(condensed internet version, buy the full book on line)
A Christian Analysis of Reincarnation
in Contemporary American Society
By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Copyright March 4, 2014
Reincarnation: Fact Or Fiction?
The subject of reincarnation has puzzled and intrigued many people down through the years. In American society, there is a growing trend to accept this philosophy and religious belief. In this article, we will carefully examine some of the main points about reincarnation and whether or not this belief system is compatible with Christianity.
The Concept And History Of Reincarnation
I said, “Christ, the souls of these, when they come out of the flesh, whither will they go?” He smiled and said, “To a place for the soul, i.e., the power which is far superior to the Imitation Spirit. This is strong; it escape from the works of wickedness and through the imperishable guidance it will be saved and raised up to the rest of the aeons.” I said, “Christ, those who have not known the all, what are their souls, or whither will they go?” He said to me, “an Imitation Spirit has overgrown them in their stumbling, and so the Imitation Spirit burdens their souls, draws the soul to the works of wickedness, and brings it in this way to lack of perception. after the soul is unclothed, the Imitation Spirit delivers it to the powers which are under the archon. The souls will once more be cast into fetters and led about until they are saved from lack of perception, attain knowledge, and so will be perfected and saved.” I said, “Christ, how then does the soul gradually shrivel up and return into the nature of the Mother or of the Man?” He rejoiced when I asked him, and he said, “blessed are you for a clear understanding. Therefore they will be given together with the other in whom the Spirit of Life is a consequence for him. and because the soul hears through him, it will be saved. It no longer goes into another flesh.”14
The early Christians opposed the teaching of reincarnation that the Gnostics espoused. Notice some examples from early Christian writings about this matter:
Souls neither see God nor transmigrate into other bodies. For if they did, they would know why they were punished, and they would be afraid to commit even the most trivial sin afterwards. (Justin, martyr (c. 160))
How much more worthy of acceptance is our belief that maintains that souls will return to the same bodies. and how much more ridiculous is your inherited [pagan] teaching that the human spirit is to reappear in a dog, mule, or a peacock!
(Tertullian (c. 197)
In this place, it does not seem to me that by the name “Elijah,” the soul is being spoken of. Otherwise, I would fall into the doctrine of transmigration, which is foreign to the church of God. It is not handed down by the apostles, nor is it set forth in the Scriptures anywhere.
(Origen (c. 245), referring to John the baptist
The early Christians, who carefully studied the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, quickly saw that the doctrine of reincarnation is in contradiction to such.
There are many alleged evidences that are sometimes as proof of the theory. The most common one is known as spontaneous recall of past memories. In this scenario, people are supposedly able to remember their past life (sometimes including language fragments, persons, places and events). However, these events can usually be explained without invoking supernatural means through a process known as cryptomnesia. Ian Stevenson, who spent many years of his life studying the subject, described cryptomnesia in the following way:
"According to this theory, the child would somehow have known a person or other source having the information he later “remembered” about the alleged previous family. The child would somehow come in contact with this person or information and would later forget both the source of his information and the fact that he had ever obtained it, although he would remember the information and later present it dramatically as derived from a previous life. His parents would have known nothing about the person or object furnishing the information at the time or they would later have forgotten their earlier knowledge, thus genuinely expressing surprise at the statements of the child...Cryptomnesia may suffice in these cases as an explanation for all, or nearly all, of the informational aspects of the cases." (Ian Stevenson, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, 333-334 (Charlottesville and London: University Of Virginia Press).
Please observe that Stevenson makes it clear most of the cases of 'spontaneous recall' may be explained through cryptomnesia (although he points out that this does not necessarily explain all of the evidence such as birthmarks appearing on a new-born child and corresponding to the same birth marks of deceased family member). Along with the possibility of cryptomnesia, Stevenson lists the possible explanations of E.S.P. (extra-sensory perception), genetic memory, and demonic possession as alternative explanations of persons who experience spontaneous recall of 'past memories.'
Some suggest that the Bible teaches John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah, but that obviously is not the case for Elijah the Prophet never died (cf. II Kings 2), and John the Baptist was the Prophet Elijah in the sense that he came in the 'spirit and power' of Elijah (Luke 1:17).
The Bible is clear that a person dies only once (Hebrews 9:27), and we such we can be certain that the doctrine of reincarnation is false. The hope of the Christians lies in the Resurrection (cf. John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; I Corinthians 15:50-58; I Thessalonians 4:13-18). Let us repent of our sins and be baptized into Christ today (Acts 2:37-38), being faithful to Him (I John 1:7-9; Revelation 2:10) so that we may take part in His inheritance when He returns (John 14:1-3).