THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION
Larry Ray Hafley
From Texas: "Can a person be a true Christian and believe in the modern theory of reincarnation?"
Reincarnation is a theory which says the soul is reborn in another body. It is "the doctrine that the soul reappears after death in another and different bodily form" (Webster). Metempsychosis (from metes, over, empsychoun, to put a soul into; and psyche, soul, or life) is the passing of the soul at the death of a body into another body which may be either human, animal, or, as in mythology, vegetable. It is not a popular view within the institution known to the world as "Christendom." It has, however, had its devotees and defenders from those who profess "Christianity."
Our questioner refers to "the modern theory of reincarnation." Actually, it is more correct to say "the ancient dogma." Reincarnation is not modern with respect to its origin or age.
The Bible And Reincarnation
Certain Biblical narratives and facts show reincarnation to be a lie, a delusion, a false hope.
First the story of the rich man and Lazarus, as told by our Lord, precludes the possibility that the soul of one person may "reappear in another and different bodily form" (Lk. 16:19:31). The body goes to the grape where there is no work, device, knowledge, or wisdom (Eccl. 9:I0). There it decays and returns to the dust, but "the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Eccl. 12:7). This transpired in Luke 16:22, 23. The rich man prayed for mercy and comfort. He begged (an ironic act when their positions on earth are recalled) for Lazarus to be sent "that he might dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue." One reason Abraham gave for the refusal of such assistance is stated in verse 26. "And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fined: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence." The key term is the word "fixed." It is "set fast," steadfast. It is impassable. How could reincarnation be true in view of Jesus' teaching here?
Also, in this connection, the rich man asked that Lazarus be sent to warn his brothers of their impending doom. To accomplish this, Lazarus would have to be raised from the dead. If reincarnation be true, the rich man could have argued, "Okay, don't send him back as Lazarus, but let him return in another body and warn my family." He did not so plead, but he logically could have done so if reincarnation had been an option. Or, what is more likely, the rich man could have gone in another body and warned his brethren, if the theory be true. This is not intimated, but it surely would have been if such an alternative was available.
Second, the singular term is consistently used in Scripture to designate the abode of the soul. Paul refers to "our earthly house of this tabernacle" (2 Cor. 5:1, 4). Why is it that he does not say, "our earthly houses of these tabernacles," or "We that are in these tabernacles," rather than, "We that are in this tabernacle?" In 2 Corinthians 12:2, 3, if reincarnation be true, Paul should have said, "Whether in a body or out of a body, I cannot tell." He said, "the body," indicating one body for one soul. Peter was in "this tabernacle," "my tabernacle" (2 Pet. 1:13, 14). :No hint is given that he had a body prior to the one he then indwell. There is not the faintest glimmer that shows he thought he would have another fleshly body to live in.
Third, and directly related to reason two, Paul said, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). Judgment is individual and particular (Matt. 25:14-30). Why not say that one shall receive for the things done in his various "bodies," if reincarnation is a reality?
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). The judgment, not life in another body, follows death. There is no room for reincarnation in the Biblical description of the nature and extent of the judgment. Ungodly men are reserved "unto the day of judgment to be punished," while the righteous are preserved "unto his heavenly kingdom" (2 Pet. 2:9; 2 Tim. 4:18). One cannot believe that and believe in reincarnation.
Fourth, (a) in 1 Samuel 28, we see Samuel's spirit speaking to Saul. Samuel was dead (I Sam. 28:3), yet his were his own. His spirit had not entered another body. (b) in 1 Kings 17, a widow's son died, but through Elijah's petition, "the soul of the child came unto him again, and he revived" (1 Kings 17:22). The soul of the child had not gone into another body. If it had, that body would have to have died in order for the soul to be returned. Compare Lazarus in John 11. There is no sign of reincarnation in these teats. (c) At the death of Jesus, His spirit went unto the Father, into Hades, and not into another body (Lk. 23:46; Acts 2:27).
Scriptures Used To "Prove" Reincarnation
(1) Psalm 49:15: "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me." The contrast here is between the death of the righteous and the death of the wicked. The wicked one trusted in his riches, but still he saw death and corruption. Like a beast, he dies without hope of being redeemed to anything better (Pees. 49:6-20). However, the righteous have hope of deliverance. God will redeem their soul It will not be in darkness as will the wicked (v. 19). That is the contrast. The teat says nothing which remotely credits reincarnation. God shall "receive me." The passage does not say, "Another body shall receive my soul from the power of the grave," but that is how reincarnationists use this passage.
(2) Ecclesiastes 11:5: "As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all." The reincarnation believer contends that we cannot know all of God's works, nor all the ways of the spirit, therefore, the spirit may go into another body at death.
That bit of reasoning suits my view as well as it does his. If we do not know the ways of the spirit, how do we know that the tenet of reincarnation is one of them? This verse proves one thing. We know not all the works of God who makes all things. True, I do not know all the ways of the spirit, but I do know the things God has selected to reveal. One item He has revealed is that the spirit returns to Him at death and not to another body (Eccl. 12:7). No one knows how bones grow in the womb. A Doctor cannot answer "how", bones grow in the womb, though he is possessed with much scientific knowledge about their growth, structure and development. One thing he knows is that the bones will not grow in a woman that is without child. They grow only in "the womb of her that is with child" So, we do not know the ways of the spirit, but we do know its ways are within one material body and at death it returns unto God who gave it.
Being a true Christian and accepting the theory of reincarnation is incongruous, if not impossible. One who believes it must be a baby in the faith, or else he is being led astray and away from Him who is the head, "intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind" (Col. 2:18). "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8).
Truth Magazine XIX: 21, pp. 326-327