Let's Reconsider Reincarnation

By David Lusk

This study is designed for people who hunger for truth. Those interested in seeking God's way will want to read this tract.

If reincarnation is correct, this is how you got into this world:

This body arises from sexual intercourse. It passes to development in darkness. Then it comes forth through the urinary opening. It is built up with bones; smeared over with flesh; covered with skin, filled with feces, urine, phlegm, marrow, fat, grease, and also with many diseases.

If the Bible is correct, we have a conflict, for it differs from the above account, saying:

"God created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:13)

Can you see the conflict? People have tried to reconcile the two, but Hinduism and Christianity are not alike. They disagree in how we were formed to enter this world, and they disagree over what happens to us in death as we leave it.

Hinduism says we come into this new world burdened with "karma" -- the just punishment of an old, past life. Here on earth we must pay for the sins and mistakes we made in forgotten lives long ago. At death we leave our bodies to be reincarnated into another body to live another life, repeating the process hundreds of times. Hindus teach that the repetition continues until we purify ourselves to perfection -- thus obliterating the personality. Then we get off the wheel of life and go to "Nirvana" -- the nothingness of total annihilation .

Christianity disagrees. The Bible teaches that God places a brand new soul in a new body at conception as a sparkling, brand new thing. We pass through life only once, and while here, we live life as best we can, following the example of Jesus. We follow the commands God gave us in the Bible. At death we leave our bodies to return to that loving God who judges us for our deeds. The righteous are granted a wonderful place called heaven -- the eternal paradise of the soul where only wondrous love, joy and peace abide.

So which is correct? Do we go through life once, and then go to judgment as the Bible teaches? Or do we go around again and again in many lives, trying to right our wrongs as the Hindu Vedas teach?

The Claim of Reincarnation

On the surface, the doctrine of reincarnation sounds appealing. It seems an honest attempt to answer the problem of "God's relationship to evil." (How could a good God allow innocent people to suffer?) When I am suffering, reincarnation does a good job of answering my questions: "Why?" or "Why me?" This is why many people find it appealing.

What does reincarnation say? It claims that a soul living in the world can do good or bad as it chooses. If that personality chooses to do evil in his life, he does not die and return to God. There is no judgment and no hell for the wicked. The person enters death with the "seeds of new life" in his grasp.

In that mystical world between the old life and the new, the soul meets the natural law of the universe called "Karma." Karma imposes punishment upon the soul for the sins of that last life. The evil that the person did is noted, and he prepares to begin paying for it in his upcoming life. Perhaps he doesn't pay all at once, but somewhere in this process of going round and round on the wheel of life -- one reincarnation after another -- he has to suffer for his old wrongs, purging the wrongs, (even if he doesn't remember them).

The Hindus say that a man is "working out his karma" when he faces disease, birth defects, misery, pain and injustice in this life. That person suffers alone with his fate until his old karma is exhausted. The sufferer keeps dying and coming back again and again and again. Each time he burns off (pays for) more karma. The next lives are filled with less and less misery until he perfects himself and is merged into nothingness.

That nothingness is called "Nirvana" -- the dissolution of the personality. In reincarnation, that is the goal of life: to extinguish the personality completely and forever.

So that is the reason you have misery in this life -- you did some evil in a past life. That is an easy answer. It sounds good, and at first seems to satisfy. But now we have to ask, is it true ? Is reincarnation the factual answer? Something that is right is not always easy; and something that is easy is not always right.

One day years ago as a young child, I was hungry. I saw some food that looked good to me. It was near at hand and met my needs at the moment, so I ate it. It went down easy, and seemed to satisfy. An hour later, however, I was sorry I had eaten it. There was something wrong with the food. The next two days I was forced to take horrible tasting medicine to keep my stomach calm.

The same is true with reincarnation. It seems like a good answer. It is easy to swallow, and at first makes sense. But later, we find ourselves having to swallow more and more silly and bitter things just to justify what we have already ingested. When that happens, we have to conclude that the teaching is bad.

A Personal Quest

This writer is a Christian. I believe the Bible's message; that Jesus Christ is God's Son who forever answered the reincarnation question. However, I am also curious. My study of "life after death" has been life-long. I did not merely search the Bible. I have read the Bhagavad-Gita with great interest, and studied the writings of people, both for and against reincarnation. The view of "reincarnation" held by Hindus and Buddhists sounded enticing. It has the easiest answers.

After studying it, I have concluded that, if reincarnation were correct, it is fine to be a Christian. Even if it is wrong, Christianity is a good life -- much more disciplined than the way of the worldly. It will take one higher on the process of reincarnation.

But, if reincarnation is wrong, it is a very, very dangerous doctrine. Let me show you why with this story:

Captain Lang Smith of Canada had dreamed for years of sailing alone around the world. Months had been spent in final preparations. His 11 1/2 foot sailboat had been checked and double checked. The sails were new and tested. The captain had new maps and the finest compass. Just south of Vancouver, British Columbia, Smith cast off for his 50,000 mile journey. He planned on it taking him two and a half years. He thought, "Nothing can stop me now. I'm on my way to adventure." Smith was half right. It was going to be an adventure. He was 55 miles out when he hit a submerged log. His boat sank and his plans were ruined.

