The Arguments For and Against Reincarnation
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2004|
|The belief in reincarnation is attracting a growing following in the Western culture. Drs. Ankerberg and Weldon critique and answer the major arguments usually used in support of reincarnation.|
In Eastern cultures generally, reincarnation is accepted as a fact of life. But even in America and Europe, polls indicate a belief in reincarnation among the general public at a significant 20% to 35%. This means that well over 100 million Westerners now accept this occult doctrine. Below we present a brief critique of the major arguments in support of reincarnation in an argument/response/counter response/final response format.
Reincarnation is taught in the Bible.
RESPONSE 1: It can be demonstrated that no Scripture teaches reincarnation. One reason is because the God who inspired Scripture never contradicts Himself and the philosophical premises of reincarnation are antithetical to major biblical teachings: e.g., self-perfection vs. salvation by grace apart from good works and individual merit; self-atonement (paying off one’s own karma) vs. Christ’s atonement for other’s sin. Indeed, if Christ paid the divine penalty for all sin (Karma) no karma remains to be worked off individually. Regardless, “man is destined to die once, after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
COUNTER RESPONSE 1: Reincarnation was originally a teaching in the Bible, but it was deleted by church authorities due to theological bias.
FINAL RESPONSE 1: The Jewish authors of the Bible would never originally have taught a pagan teaching that contradicted and denied their own religious beliefs. This explains why no evidence anywhere in church history supports the fanciful notion of biblical expungement.
Since more and more karma is increasingly worked off along the path toperfection, reincarnation provides for an inevitable moral and spiritual progress for all humanity.
RESPONSE 2: All evidence suggests otherwise (reincarnation according to the law of karma is not working as it should).
COUNTER RESPONSE 2: Reincarnation provides the opportunity for progress, not the inevitability.
FINAL RESPONSE 2: It is still not working; mankind is morally unimproved historically. What suggests reincarnation will ever work, given its (alleged) billions of years of impotence so far?
Reincarnation circumvents the nihilism of materialism.
RESPONSE 3: Each incarnation involves an entirely new person; each person’s life is forever expunged at death, leading to the same nihilism of materialism. Every individual person exists only once in a meaningless personal life and is then extinguished for eternity. This offers similar consequences to the nihilism of materialism.
COUNTER RESPONSE 3: But there is individual life in the soul that reincarnates.
FINAL RESPONSE 3: It is still not the previous personality, and, in the end, is absorbed into the final impersonal reality regardless. In a universe where the individual person is a cipher and
the Impersonal Divine the only infinite reference point and absolute reality, even the entire trajectory of the personal soul is finally meaningless.
Reincarnation offers a credible explanation for and resolution to the problem of evil.
RESPONSE 4: Not only does it not explain the origin of evil, in theory, it encourages and perpetuates evil eternally.
COUNTER RESPONSE 4: Evil results from spiritual ignorance of our own divinity; universal realization of our inherent Godhood will lead to the elimination of evil.
FINAL RESPONSE 4: First, no evidence anywhere suggests man is one essence with God or part of God. Second, the allegedly God-realized have never proven themselves sinless. Characteristically, they only redefine sin or evil as an illusion—which does nothing to end evil but does tend to increase it. Third, reincarnation leads to even greater inequities, e.g., callousness towards the suffering of others, which must logically be interpreted as their karmic justice; (the horrors of the caste system in India is illustrative); Fourth, most religious monistic systems ultimately reject absolute morality and imply the “illusion” of evil exists forever. In Hinduism the trajectory of the soul is eternal: the final absorption of the soul in one cycle is only one of an infinite number of similar cycles. Practically speaking, evil, therefore, exists forever.
Because of the associated law of karma, reincarnation provides perfect justice.
RESPONSE 5: You cease to exist at death; the person punished in the next life is not you but a new entity entirely. The fact that it is punished for your sins, is hardly “just.”
COUNTER RESPONSE 5: But my soul still lives on.
FINAL RESPONSE 5: Again, it is not your soul, since you will not exist; nor does it remember “its” sins to help it improve in the next life. Not only is this unjust, it is impractical. One cannot strive to improve to a better standard without knowing the previous standard one failed to attain.
Reincarnation is a universal belief found in all cultures.
RESPONSE 6: Many, but not all. It is usually found among pagan and spiritually primitive cultures. They are pagan and primitive largely from the spiritual and other consequences of their religious philosophies, including reincarnation.
COUNTER RESPONSE 6: That’s just an opinion.
FINAL RESPONSE 6: Given absolute moral standards and biblical teachings, such cultures are primitive morally and spiritually—by theological fact, not opinion. For example, in India one sees the real fruit of its spiritual philosophies.
Reincarnation allows for the time needed for true self-perfection.
RESPONSE 7: Actual self-perfection is impossible for a fallen race.
COUNTER RESPONSE 7: Not over billions of years.
FINAL RESPONSE 7: Neither the extent of human sinfulness nor the holiness of God isadequately comprehended. If the biblical view of human nature is true, then in all eternity men could not perfect themselves.
Reincarnation engenders personal responsibility.
RESPONSE 8: As documented in occult writings and pagan history, it rationalizes or engenders amoralism, selfishness, immorality, and all sorts of sin, often “justifying” them by recourse to allegedly spiritual principles and “truths.”
COUNTER RESPONSE 8: People are held accountable for what they do.
FINAL RESPONSE 8: People are not held accountable. They will never experience future judgment, either in the next life or any other life.
“Past life” experiences and past-life therapy has proved reincarnation true.
RESPONSE 9: “Past life” experiences, whether in therapy or outside it, are psychological or occult delusions. Such experiences do not help people, but harm them by seeming to justify a false and destructive philosophy or providing a false diagnosis and solution to people’s problems.
COUNTER RESPONSE 9: Therapists claim it has cured thousands of their patients.
FINAL RESPONSE 9: Such therapists are violating “their” own tenets in seeking to counter the “justice” of karma. People who suffer from supposed past-life karma should be left to suffer. To seek to counteract karmic justice is a moral violation of the canons of reincarnation belief, and will only result in additional karma. Presumably the therapist will also reap his or her karma for the sin of interference.
- For a comparison of reincarnation philosophy to the resurrection see John Snyder, Resurrection vs. Reincarnation (Moody).