Dan Popp
Reincarnation or resurrection?
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By Dan Popp
September 4, 2012

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29, NASB)

A family member asked me what I think about reincarnation. On the spot I could only summon a couple of verses on the topic: It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27), and Paul's formulation absent from the body; present with the Lord (See 2nd Corinthians 5:6-10). In this article I'll flesh out my argument more fully.

To my mind, the first thing that makes reincarnation incompatible with Christianity is the scriptural concept of man; what human beings are.

The idea is very popular, even among Christians, that "I" am a spirit, walking around inside a fragile "earth suit." And that's the kind of being needed for reincarnation — an essence that can shed one body, and move into another one. But that's not how the Bible pictures us. Scripture treats a human being as a spirit/body/soul sort of creature. And these aspects of us can only be isolated temporarily — as opposed to the "ghost in the machine" view, in which they're only united temporarily.

So then, "I" cannot be reincarnated because the thing called "I" includes my body. The clay exterior is not an earth suit; it is me, just as my mind is me, and my spirit is me.

The Lord said to Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..." (Jer. 1:5a). What God fashioned in secret was you — not 1/3 of you, not something external to you. Your soul was not created beforehand, waiting around to enter a body. No, your soul, body and spirit were created together and formed as one human. Tertullian wrote 200 years after Christ, "Now we contend that life begins with conception, because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does."

Paul does talk in at least one place about putting on a body as if it were clothing. Let's look at that passage.
    For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 2 Cor. 5:1-4
While in this illustration Paul does separate what I've said is inseperable, it's only to show how inseperable they are, finally. If "our house is torn down" (if our body is destroyed), then we move into our "eternal" house. Obviously an eternal house is not a hotel; we don't check in, check out, and repeat. When we find ourselves "unclothed," we'll know that the next step is to exchange our momentary body for our forever body.

This leads me to my second and final point: reincarnation is hostile to the Christian doctrine of resurrection.

Jesus belittled the Sadducees for not believing in a bodily resurrection: "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God." (Matt. 22:29) That's because the promise of the reunification of our corporeal and non-corporeal selves should have been clear even from the Old Testament. Job had said, "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another." (Job 19:25-27a)

The New Testament puts resurrection right in our faces.

After Jesus died, He didn't come back as a germ, then a goldfish, then a giraffe, then a garbage can, then a goat, then a geranium, on the infinitely tedious road to becoming a god, or at least a good guy. He died, He rose, He's done. That's the entire process. Of course His resurrected body is "upgraded" in significant ways; it appeared in a room with locked doors, and disappeared — yet it's the same body; at least sometimes He eats fish and uses His legs for locomotion and speaks through His larynx. You will always be you. You will never be a ewe.

We must think clearly. It seems to me that reincarnation has at least one fatal flaw. No good deeds are going to ever blot out our bad deeds, no matter how many times we spin the wheel. Reincarnation is simply the flattering folly of penance in super-slow motion. If you could cleanse your own karma, regardless of the time it takes, then Jesus did not have to die. And that is an assault on the core message of Christianity: that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was necessary to satisfy justice. His blood — His blood alone — can cleanse us of our sins if we repent of them and believe in Him.

I suspect that, at bottom, reincarnation is a scheme of Satan to lull his victims with sweet fantasies that they don't have to deal with all that hard repentance stuff now. There's plenty of time! I appeal to Christians to search the Scriptures, and to be highly skeptical of anyone selling you "secrets."

"I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies..." — Jesus (John 11:25)

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© Dan Popp

 

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