Monday, December 6, 2010

Reincarnation in Christianity

PART I
Can a Christian Believe in Reincarnation?
On the surface the ideology for these two belief systems are seemingly incompatible. As one friend pointed out, “Why would Christ suffer and die for your sins only to have you return as a crab?” Good question. (Before I get into this discussion any deeper let me say that I don’t believe humans become crabs –or any other lower life form for that matter!) My current belief in reincarnation comes from a variety of sources: 20th century prophets (most notably Edgar Cayce), testimonies from those who have had near-death experiences (my favorite accounts are from priests and nuns), case studies of children who remember past lives, hypnotic regressions, the Bible, esoteric philosophies, ancient religions and intuition.

If we take a closer look at the doctrine of repeated incarnations of the soul we will see that its influence is possibly the most extensive of all the world’s religions. Versions of karma and reincarnation are found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Jewish Mysticism, some Native Americans and many Central and South American tribes, over one hundred African tribes, Eskimo and Central Australian tribes and many peoples of the Pacific including the Tahitians, Melanesians and Okinawans. Reincarnation was also a part of the spiritual beliefs of many Europeans including the Finns, Icelanders, Lapps, Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, early Saxons and the Celts of Ireland, Scotland, England, Brittany, Gaul and Wales. Some of the best thinkers of all time such as Pythagoras, Plato, Socrates, Voltaire, Freidrich Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy, William Wordsworth, Mark Twain and Carl Jung were also believers.

My interest in the subject began when I started to read about children who spontaneously remembered past lives. I’ve read dozens of case histories recorded by noted doctor and researcher Ian Stevenson as well as the more recent body of work compiled by journalist Tom Shroder. Hundreds of children and families have been interviewed from all over the world. Most children started recalling past lives between the ages of two and four and had almost completely forgotten their former selves by the age of eight. The most compelling cases were from children who were not only able to recall names, ages, locations and family members of their past life which could be researched and verified but also intimate details of family dynamics, birthmarks and medical details which could not be known by anyone except the closest of family members. In very rare cases the family of the child’s former self was still alive and a reunion was made possible. The children, who had often expressed loneliness and homesickness in their current lives, became animated and emotional, embracing their former family members. Because many of the families of these children (present and past) had not considered reincarnation themselves their reaction was often disbelief followed by shock and confusion, and eventually, acceptance. Stories of past events (“remember when…?”) poured out of some of the children, others asked about the welfare of family friends and knew their way around the old neighbourhood. The researchers appeared to be able to interview and test the families and children involved in a controlled, clinically detached and professional manner. I was definitely intrigued!


PART II

A Word About the Written Word

So, this is all well and interesting but if you are a follower of Christ chances are you probably stopped really listening in the second paragraph (if you made it past the title!). Why is this? I think it’s because most Christians disregard information and teachings that aren’t biblical. But what if I were to tell you that the teaching of reincarnation is biblical? I’ll explain that idea a little later, but first let’s take a look at the Good Book.

If the Bible is 100% true and accurate, as many claim, then based on the belief that the world and universe were created in 6 days and the family tree from Adam to Jesus as outlined in the New Testament gospels according to Matthew and Luke (which are different by the way) the Earth is only about 6,000 years old. Hmmm. This doesn’t seem right. What about the fact that Luke says only 1 of the criminals being crucified with Jesus mocked him (23:40), but Mark says both criminals did (15:32); that Matthew and Acts have two different stories concerning the death of Judas (Matt 27:5; Acts 1:18); that according to Matthew (8:28) Jesus healed two demon-possessed men who lived in a cemetery while Mark says there was only one possessed man (Mark 5) and consider that Matthew (27:32), Mark (15:21) and Luke (23:26) say Simon from Cyrene was forced to carry Jesus’ cross, but John (19:17) says he carried it himself.

