IS IT COMPATIBLE WITH CHRISTIANITY?
More than ever, Americans are accepting as fact the idea of
reincarnation – that a soul leaves one human body upon death and
enters a newly born one. Surveys show that nearly 60% of Americans
believe that reincarnation is possible.
The broad acceptance of reincarnation can be attributed to
several factors. Among then are purported scientific evidence;
testimonies from prominent people such as Shirley MacLaine and actor
Glenn Ford, who tell of their “former lives”; best-selling books (such
as MacLaine’s Out on a Limb) that describe the afterlife and rebirth
cycle; and such “Christian” reincarnationists as Jeanne Dixon and the
late Edgar Cayce. Tabloids such as the National Enquirer also have
helped spread the belief in reincarnation with constant attention to
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, books such as Richard Bach’s
‘Johnathan Livingston Seagull’ and Ruth Montgomery’s ‘A World Beyond’
sold briskly and planted the seeds of Hindu and occult philosophy,
from which the doctrine of reincarnation springs, in the minds of
readers. By the late 1970’s, the ideas of Bach and Montgomery largely
had been replaced by those of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, writer of such
books as ‘On death and Dying’ and ‘Questions and Answers on Death and
Dying’, and Raymond Moody, writer of ‘Life After Life’ and
‘Reflections of Life After Life’.
These two writers propose that physical death is the beginning of
another, spiritual life and that all people find rest and peace in
that new life. Both Kubler-Ross and Moody reject the Christian notion
of a judgment by God. Both also believe in reincarnation.
While some Christians have offered a critique of reincarnation,
much of the church has remained ignorant about its implications.
Faced with the widespread silence from the church and apparent
evidence, many Christians may have come to the conclusion that
reincarnation is real – or at least they are not ready to rule out the
possibility that is is real.
What is Reincarnation?
Reincarnation, the teaching that a soul moves from body to body
in a birth-death-rebirth cycle, is a development of the Hindu-Buddist
teaching of soul transmigration. Transmigration includes the
possibility that a soul can be born into the body of an animal. The
status of the body is born into, ranging from the house fly to a well-
to-do person, is an indication of the quality of life that soul lived
in its previous body. A good life brings rebirth into a higher form;
a bad life brings rebirth into a lower form. This upward and downward
graduation fulfills the Law of Karma, a central tenet of Hinduism.
Karma teaches that good deeds are rewarded and bad deeds are punished.
Hinduism’s goal is for the soul to break out of the Karma cycle and
become one with the universe.
The western mind, apparently not liking the idea of being reborn
as a mosquito or a slug, has excluded animals from the cycle.
Reincarnationists also believe that souls have pre-existed
eternally. Montgomery, in ‘A World Beyond’ a book she claims was
written by automatic writing and transmitted from medium Arthur Ford,
who was waiting in the spirit world to enter another body, writes on
“Now let us start with the premise that each person is a
continuing entity through all eternity. No beginning and no ending,
despite what some moralists say about our life beginning with physical
birth as a baby and ending with Judgment Day. Bosh! There has never
been a time when we were not, and we always will be, even though in
constantly changing forms and stages, for we are as much God as God is
a part of us.”
What is its Appeal?
The most obvious appeal that reincarnation holds for Westerners
is its promise that life goes on and we get as many chances to get it
right as we need. If there is reincarnation, man has no compelling
need to make peace with a righteous God in this life or even to treat
his fellow man with love and respect. If a man has as many lives as
he needs to attain perfection, he might think, “Why not live up this
life and leave the good works and making peace with God for another
The need to make peace with God actually would never occur to
true reincarnationists, who do not believe in a personal deity.
Reincarnation goes hand in hand with pantheism, the belief that
everything is God and God is everything, including each human. The
doctrines of pantheism and reincarnation are the cornerstones of
Hinduism and occultism, which have grown popular in the Western world.
