Summary: Recent polls report that 1 in 5 American "born again" Christians believe in reincarnation. Most alarming is the fact that the number is climbing. This study examines the erroneous claims that reincarnation is biblical.
Our subject for study may seem arcane to most of us. However, as we shall see, it is a relevant issue for us to consider.
First, let’s define reincarnation. In its essentials, it a belief that a soul is eternal. The soul takes on a physical body. The physical body dies, but the soul lives on and returns in a physical body. Furthermore, this rebirth of the soul in another body can occur numerous times (some believe reincarnation can involve hundreds, if not thousands, of different lives).
Although there is disagreement and debate among believers in reincarnation in other aspects, this idea remains consistent.
As ridiculous as that may sound, this has been believed by a segment of people for thousands of years. There are over 1.5 billion people in the world today that believe in reincarnation. They primarily live in India and the Far East as reincarnation is a core belief of Hinduism and is believed by large portions of Buddhists and Sikhs.
More relevant is the results of a January 2003 Harris Poll® which found that 27% of Americans believe in reincarnation. They believe that they were once another person in a previous life. This includes 40% of Americans aged 25 to 29.
What is more disturbing is that the same poll found that 21% of Americans who profess to be “born again” Christians believe in reincarnation. A recent Gallup poll revealed the same figure and also learned that 24% of Catholics and 19% of Protestants believe in reincarnation. What is horrifying is that the trend of belief in the concept of reincarnation by American non-Christian and professing Christians is increasing.
How is this possible? How is it that even 1 in 5 professing “born again” Christians would adopt this doctrine?
I think there may be a few reasons. One of them is that leaders of Eastern Religions and the New Age Movement in this Nation are actively trying to convert professing Christians.
Over the last twenty to thirty years, numerous individuals have been trying to convince Americans - by means of books, videos and radio and television programs - that reincarnation is Biblical. They are preaching that reincarnation was believed and taught by Jesus and His disciples!
Let us examine the primary so-called “PROOF TEXTS” of those who assert that reincarnation is taught in the New Testament:
John 9:1-2, “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’"
To understand why this passage is believed to teach reincarnation, we must understand that the Eastern belief in reincarnation is inseparably linked with the “law of Karma.”
Basically, the law of Karma is, in modern parlance, "what goes around, comes around."
The ultimate goal of the Hindu is to reach a spiritual level where they escape from the endless round of birth, death, and rebirth. That usually means either achieving godhead or the dissolving of all personality into the unimaginable abyss of Brahman.
If you lived a devout and charitable life, your next life may be characterized by fame or fortune, good health, or inner and outer peace.
On the other hand, if you do not live a devout life and do bad things, you will be corrected or chastened by having to suffer in your next life. Depending upon just how bad you were, you could be chastened in the next life by being born into poverty, or developing a physical or mental disease, or become a victim of a crime or an accident, or even being born as an animal in your next life.
With that in mind, we are presented in John 9 with a man who was born blind. It is claimed that since the disciples asked Jesus if this man’s blindness was due to his own sins, this passage shows that they had a belief in the law of Karma.
Since this man was born blind, the sins that caused his blindness must have been committed in a previous life.
Well, there is no doubt that there were small sects within First Century Judaism that adopted reincarnation. However, this passage does not provide any evidence that these disciples believed in it. If they believed in Karma, why do they mention the possible cause being the sins of the blind man’s parents?
Much more likely is the view that these disciples had been contaminated by the pharisaical interpretation of Deuteronomy 5:9 in which God told the Israelites that He would punish them for idolatry, even to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him. The Pharisees, in their harsh self-righteousness, claimed that all physical and mental illnesses were punishments of God.
But, no matter what the disciples believed and why they believed it, Jesus sets the matter straight in Verse 3, “Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”