The discrepancies in the gospels don’t bother me because I view the Bible as the witness of God rather than the word of God. Jesus is the Word. "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us..." (John 1:14) I put my faith in Jesus and listen to the wisdom of his contemporaries with an open mind and open heart, but not blind faith. I think it is likely that the Holy Spirit was present in most of the lives of the people who wrote and selected the books of the Bible, but they were not perfected, omniscient beings. Neither Jesus nor the prophets spoke of a holy book that would be sent by God to provide the full truth and final authority. The gospels were handed down by oral tradition before being written and we don’t have the original manuscripts. What we do have are copies of copies and translations of translations. The truth is we can’t know with any certainty the identity of the gospels’ authors or if they knew Jesus. Also, there are first and second century manuscripts about the life and teachings of Jesus that aren't in the New Testament and most Christians have never read. The selection of manuscripts that compile the New Testament was a lengthy process that continued for hundreds of years after the death of Christ. The Roman Catholic canon was the first canon to be closed in the year 1546.


PART III

The Early Christians
Interestingly, a belief in reincarnation is present among many early Christian writings. The early Christian community was an extremely diverse group composed of numerous sects, including groups known collectively as Gnostics. Other than sharing some similar teachings, including karma and the transmigration of souls, these groups were as diverse in their beliefs and practices as any group or cult that has ever studied and interpreted the Bible. Some groups were strictly ascetic, some were celibate and some were morally lax. It would be erroneous to judge these sects collectively.

These people claimed to have an advanced teaching, a secret knowledge (gnosis refers to mature spiritual knowledge) handed down to them from Jesus through his closest disciples. But is there any reference to these secret teachings in the Bible? I think so. Consider the following verses:

He said to them, “The secret about the Kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything comes in parables ‘so that they may see clearly but not perceive, and they may hear clearly but not understand...'” (Mark 4:11)

In fact, in his public teaching he taught only with parables, but afterward when he was alone with his disciples, he explained the meaning to them. (Mark 4:34)

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.(1 Cor. 4:1)

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Cor. 2:6-8)

Everything that is now hidden or secret will eventually be brought to light. Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand! And be sure to pay attention to what you hear. The more you do this, the more you will understand –and even more, besides. To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But to those who are not listening, even what they have will be taken away from them. (Mark 4:22-25)

We have much to say about this but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

In the second epistle to the Corinthians the disciple Paul shares a story about a man who had a near-death experience and received information that was not to be shared with others when he returned.

I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. (2 Cor. 12:1-4)

(Paul appears to respect and believe this man who had a near-death experience. The fact that this man heard things that cannot be told tells us that we don't have all the answers about the mysteries of heaven and earth -nor should we.)

So, why didn’t the so-called secret teachings find their way into Christianity, as we know it today? Truth be known, they did. Clement, one of the great early church fathers and head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, the oldest catechetical school in the world, claimed to possess the secret teachings that had been handed down through the disciples. He describes the gospel as “a more spiritual gospel for the use of those who were being perfected” and states, “It even yet is most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.” Clement also mentions that Jesus revealed the secret teachings to those who were “capable of receiving and being molded by it” and affirms that “The gnosis (secret knowledge) itself is that which has descended by transmission to a few, having been imparted unwritten by the apostles.” (Miscell. Book VI, Chapter 7)

In the writings of St. Augustine, Clement of Alexandria, St. Gregory of Nyssa, Justin Martyr and St. Jerome we find references to the transmigration of souls (reincarnation) that tell us the doctrine was at least debated. Most notably we should consider Origen (AD 184-254) who was the first scholar to organize Christian thought into a unified system. He taught the pre-existence of souls and is the church authority most quoted in that century. Origen, a student of Clement, also led the famous catechetical school in Alexandria and was among the most respected early church fathers. Origin had this to say about the secret teachings:

[Jesus] conversed with his disciples in private, and especially in their sacred retreats, concerning the Gospel of God; but the words which he uttered have not been preserved, because it appeared to the evangelists that they could not be adequately conveyed to the multitude in writing or in speech… and they saw… what things were to be committed in writing, and how this was to be done, and what was by no means to be written to the multitude, and what was to be expressed in words, and what was not to be so conveyed. (Contra Celsus, Cap. VI. 18)

Clement’s teachings weren’t declared anathema (cursed) until the 6th century. The authorities of Church and State eventually rejected all Christians who believed in reincarnation –banning and burning their manuscripts, labelling them as heretics and, well, punishing them.