On pages 84-85 of his book ‘Miracles’, C.S. Lewis says this about
the appeal of pantheism and reincarnation to mankind:
“Pantheism is congenial to our minds not because it is the final
stage in a slow process of enlightenment, but because it is almost as
old as we are. It may even be the most primitive of all religions …
Pantheism is in fact the permanent natural bent of the human mind; the
permanent ordinary level below which man sometimes sinks.. .but above
which his own unaided efforts can never raise him for very long.”
What is the Evidence?
However, modern man is not about to admit that his thinking has
sunk to this spiritual lowest common denominator, so he looks for
evidence to justify his beliefs. His efforts have produced plenty of
“evidence” supporting the doctrine of reincarnation.
The most common defense for reincarnation is the phenomenon of
“past-life recall” – the ability to remember details of apparent
previous lives. It can be achieved through hypnosis and spontaneous
or intuitive recall, which sometimes is called deja-vu.
Some past-life accounts given by hypnosis subjects can be
attributed to the subject’s fantasizing or leading by the hypnotist.
However, there are two other explanations. One could e called the
“Bridey Murphy Effect,” which was detailed in the book ‘The Search for
Bridey Murphy.’ The book told of the story of a women who, when under
hypnosis, could give details of Ireland and even speak Gaelic, a
language apparently unfamiliar to her. Her ability was attributed to
her living a previous life in Ireland. However, research turned up
the fact that she once had been cared for by a Gaelic-speaking
grandmother who used to tell her tales of old Ireland. The “past-life
memories” turned out to be forgotten childhood experiences brought out
Some recalls hold up under all scrutiny and appear genuine. To
understand these, we must realize that a person who is under hypnosis
is surrendering control of his or her mind to someone else. The
hypnotist may take the reins. He or someone else may plant
suggestions in the mind. In his book ‘Reincarnations and
Christianity’ Dr. Robert Morey says that “a hypnotic trance is the
exact mental state which mediums and witches have been self-inducing
for centuries in order to open themselves up to spirit or demonic
This being the case, it is not hard to imagine a demonic taking
over the will of the hypnotic subject and speaking through him. The
demon, with access to knowledge from all history, could piece together
memories and have the hypnotic subject speak them, thus encouraging
past lives. Perhaps – and maybe more likely, given the nature of
demons – he spins plausible tales that are impossible to either
disprove or verify. What fun they must have, duping gullible humans
with tales from a dozen different people, all claiming they once were
Deja vu, the feeling a person gets upon encountering a strange
place or a person he has never met that he has seen that place or
person before, often is used to buttress the reincarnation teaching.
Most every person can recall such an experience. Dr. Walter Martin,
in a tape of an address called ‘The Riddle of Reincarnation’, cites an
experience he had while viewing a mountain in Switzerland. He knew
that he had seen this particular vista before, even though he had
never been to Switzerland.
Upon returning home, Martin discovered the reason for his recall:
a postcard with a picture of the very mountain he had seen. A person
actively uses only 10% of his brain, which continually is storing
information that is never recalled unless prompted by an experience
such as Martin’s.
Does The Bible Teach Reincarnation?
Reincarnationists sometimes cite Scripture to support their
belief. The four references they use most often are John 3:3, Matthew
11:14, Hebrews 7:2-3 and John 9:2.
In John 3:3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that to see the Kingdom of God
one must be born again. Jesus, the reincarnationists say, is teaching
that a series of rebirths is necessary to achieve perfection. This
interpretation does not hold up, however. Nicodemus expressed his
puzzlement and spoke of a second physical birth (not exactly like the
one spoken of in reincarnation, but similar). Jesus promptly
corrected Nicodemus, calling the rebirth He was speaking of a
spiritual one (John 3:4-5). Thus, Jesus did not expound the Law of
Karma, but refuted it.
Reincarnationists also call attention to Jesus’ statement in
Matthew 11:14 that John the Baptist was Elijah. However, one must
look further in Scripture. Luke 1:17 says that John would precede
Christ “with the spirit and power of Elijah.”
