waited until 6000 years ago to introduce himself to humanity is that prior to Adam, they weren’t his children.
While my theory is rooted in Mormon doctrine, I think it’s possible to come up with a variation that’s compatible with Catholic doctrine.
My friend suggested I should write a story that used this theory. I said I would have to think about it.
Which brings me to “Wise Men.” It’s a Christmas story that was published in the December 2010 issue of Intergalactic Medicine Show. In it, Eloi, a God-like figure, started bonding spiritual beings to the human species, with the eventual goal of producing immortal physical beings.
But the story’s not by me — it’s by Orson Scott Card. Now, unless the NSA was passing him my emails, he came up with the story without any input from me. I’ll just be satisfied to say, “Great minds think alike.”
“Wise Men” is a retelling of the story of the Three Wise Men from the point of view of Satan, who has possessed one of Herod’s advisers in an attempt to frustrate Eloi’s plan by killing the baby Jesus. (SPOILER WARNING: He fails!)
Since the basics of the plot are pretty well known, the more interesting part for me was to see how Card wove in various aspects of LDS theology. In re-reading the story today, I also spotted several parallels between the ideas behind “Wise Men” and his Mither Mages series.