Why did the doctrine of reincarnation become so despised among the religious authorities? There are theories but with our limited insight into the motivations and processes that governed the early church we can only speculate. Some say that the church in Rome believed these secret teachings were a threat to their own public teachings and would do more harm than good. Their goal was to bring Christianity to the masses and keep people moral. I have to wonder if they were right. If common people were taught they had multiple opportunities (lifetimes) to turn to God would they have the incentive necessary to adhere to the strict moral code and rigorous demands of the religious authorities? Perhaps this is why these teachings were only shared with mature Christians who had already “trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” and were ready for “solid food.” Gnostics criticized the universal church for providing watered down Christianity to the masses.

You might also be wondering how Christ’s crucifixion and sacrifice fit into this belief system. It does. Christ is still the Messiah and a belief in reincarnation doesn’t negate that truth. I’ll follow through with that thought later. But first, let’s back up a little and take a closer look at Judaism.


PART IV

The Jewish Afterlife
You don’t have to know much about Christianity to know that its roots lie in Jewish soil. Did the Jews believe in reincarnation? That isn’t an easy question to answer because even today Judaism doesn’t have any set beliefs about what happens after death. Ask 5 different Jews and you will probably get 5 different answers. However, reincarnation beliefs are among esoteric Jewish teachings that have been around for centuries. Their beliefs were part of an ongoing oral tradition that was shared by the patriarchs, prophets and sages passed down since biblical times. According to this oral tradition the ancient teachings, once openly practiced, were forced “underground” by the Sanhedrin (an assembly of Jewish leaders) because without proper guidance and supervision the knowledge was dangerous to the souls of man. (I can’t help but wonder if these secret teachings were related to the secret teachings that the Gnostics claimed to possess.) Later, the teachings were printed and made public. Here are some examples:

As long as a person is unsuccessful in his purpose in this world, the Holy One, blessed be He, uproots him and replants him over and over again. (Zohar I 186b)

All souls are subject to reincarnation; and people do not know the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He! They do not know that they are brought before the tribunal both before they enter into this world and after they leave it; they are ignorant of the many reincarnations and secret works which they have to undergo, and of the number of naked souls, and how many naked spirits roam about in the other world without being able to enter within the veil of the King's Palace. Men do not know how the souls revolve like a stone that is thrown from a sling. But the time is at hand when these mysteries will be disclosed. (Zohar II 99b)

There are a variety of opinions regarding these teachings among Jews today. Some believe in reincarnation and others don’t. It certainly isn’t considered unusual or heretical to believe. Most ideas about the afterlife vary greatly among Jews -even the concepts of heaven and hell.


PART V

So, What About Hell?
As I mentioned earlier it’s really hard to come to any conclusions about heaven and hell as mentioned in the Old Testament or the New Testament for that matter. Off the top of my head I know hell is described as a bottomless pit, grave, prison, outer darkness and lake of fire. But, are all these names referring to the same place? And is hell eternal or do souls come out of hell? From what I’ve read and studied the souls of sinners don’t always go to the same place. It appears there are different levels of hell. In fact, it’s a lot like the Catholic description of purgatory. The lowest level is the lake of fire from which the evilest of souls go –never to return.

For everyone will be purified with fire. (Mark 9:49)

For God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgement. (2 Peter 2:4)

Then the Devil, who betrayed them, was thrown into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)

And I saw, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

Many modern Jews interpret hell as a temporary prison for purification of the soul, but it’s important to remember when reading the Old Testament that there was no such place as hell, as we know it today, in their belief system. We think of hell as a place of torture and punishment for sinners after death, but the actual meaning of Sheol, the Hebrew word that is often translated as the Greek word Hades, is simply the unknown place of the dead -both the righteous and unrighteous.

But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; for he will receive me. Selah. (Psalm 49:15) Selah translates as “let those with eyes see and with ears hear” or “think about it.”

