What is reincarnation? Etymologically, “reincarnation” comes from a Latin composite of “re,” which means “once again” and “incarnate,” that is, “in the flesh.” Religiously, however, it means belief that the soul or the spirit takes on another body after death. Reincarnation is an core belief of Eastern pantheism. Hinduism and Buddhism, the oldest religious systems of the Orient, preach reincarnation. The Spiritism of Alan Kardec (of the Rosacrucian movement) and the Theosophical Society promote the doctrine of reincarnation. It is one of the most widespread beliefs in the world, seen in literature and in the cinema. Reincarnation is practically a necessity in pantheism.
According to pantheism, nothing differentiates God from the world, since “all is God and God is all.” Norman Geisler affirms that although various forms of reincarnation exist in pantheistic religions, the majority have several themes in common:
1. A goal of final perfection for the human race;
2. An evolutive process leading to perfection, which cannot occur either suddenly or else gradually, through incarnation;
3. A rejection of the traditional doctrine of Hell, in favor of a doctrine of second chances after this life;
4. A defense of the doctrine of karma, which argues that a person’s conduct in previous lives influences the kind of life that he or she will have in future lives;
5. A “memory” of successive past lives. A long, progressive line of lives occurs through reincarnation;
6. A perception of the multiple bodies in which you have lived in reincarnations;
7. These reincarnations do not necessarily occur on this planet, but can occur on other planets.
Reincarnationists frequently use the Bible to support their beliefs. The texts most used are Job 1:20–21; Jeremiah 1:4–5; Matt. 11:14; 17:10–13; Mark 9:11–13; John 3:3; James 3:6 (contains what can be translated “the entire wheel of birth”).
But these ideas are contrary to biblical teaching. Let’s examine the principle points:
1. First, a reincarnationist holds a view of God that is contrary to the Bible.
The God of the Bible is not an impersonal force that is mixed with the creation. God is both transcendent and immanent, and is therefore above the world, as well as in the world (Isa 66:1–2; Acts 17:24–28). God created the world without using his own material being (ex Deo) or other pre-existing material, but from nothing (ex nihilo). The world depends on God for its own existence (Gen 1:1; Ps 33:9; 103:19). God can intervene at any moment in the world in a supernatural manner. He is sovereign over his own word and decrees (Psalm 104, 115).
2. Second, the reincarnationist holds a vision of man that is contrary to the Bible. Contrary to the Scriptures, reincarnation negates the concept that a human being originates at conception (Ps 139). Reincarnationists do not believe in the unity of the soul and body, seeing the body rather as a prison of the soul, in contrast to the biblical teaching that sees the human being as a unity of soul and body (Gen 2:7). The certainty of our final, bodily resurrection proves that man will possess an immortal body through a unique [resurrection] event, when he will have his final, perfect body (1 Cor 15).
3. Third, the reincarnationist holds an unbiblical view of death. He teaches that we die over and over again, whereas the Bible affirms that God has ordained us to have one existence in this world, followed by one unique death (Heb 9:27).
4. Fourth, the reincarnationist opposes the biblical teaching on salvation. He conceives of salvation as brought about through human effort. The law of karma is salvation by works. Jesus Christ, through his vicarious work of substitution, has paid our “karmic” debt. He died for all our sins (Isa 53:2; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:24). God is the author of salvation (Rom 3:23–25). Moreover, according to the doctrine of reincarnation, there is no salvation in this world, but “from this world.” Jesus, however, affirms that salvation begins here and will find full fruit in eternity.
5. Fifth, the reincarnationist holds an unbiblical view of divine judgment. With the possibility of reincarnation, death is not the final point and the judgments and sufferings that a man experiences are only temporary. If Hell does not exist, the threat of a hypothetical judgment will hardly lead a person to receive the gospel. However, the Bible affirms a divine judgment certain for all who reject God. The only way to escape Hell is to accept the salvation offered us in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 5:24)
Rev. Arival Dias Casimiro
Igreja Presbiteriana de Pinheiros
Sao Paulo, Brazil
©2012, Used by permission