THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Reincarnation and Christianity
By Beth Hyduke
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As a result of the popularity of New Age spirituality, there has been a growing acceptance of reincarnation in the U.S. today. According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 1 out of 5 American adults believe in reincarnation. More recently, a 2009 survey conducted by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported that that number had risen to 1 in 4. Unfortunately, even among those proclaiming to be evangelical Christians, belief in reincarnation is alarmingly on the rise. Recent surveys by the Barna Group have reported that 25% of American Christians, including 10% of those who define themselves as "born-again," have embraced a belief in reincarnation.
The reason for this disturbing trend centers upon the de-prioritization of Biblical truth and the loss of Christian conviction. Albert Mohler offers this perspective: "...it seems very likely that this new acceptance of reincarnation is more a matter of therapeutic fads and cultural fashions than a huge theological shift. The shift we are seeing is more likely a loss of Christian conviction in the face of secularization — not a comprehensive embrace of Eastern worldviews." Secular American culture has certainly played a role in creating and fostering a syncretistic environment in which the average person feels it is perfectly acceptable to pick and choose the beliefs they most prefer from an assortment of available religions, regardless of whether or not they are logically consistent or compatible with already-held beliefs. Bestsellers such as Rhonda Byrne's The Secret and Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God series are two examples of highly syncretistic works promoting originally-eastern doctrines like pantheism, karma, and reincarnation ideology while continuing to pay at least superficial lip-service to traditionally accepted beliefs including Judeo-Christianity. Additionally, personal testimonies of popular and well-known celebrities such as Shirley MacLaine, and celebrity-endorsed reincarnationists, such as the psychiatrist and author Brian Weiss, have had a noticeable impact on our culture in recent years in championing reincarnation as a legitimate belief for the secular as well as the religious-minded consumer.
This has led to a very bizarre phenomenological situation in which it is not uncommon to hear someone who labels and identifies themselves as Christian also espouse a belief in reincarnation. Ephesians 6 warns Christian believers that attacks on our faith and convictions will inevitably come, having been ultimately devised by the spiritual forces and powers of evil. The Christian's responsibility and safety lies in equipping themselves so they will be prepared to meet these attacks and answer them with compelling and loving truth. That is why Christians are exhorted to regularly engage the Word of God, to "impress these words on our hearts and on our souls" (Deuteronomy 11:18-19), to "put on the full armor of God" so that they can "stand firm against the devil's schemes" (Ephesians 6:11) and "always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks" (1 Peter 3:15). When we neglect the Word, we find ourselves ill-prepared for the spiritual battle underway, and vulnerable to the fiery darts of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16). Since Satan continually seeks to undermine our faith and lead us away from the truth, we are specifically warned to be on guard against attacks that attempt to subvert sound doctrine. "For the time will come when people will no longer listen to sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths and fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). There are many false doctrines circulating in the world today, many "myths and fables" that though they may superficially seem harmless enough, are designed to deceive and lead us astray.
Reincarnation falls under the heading of doctrine concerning the afterlife — specifically, what happens to the soul after the body dies. Either through sinful desire to conform to worldly fads or out of simple ignorance of the Scripture's teachings on the subject, Christians who have embraced a belief in reincarnation are laboring under a wrong assumption that the Bible might somehow be interpreted in such a way that it becomes compatible with the teaching of reincarnation. Such Christians desperately need to be confronted with Biblical truth. Since Christians, by definition, believe Christ and submit to His teachings (John 10:26-27) — and therefore reject all opposing teachings — we need to establish what the Bible teaches about the afterlife. Fortunately for us, the assertion that the Bible's teachings support the doctrine of reincarnation is easy to decisively invalidate. The Bible does not leave what happens after we die an ambiguous mystery. Jesus Christ speaks a great deal about Heaven and Hell; in fact, Jesus is the most prolific teacher of this topic in the Bible, speaking significantly more about Hell than He did about Heaven (but never once about reincarnation). According to Jesus, after physical death, we must give an account to God, meaning we all undergo a judgment before God (which is significantly different for the believer whose sins have been paid for by the blood of Christ than it is for an unregenerate sinner) before we go to one of only two, very real, equally eternal places — Heaven, a place of everlasting peace and life, which is reserved for Christian believers, and Hell, a place of eternal punishment and torment which is reserved for those who rejected God in this life. (For Christ's teachings on Judgment Day and the afterlife, see: Matthew 10:28, 12:35-37, 13:49-50, 16:26-27, 23:33, 25:41-46; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 3:17, 12:42-48; John 3:16, 3:36, 5:29; Revelation 22:12. For additional biblical references in both Old and New Testaments that fully support what Christ taught about Judgment and the afterlife, see: Job 34:11, Psalm 9:17 & 37:9-11, Ecclesiastes 3:17, Ezekiel 18:20, Daniel 12:2, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Colossians 3:25, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, 2 Peter 2:4-9, 2 Timothy 4:1, Jude 23, Revelation 19:19-22:5).
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