As a side note I also want to mention, for those that believe we still receive public revelation, that the apparitions of the Virgin Mary that have been appearing to a small group of Herzegovinian Croats in Medjugorje since 1981 confirm the Catholic teachings about purgatory. She says there are many levels separating heaven from hell and most souls go to purgatory for some time, the next greatest number go to hell and the fewest number go directly to heaven. Just as there are numerous levels of hell many teachings point to numerous levels of heaven also. Perhaps this explains what Paul means when he speaks of the “third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4.


PART VI

My (Limited) Understanding of Reincarnation
(With Biblical Support)

Humans require many incarnations to grow in faith and knowledge, overcome our selfish desires, learn from our mistakes and make right our wrongs. The purpose of life is to become Christ-like and return to God. We must become pure to enter God’s Kingdom. “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48) Without Christ this cannot be accomplished in one lifetime (if ever). I also don't believe our opportunities are limitless -there will be a final judgement and a final resurrection when only those souls that have accomplished a spiritual rebirth will be raised into God's Kingdom forever.

He who overcomes, I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more. (Revelation 3:12)

You might be wondering where heaven and hell and purgatory fit into the concept of reincarnation. Well, from various sources (NDEs, prophets, esoteric teachings) I've come to understand that we don't always jump from life to life immediately. Sometimes we need to spend time in the spirit world before re-entering the physical world. Whether that is to learn more or help others or "do time" for wrongdoings (purgatory) is not for me to say. I have no idea. Only those souls who refuse to repent and hate the very spirit of goodness will remain in hell.

So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven -except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or the world to come. (Matthew 12:31-32)

Again, those who believe in the public revelations at Medjugorje may be aware that the Virgin Mary says those souls in hell remain there because they are unrepentant. God has mercy on souls who repent -even in death. They will suffer for their sins, but not in an eternal hell. God is just, giving us exactly what we deserve according to what we have sown. For example, if we have mocked those that are less fortunate we will receive their affliction; if we used that which we have been given to come closer to God then more responsibility will be given; if we forgive those who have sinned against us our own sins will be forgiven; if we abuse we will become the abused.

Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! (Gal 6:7)

Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged. (Matt 7:1-2)

And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak. The words you say now reflect your fate then; either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned. (Matt 12:36-37)

For we must stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies. (2Cor 5:10)

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt 6:14-15)

Those who use the sword will be killed by the sword. (Matt 26:52)

Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven. If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving –large or small –it will be used to measure what is given back to you. (Luke 6:37-38)

…to those who use well what is given, even more will be given. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away. (Luke 19:26)

In the Apocryphal book, Wisdom of Solomon, considered canonical by the Catholic Church, we find the following verse:

I was given a sound body to live in because I was already good. (Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20)

I have never heard a good explanation for the words of Job either:

And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I shall return there..." (Job 1:21)

Consider the words in Hebrews that seem to imply that the men who endured suffering for their beliefs would gain a better resurrection.

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:35)

How did the women receive their dead back? How can the resurrection of some men be better than others? The secret gnosis emphasized spiritual resurrection (i.e., spiritual rebirth) and physical resurrection (i.e., physical rebirth) opposed to a resurrection defined as corpses coming out of their graves. This concept mirrors the double meaning of death we find in the Bible. Sometimes the word dead refers to the physically dead and sometimes it refers to the spiritually dead.

But Jesus told them, “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22)

For this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found. (Luke 15:24)

But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. (1 Timothy 5:6)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world... (Ephesians 2:1-2)

He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts… (John 12:40)

And where your light shines, it will expose their evil deeds. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14)

Ironically, the verse that some people use to argue for reincarnation, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3) sounds to me like spiritual rebirth -not physical.

Intellectually and intuitively the idea of reincarnation just makes sense to me. When the dead die where do they go while waiting for the resurrection on judgement day? Do their spirits cease to exist and rematerialize at the resurrection? To me, it makes sense that they are somewhere else. Also, the system of reincarnation is just and fair. I have always struggled to understand how God could judge those who have had such poor circumstances. For example, how could He send hardened hearts to eternal torture if they have been brought up in hate, abuse, rape and corruption? If we consider the reincarnation theory then those who are abused were once the abuser. This is not a punishment, but a lesson so that our hearts will be made aware of the pain we have caused others and we will turn from our sinful ways. God does show favour but His ways are always fair. When God loves and shows mercy to some and not others (remember Jacob and Esau?) He is doing so in accordance with the laws He has created.

