Question of the Week: Does the Bible teach reincarnation?
In order to properly address whether something is in the Bible or not, we need a proper understanding of what that thing actually is before we can be certain it isn’t in the Bible. Reincarnation, or transmigration, is originally a concept that draws its roots in Hinduism and later on into Buddhism. While popular culture may make it out to be a positive thing that assures those after death that another life awaits, the ones who actually came up with the system have the right to properly define the concept regardless of how good the modern spins on it make us feel. Reincarnation is the Hindu and Buddhist concept of Hell. These eastern religions make 4 claims that form the foundation of this concept of a continual existence a negative thing.
1. The Universe is god. (Brahman)
2. The purpose of our existence is to return to god. (Removal of Dukkha)
3. Physical life separates us from the spiritual non-existence. (Dharma)
4. Your works, good or bad, prevent you from achieving this non-existence. (Karma)
As I’m sure you can tell, these core assumptions are very different from Christianity. The only one that we could have something in common with is the second premise, that our purpose in this life is to return to God. The problem is that the Biblical view of God and the one we see described in the Hindu and Buddhist texts couldn’t be more unalike. Not to mention the fact that their understanding of spirituality and the way to god are polar opposites from our own as well. We will get to these in a moment.
Reincarnation was described by Mahatma Gandhi as a burden too heavy for man to bear. Given their spiritual assumptions about the nature of God, the universe, and man’s role in it, their solution to their sinful nature and the suffering that dominates this universe is entirely nihilistic. The Hindu and Buddhist hopes to cease to exist once all of the “good” and “evil” deeds done in their life and past lives have ultimately amounted to a zero sum. Morality doesn’t exist in these worldviews, and any action in the mind or body to interact with this world is the closest thing a Hindu/Buddhist understands to be sin. To do good is seen the exact same way as doing evil because it’s interfering with the essence of god they believe makes up the Universe. To return to this existence means you will continue to suffer. And to suffer in the Hindu and Buddhist mind means to exist.
Christianity, on the other hand, holds a very different view about the nature of God, sin, the afterlife, and Heaven. Thus every core premise of reincarnation as it was understood by those who invented it is undone within the Christian worldview. For those who are rightly wanting to share with your Hindu and Buddhist friends, make sure that you understand that this isn’t disproving Hinduism or Buddhism. All we are doing in this article is to clarify there is no place for Reincarnation within the Christian worldview.
The foundation of Reincarnation is to demonstrate a distance between a material consciousness and an impersonal god. Christianity teaches that God is personal and as conscious as we are. He has a will, emotions, can communicate, and we see these traits and more consistently throughout scripture.
But our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord.
The purpose of Reincarnation is to return to existence as a punishment for expressing the very things the God of the Bible demonstrated. The assumption of Reincarnation is that existence reflects separation from God, while the God of the Bible exists in the same sense we do to an infinite degree. He not only exists, but has always existed. The cause of reincarnation is to suffer for your works. The God of the Bible clarified that it is only by His willful action of showing us grace that we have any redemption from our works. And most importantly, the requirement for Reincarnation to be possible in the Christian worldview is to live out multiple lifetimes before final judgment takes place. The Bible fundamentally denies this. Therefore, the Bible does not teach Reincarnation.
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
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