A Publication of Apologetic Research Coalition
INCORPORAFD NAME: Reincarnation is not a particular
organization, but a doctrine held by
several world religions
COMMON DESCRIPTORS: Metempsychosis, Transmigration of souls,
Rebirth, Palingenesis FOUNDER: Unknown,
origin is obscure
CONCEPT ORIGINATON: India, Hindu religion (1000-800 B.C.)
ADHERENTS: Approximately 1 billion
DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide (but concentrated in Asia)
REINCARNATION: The belief that an individual human soul
passes through a succession of lives. The ultimate
object is usually to break out of the 'wheel of reincar- nation'
and fuse with 'ultimate reality,' which is in essence a merging
with God. [Most reincarnation systems posit an eternal soul,
however. Buddhism does not affirm an eternal soul. Indian based
systems hold that rebirth can take many forms, including plants,
animals, spirits, humans and gods. African based systems, on the
other hand, believe that rebirth is limited to humans]
KARMA: Held by the Samkhya school, it is the mental
aspect of a person which bears the impression af previ-
out deeds. The 'law of Karma' governs the process of
reincarnation. that is to say, the circumstances of this
life are caused by our deeds in our previous lives.
Reincamation originated in Northem India between
1,00O - 800 B.C. Appearing first in early Hindu scrip-
tures, the Upanishads, it quickly became the motivating
force that propelled Hinduism to it's present dominating
position in Asia. In the West, reincarnation was intro-
duced by Greek philosophers, i.e., Pythagoras, Plato and
Plotinus. Due to the influence of Pirst-century Greek
mystery religions, some early Gnostics and later Roman
Stoics, reincarnation became firmly established as a
doctrine of the West as well as the East. During the
Enlightenment of the 18th century, the 'man's upward
evolutionary movement' school of thought provided an
additional support for a Reincamation/Karma motif.
the more popular recent exponents ol this view would
be Edgar Cayce, Helen Wamback and ieanne Dixon.
GODHEAD: Reincarnational thinking presupposes a view of God which
is essentially Pantheistic monism. As such, God is impersonal and
is the universe itself.
ATONEMENT: In the reincarnation context, to be 'saved' is to
break out of the 'wheel of reincarnation' and lose self identity in
the ultimate reality of God. To the Western mind, this is difficult
to conceptualize, but can be likened to individual drops of water
dissolving in the ocean.
ARGUMENTS: There are three classes of arguments which are employed
to support reincarnation: metaphysical, empirical and theological.
The classical metaphysical argument maintains that since a soul is
eternal and a body is not, therefore the soul must be housed in
several successive bodies. The most popular empirical arguments
are instinctive capacities, past-life recall (both spontaneous and
hypnotic retrogression) and Deja Vu experiences. The theological
arguments maintain that the Hindu scriptures are authoritative,
karma provides a solution to the problem of evil and reincarnation
provides the possibility of self-perfection.
IN THE BIBLE: Proponents claim that reincarnation was taught by
Jesus and is supported in the Bible by citing the following
passages: John 3:3, Mark 9:13, lames 3:6, and John 9:1-3.
GODHEAD: Under the reincarnation scheme, 'reality' is quite
ambiguous. The biblical God is neither ambiguous nor identified
with creation (Gen. 1: 1). He is always portrayed as separate from
His creation while still immenent in it.
ATONEMENT: Reincarnation/karma thinking results in little or no
compassion nor mercy. It is thought that someone else's misfortune
is due to the karma of his past life. Therefore, "l am not
responsible to help him." In other words, you get what you deserve.
This mentality can account for the living standard in those
countries which embrace reincarnation. By burning off 'bad karma'
the reincarnationist thinks he can work his way to heaven
(nirvana). In reality, we can never become righteous in ourselves
(Rom.3: 10). Salvation comes only through the shed blood of Jesus
(Heb. 9:12). Obviously, the reincamation/karma model leaves one
full of despair while the biblical model is a message of hope in a
just but merciful God who shows compassion towards us.
OBJECTIONS TO ARGUMENTS: Metaphysical: reincarnation thinking
presumes nirvana exists. Consequently, it is inconsistent to
assert that embodiment is necessary to souls. Empirical:
alternative explanations of instinct and genius in children have
been provided by modern biology. Although some people seem to
remember past lives, the evidence is not conclusive. Where the
evidence is persuasive, alternate explanations can account for
them. For instance, other spiritual beings (including demonic
activity) certainly could provide historical information to the
person allegedly recalling a past life. Theological: the validity
of particular Hindu scriptures on matters of detail are especially
suspect. The argument that reincarnation explains the existence of
evil could not possibly be conclusive in that the problem of evil
exists only for those who believe in a good personal god. The self
-perfection argument would be addressed similarly.
IN THE BIBLE: John 3:3 - "Jesus answered, and said unto him,
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he
cannot see the kingdom of God."
"Born again" would be better translated "Born from above"
(GK,anothen). Jesus here is saying that a spiritual rebirth from
above during this life is necessary for eternal life. Even
Nicodemus' question indicates this to be his understanding.
Mark 9:13 - "But I [Jesus] say unto you, Elijah is indeed come
[speaking of John the Baptist], and they have done unto him
whatsoever they desired, as it is written of him."
There is no question that in Jesus' mind Elijah did in fact return
with the coming of John the Baptist fMatthewl 11:14, 17:12-13, Mark
9:13). The question which needs to be addressed is "How did he
return?" Mark 9:13 refers to Malachi 3: 1 and 4:5 "Behold, I will
send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of
the LORD comes." This prophecy is fulfilled in Luke 1: 17' "And he
[John] will go before Him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of
Elijah" (Lk 1:17). Please note, he came in the "spirit and power of
Elijah. "He was not Elijah himself. Also, please remember that
John himself denied he was Elijah (John 1: 19-23). This is a
classic example of biblical typology. Additionally, death must of
necessity precede reincarnation, but Elijah did not die. Lastly,
when Elijah and Moses reappeared on the Mount of Transfiguration
(Matt.17, Mark 9) the disciples recognized Elijah as Elijah, not as
John the Baptist.
James 3:6 - "And the tongue is a fire, a world of. iniquity; so
is the tongue among our members that it defileth the whole body,
and setteth on fire the course oi nature, and it is set on fire of
The "course for cycle) of nature" is not a reference to
reincarnation but rather the fallen state of humanity
and how speech reflects our fallen condition.
John 9:1-3 - "And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind
from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who
did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus
answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that
the works of God should be made manifest in him."
While the disciples may have been referring to reincarnation (it
is not clear), Jesus emphatically denies this as a possible
explanation and says "lt was # that this man sinned or his parents,
but that the works of God might be made manifest in him."
Let it be clear that the Bible does not mention reincarnation
once. Also, Luke 13:1-5 excludes the reincarnation/karma motif in
accounting for injustice during our earthly life. Lastly,
reincarnation is denied by implication in several biblical
passages: ll Sam 12:23; 14:14; Ps. 78:39; Lk.23:39-43; Acts 17:31;
ll Cor. 5:1,4,8; 6:2; Gal 2:16;3:10-13; Eph.2:8-9; Phil 1:23;
Heb.9:27. 10:12-14 and Rev.20:11-15. Most notable is Hebrews 9.27
which declares "For it is appointed for man once to die, and after
that to face judgment."