So where does Christ fit into all of this? Well, reincarnation is part of God’s law but human nature is so overpowering and the temptations of this world are so strong that God knew we needed help so he sent us Christ who has been given authority to intercede on our behalf. He has the power to cancel our karmic debt.

Then Jesus told him this story: ‘A man loaned money to two people –five hundred pieces of silver to one and fifty pieces of silver to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, cancelling their debts.’ (Luke 7:41-42)

My Father has given me authority over everything. No one really knows the Son except the Father, and no one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Luke 10:22)

For Christ has accomplished the whole purpose of the law. All who believe in him are made right with God. (Romans 10:4)

And I assure you of this: If anyone acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I, the Son of Man, will openly acknowledge that person in the presence of God’s angels. (Luke 12:8)

The Father has life in himself, and he has granted his Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge all mankind because he is the Son of Man. (John 5:26-27)

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Cor. 5:21)

Christ, having experienced the flesh, understands the temptations of this world and has pity on us. Let’s consider what Jesus did when he performed a healing miracle for the paralyzed man. He forgave him. Jesus released him from the karmic debt that caused his affliction.

Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘Take heart, son! Your sins are forgiven.’ (Matt 9:2)

Is it easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have the authority on earth to forgive sins. Then Jesus turned to the paralysed man and said, ‘Stand up, take your mat and go home, because you are healed!’ (Matt 9:5-6)

We know that Jesus’ disciples believed in reincarnation from their words in the gospels:

"This must be John the Baptist come back to life again. That is why he can do such miracles." Others thought Jesus was the ancient prophet Elijah. (Mark 6:14-15)

“Teacher,” his disciples asked him, “Why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?” (John 9:2)

In the last example Jesus replies, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins. He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him.” I find this little story very interesting. It appears that the disciples are asking for further explanation about a teaching they have already discussed. Remember, the man was born blind so any sin he did must have occurred before his current birth. If Jesus didn’t teach reincarnation wouldn’t he have taken the opportunity to set them straight? But, Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for believing in reincarnation (and generational sin –another topic altogether!) he only says that this man’s blindness was not as a result of sin, but for the very purpose of being healed by Jesus. To me, Jesus is telling them that not all misfortune is a result of sin –sometimes it has a higher purpose.

Here are some more powerful words that Jesus spoke (I can't seem to think how they can be interpreted any differently than in the context of reincarnation):

I will send you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. You will kill some by crucifixion and whip others in synagogues, chasing them from city to city. As a result you will be guilty of murdering all the godly people from righteous Abel to Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered in the Temple between the alter and the sanctuary. I assure you, all the accumulated judgement of the centuries will break upon the heads of this very generation. (Matthew 23:34-36)

We should also consider the return of Elijah as John the Baptist. It was prophesied that Elijah would return before the coming of Christ. “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” (Malachi 4:5). When Jesus’ disciples asked about this prophesy he said,

Elijah is indeed coming first to set everything in order. But I tell you, he has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and he was badly mistreated. And soon the Son of Man will also suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples realized he had been speaking of John the Baptist. (Matt 17:11-13)

For before John came, all the teachings of the scriptures looked forward to the present time. And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand! (Matt 11:14-15)

I have heard arguments against the reincarnation of Elijah as John the Baptist, but none hold up in my opinion. First, some point out that John himself denied being Elijah (John 1:21), but this isn’t surprising  -we aren't supposed to remember our past lives. What it comes down to is who you consider to be the more credible source –John or Jesus? I think Jesus is privy to a little more information myself! The second argument I have heard is that Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire and so he never really died. Okay, but let me point out again that Jesus said John is Elijah (not like Elijah) and John was most certainly born on Earth, conceived in the womb of his mother Elizabeth. That sounds like reincarnation to me.