John the Baptist, a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit from
the time he was in his mother’s womb, himself denied that he was
Elijah (John 1:21). Scripture also states that Elijah never
experienced physical death (Hebrews 11:5) and during the earthly
ministry of Christ still existed as Elijah, as evidenced by his
appearance with Moses at the Mount of the Transfiguration (Matt.
Another pet Biblical passage among reincarnationists is Hebrews
7:2-3. This verse, they say, tells us that Jesus was Melchizedek in a
previous incarnation. However, one need only to read the verses cited
to see that the Old Testament character Melchizedek was “made like
unto the Son of God,” not that he was Jesus (the Son of God). The
writer of Hebrews is saying only that there is no record of
Melchizedeks’ birth, death or family. Moreover, Melchizedeks
priesthood was unique in that it was not transferred to another.
Melchizedek was only being likened to Christ, not being called a
previous incarnation of Him.
The fourth Scripture often cited by reincarnationists is John
9:1-3, which tells of a man born blind, and the disciple’s question as
to whose sin was the cause of his blindness. The question may, on the
surface, appear to be in accord with the Law of Karma. However,
Christ’s reply that the man’s blindness was in no way related to sin,
renders the reincarnationists’ stand indefensible.
Having looked at what the Bible DOES NOT say in support of
reincarnation, let us turn to what the Bible DOES say against
Man’s One Chance
In just one verse, the Bible devastates the concept of
reincarnation. Hebrews 9:27 says that “it is appointed for men to die
once, and after this comes judgment.”
Those seeking more Scripture can turn to James 4:14, which says:
“yet you do not know that your life will be like tomorrow. You are
are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes
away.” The Psalms are full of references to the temporary nature of
man’s life. Psalms 39:5, 103:15 and 144:4 are only three examples.
These verses also refute the theory that souls have pre-existed
eternally, as does the account in Genesis 2 of man’s beginnings.
The Problem of Evil
While the Law of Karma appears to deal with evil with its system
of rewards and punishment, on a larger scale, it leaves the problem
unsolved. Mark Albrect, in his book Reincarnation: A Christian
Appraisal, writes on page 119:
“Reincarnation’s endless cycles never solve the problem of evil;
evil is eternal, the idea of evil continuing forever is unthinkable in
Christianity. Evil was conquered by the death and resurrection of
Christ and will be put away forever when he returns to judge the
Reincarnation and Spiritism
Reincarnationists also often violate the Biblical injunction
against spiritism. The Bible is clear in forbidding attempts to
contact spirits of the dead, which many reincarnationists try to do
when a soul purportedly is “between” incarnations. Leviticus 20:6,
27, Deuteronomy 18:11, Isaiah 8:19, 1 Samuel 28 and 1 Chronicles 10:13
make clear that God does not want His people engaged in such
activities. No New Testament writer ever said this ban had been
lifted. Noted reincarnationists such as Ford, Cayce, Dixon,
Montgomery and Kubler-Ross openly admit their spiritistic and
Worst yet, some of these authors, most notably Cayce and Dixon,
claim that their beliefs are compatible with Christianity. In Matthew
7, Christ warn His followers that false prophets will come as wolves
in sheep’s clothing. These self-proclaimed “Christians” are
fulfilling Christ’s warning.
Reincarnation is in no way compatible with the Christian faith.
The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23);
reincarnation is the same lie that Satan told Eve in the Garden of
Eden: “You surely shall not die.” The Bible teaches that salvation
from sin and its eternal consequences is a gift that God freely gives
(Ephesians 2:8-9); reincarnation teaches that salvation will come when
a person perfects himself.
Christ, who created us, knows we have only one life and He has
seen what we do with our only chance. That is why He offered Himself
as a sacrifice for our sins. Our Savior took our “bad Karma” upon
Himself. “My yoke is easy, and My load is light,” He said in Matthew
11:30. Even if we could come back again and again, there is no reason
Let us help you discover new life in the Lord Jesus Christ!
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