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REINCARNATION/KARMA PHILOSOPHY CRITIQUE SHEET 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 people DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide (but concentrated in Asia) DEFINTION 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. HISTORY 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. BELIEF SYSEMS 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. CHRISTIAN RESPONSE 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 hell." 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."


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