Life as Fetal Rehearsals

It is now over a week since Simeon entered the world. When he is not sipping espresso and casually paging through Calvin’s Institutes, he sleeps quietly in his basinet.

It is interesting to consider the life Simeon had two weeks ago in the womb, compared to his current experience. Some things are common; most aspects of his existence are entirely new. This comparison offers us a tremendous lesson about the life we live in this world as members of Christ’s kingdom. Peter Kreeft elucidates this truth in the following excerpt from his book Love is Stronger than Death:

“Some of the physical habits the fetus learns in the womb are necessary for its survival both in the womb and in the world, such as heartbeat. Others make sense only in the world outside the womb, such as kicking. These are essentially preparatory acts, rehearsals. So in our analogy, some of the spiritual habits or virtues that we learn in this life are necessary to our survival in the world, such as justice and wisdom; but others do not seem to make rational, this-worldly sense: virtues like humility, martyrdom, or the “divine discontent,” the longing for perfection. The specifically Christian virtues taught in the Gospels are absurd to the world, even the wise world. Contrast the ethics of Aristotle with the ethics of the New Testament! Poverty, chastity, and obedience make no sense if this world is all there is. They limit the earthbound me; they repress my desire for this-worldly gratification and pleasure. They seem to be weaknesses, not strengths. Indeed, this is probably the most popular criticism of Christian ethics, both among playboys and practical people, and among psychologists and philosophers like Freud, Sartre, Nietzsche, and Marx. But if this world is a womb, Christian values do make sense as training for the next world. Jesus preaches his ethic as an ethic of the New Kingdom, the “Kingdom of Heaven.” A fetus might wonder what his feet are for, might wonder where in the womb he will find them useful and fulfilling; but the womb gives him no adequate answer. Similarly, the world gives me no adequate answer when I wonder what such things as self-sacrifice or my longing for eternal joy mean (p. 67-68).”

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