Another common argument I get against reincarnation is the Hebrews 9:27 verse that reads, “It is appointed that man should die once and after that face judgement.” Well, I agree. Man is separate from soul. Man dies but the soul is eternal. Man is our clothing (bodies), our carnal nature and the part of our personality that was shaped by the experiences and actions of this lifetime. We must face judgement after each lifetime.


Part VII
Conclusion
As a self-proclaimed follower of Christ’s teachings I have received some criticism for supporting the “pagan belief” of reincarnation –or worse yet, I’m told that I’m caught up in “new-age spirituality” which is ironic when you consider that belief in reincarnation predates Christianity. I have only recently labeled myself a Christian despite believing in Jesus' teachings and the salvation he offers for many years. This is because some well-meaning people told me that if I don’t trust the Bible as the infallible word of God and if I believe in things that are unchristian –like reincarnation that I shouldn’t claim to be what I am not. Only recently have I challenged myself to stand up for my convictions and claim what has been given to me. Others may want Christianity to be an exclusive club but I doubt that Jesus does.

12 comments:

Michael Gormley said...

HEAVEN ON EARTH

So, the Priest, acting "In Personna Christi says, "This IS My Body" (Matthew 26:26), and in so doing, calls down "The Word" with his word, and the Holy Spirit transubstantiates the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ (CCC 1353, 1357).

Jesus Christ has now come down from heaven to earth, and has humbled Himself, so that He may be seen, and touched, and consumed, under the appearance of simple bread and wine. We consume Him, and He assimilates us. We become uno, union, in communion with Him.

Heaven and earth have been joined . GOD has sent an abundance of gifts of Himself from heaven for us on earth for almost 2000 years.

"To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven..." CCC-1370

Michelle B said...

Um, hello? Nice to meet you?

Pippi said...

This was very informative. Thankyou for doing all that research. Much of what you said rings true but I never had the time and didn't know where to look to research it from a Christian standpoint.

Your comment about not all misfortune being the result of sin is one that interests me. I have heard people who believe in reincarnation express a belief that their misfortunes are earthly punishments for the sins of their past lives. My tendency, however, is to feel that rather than direct punishments, great misfortunes are probably a part of the tempering process necessary to further shape our souls into what the Potter intended. And the more resistant we are, the more difficult our lives must be. But as for things like children falling victim to evil people, or innocent people having their lives destroyed under false pretenses of crime, etc., I find it impossible to believe that those individuals somehow "earned" that treatment in a past life. Just as the man was born blind to show the power of Jesus, we are also told that "it must needs be that offenses shall come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." We are nowhere promised that we will not fall victim to the souls out there who routinely choose the path of evil and continue to poison creation without remorse.

I know that my ancestors broke from the Roman church largely because of that teaching that the word of God was not for the masses. It was interesting to read this. I think I would certainly agree with the "gnostics" in their criticism of the Church for such a practice. But it sounds like the reasoning behind such teachings may have been overlooked as the available Scriptures were translated and distributed, and so eventually lost to the modern Christian communities. Has your research come upon anything that might shed light on that?

Michelle said...

Pippi, thanks for taking the time to read this. I don't think many people have an interest in this subject, so it's good to know my research wasn't completely useless!

I still struggle to understand some things and misfortune (poverty, abuse, illness, etc.) are one of those areas. It pains me to hear that people believe those in third world countries have brought it onto themselves because of the sins of their nation -or those that believe God gave homosexuals AIDS -that kind of thing. It's crazy! I think hardships can bring us to God but it's not God's plan for us to suffer. And yet, I do believe in karma. So, as you can see, I'm very confused on the matter!

I too find the early church history, practices and teachings fascinating and I wonder how much we lost because oral tradition/knowledge wasn't put to paper or shared with other groups. I haven't come across any more information on this, but I am eager to learn more about the early church -that's for sure!

Patrick Martin said...

Heb 9:27 it is appointed to mankind to die once, but after this the judgment.
When fallible beings put their thoughts life and eternal destiny in opposition to the word of God in the Bible I cringe. God has given everyone the free will to hang their life now and through eternity on what ever they choose. I choose the Bible and the confirming personal relationship I have with the Son of God, Jesus. I have personally experienced everyone of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit. I have and do hear Gods voice through His word and in my heart. I have had and do have words of knowledge and wisdom, supernatural healing’s physical and even mechanical, tongues and interpretation of tongues and others.Visions and dreams, that have brought true leading, direction and deliverance to myself and others through these gifts.I have also experienced and do experience Love, joy peace, long-suffering, temperance, meekness, patience and self control. If anyone is truly interested I am willing to share specific occurances that I have experienced. The Bible says to share the Word of God and the word of your testimony. I can and will do both to any interested person. He loves you very much and I also do my best to allow Him to love all people through me. See http://carm.org/apologetics/evidence-and-answers/inerrancy-and-inspiration-bible
Especially if your own personal salvation and relationship gives current real evidence and tangible confirmation to the heart and soul of what the written Word says. Healing conviction deliverance and a loving personal relationship with the living Christ hear and now. Are there trials, pain suffering, chastening, love, comfort, peace and joy? YES and sometimes all at the same time!
Serving the flesh/world is often easy and some fun for a season but ultimately never worth it.
Serving Father God and Christ is very often hard and yet always worth it.

Daily we are asked choose this day whom you will serve God or your flesh.
As for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Better now and forever in my estimation. Oh also in the Bibles/Gods.

Dawn said...

Did you know that the actor John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard) who is a born again Christian (no pun intended) believes he was reincarnated from his brother who died 4 years before his birth at the age of 3. He has memories of his dead brother as his own. I would love to interview him and see how he sees it. I wonder if Christian community is not happy that he went public with this on Celebrity Hauntings.

Michelle said...

No I didn't know that, but I'm going to google it right now! Thanks Dawn.

(And cute pun; intentional or not!)

Jules said...

Very interesting and very glad to find like-minded Christians who entertain the possibility of reincarnation.

On the issue of biblical evidence for reincarnation, the fourth commandment (keeping the Sabbath holy) is paramount.

My understanding is that the Sabbath rest in the Old and New Testament has a deeper meaning encompasssing ultimately resting from work (spiritual and physical)and cancelling the nesessity of coming back to earth again in a different temporal body if the person accepts salvation through the finished work of Jesus in their present life.

Jules said...

New to this blog. Great to find Christians who are at least open to the possibility of reincarnation.

On the issue of biblical evidence, my understanding is that the fourth commandment 'keeping the Sabbath holy' alludes to not needing to return to earth again through reincarnation.

The concept of 'resting' from work encompasses both spiritual and physical work as believers in Jesus' finished work cancels out karmic debt and the need to reincarnate for believers- the ultimate foregiveness of sin.

Michelle said...

Hi Jules, thanks for stopping by! I have never heard of that Sabbath concept before. Where did you come across it? The Bible is like an onion, you can peel back layers!

Jules said...

Hi Michelle.
This concept of Sabbath rest comes from a personal search for evidence in the Bible. The Old Testament emphasis is on blood sacrifice and works (judgement and punishment) versus the New Testament's love and forgiveness through God's supreme sacrifice of His Son. This is an act of God's grace and needs to be accepted to activate it on a personal level. The Old Testament involved many sacriifces through many deaths (our own) but it was impossible for salvation through works this way as we are talking about perfection, hence the necessity to accept God' grace through Jesus'perfect sacrifice (once and for all). This is why Jesus is the only path to true salvation.
I believe this is important as we need to understand the nuts and bolts of how salvation really works to be able to not only stengthen our own faith but to spread its truth to others.

God rested from his works on the Seventh day of creation (a finished work). We are commanded to do the same, not keep returning through vsrious life cycles in new bodies, perpetruating our sin. Much symbolism is involved here.

Michelle said...

Sweet! It's so great to hear from someone who shares similar beliefs. I know a lot of Christians and a some ppl who believe in reincarnation but very few ppl who believe in both. It's refreshing. I have found that a belief in reincarnation has very much increased my faith in the Christ -it just makes more sense. Have you ever read about Edgar Cayce? Fascinating man. I recommend the book "An American Prophet."