The same kind of disappointment is facing millions of devotees of reincarnation. If one plans on re-living hundreds of lives, but dies to find that there is no reincarnation, his life is wasted and his soul is doomed . If we plan for 50,000 lives in reincarnation, but discover at death that our journey is over, what a shock that will be! What a deadly mistake!

If the Bible is true: "It is appointed unto man once to die and after that, the judgment," I would be very unwise to waste this one life thinking I have the promise of many more lives and opportunities. Thus in giving it serious and sober thought, I have to conclude that not only is reincarnation wrong, it has to be said even stronger: it cannot be correct. I say that for the following reasons:

I. Reincarnation is Unworkable

The goal of reincarnation is to work off all bad karma until the "sound of silence" (the primordial state of the universe) returns once more. But there is a problem here. To believe that souls are working off their bad karma and gathering good karma, assumes that people are learning and improving. Things are getting better and each succeeding life is more enriched. By every rotation of the wheel, souls are getting closer to Nirvana. That is false.

To forever disprove that theory, all we have to do is visit India. That is the nation where reincarnation has been taught so forcefully for the longest period of time. There is where bad karma has been worked off and good karma has been building for centuries. Millions of people should be living easier and easier lives as they climb to higher life forms. Are they? No. India bears tragic witness to the failure of such a philosophy. Instead of being a glowing light for the world, India agonizes in rampant poverty, starvation, suffering and chaos. Its suffering increases daily. Millions of poor souls quietly despair and prepare to die, hoping that something better will be found in the next life.

Hindu followers defend the failure in India. They say that we should not "equate reincarnation with progress." They argue that reincarnation "only provides the opportunity for progress." That is disappointing. The very religion that calls for progress toward Nirvana does not guarantee progress? Why? Because there is no incentive to improve.

One cannot improve on a mistake he can't remember. If a person doesn't have any recollection of his past in the next life, he has no reason whatever to improve. Reincarnation sends you around again and again, but teaches you nothing. You remember nothing and improve none at all. Also, if you believe you are going around again and again, there is no motivation to change or improve anything right now. Generations come and go without progression in such a system. That is why the social order of most Hindu nations is below standard. The poor and uneducated languish in misery, generation after generation.

Karma can work only if people are getting better. And the truth is, people are not. If I do evil in life number one, I must pay for my bad Karma when I reincarnate. But if, in life number two, I do more wickedness when I am supposed to be burning off the bad from my first life -- then I have to pay for that new evil in life number three. But there I do more wickedness -- the cycle is endless and degenerates as it turns. I get further and further away from perfection, not closer.

2. Reincarnation is Illogical

A young man proudly announced to an older man, "I am a firm believer in reincarnation. It has all the answers for me." "Really?" asked the older man. "Tell me about it so I can believe it too. How many times have you been reincarnated?" "Uh, I don't know," stammered the youth. "What were you before you got to this point?" "I don't know." "What will you be next time?" "I don't know." How many more times must you go around before you are perfected?" "I don't know." "Where can you go to get the answers?" "I don't know." "Then how can you say it has all the answers?" asked the older man. "It doesn't have any answers. I will just stay with the Bible. Its truth is clear, plain and invites investigation. It has all the answers for everyone."

In reincarnation there are no answers. And where is the proof? The explanations that it offers us are totally lacking. The brain just cannot logically accept some of the things it teaches. For example, reincarnationists teach:

*That the world's population is basically stable. One Hindu writer said, "As one dies, another is born to take his place."

*Even when war or natural disaster reduces the population in one place, other places are experiencing prosperity and population growth. Thus overall, the world's population remains stable.

*There will, therefore, always be just enough souls to be reborn into all infant bodies, for there is a corresponding number of deaths and births.

*The human soul is not created but is eternal. Thus no new souls are being created to enter the cycle of rebirths.

*When a soul is sufficiently purified, it is absorbed back into "being" (out of our world into Nirvana).

The problems in such teaching are obvious: First, if no new souls are being created, yet the number of old souls are being absorbed back into "being," it should follow that the world population is decreasing. This is not true. Instead there are more people alive in this present generation than in any previous one.

Consider the following statistics of growth in the world:

A.D. 1575 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 Million people

1825 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Billion people

1925 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Billion people

1975 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Almost 4 Billion People

Second, since the world's population is increasing so rapidly, it is only obvious that there are not enough old souls to fit these new bodies. Where are they to come from? Does that mean that there are bodies walking around with no souls?

To answer this dilemma, many Hindu devotees claim that Karma is changing -- sending the needed souls up from insects and animals, evolving them into humans. They agree the world has more humans today, but claim we have less insects. However, that is not true either. And even if it were, why should the law of Karma change to accommodate the need for extra souls? And if karma changed, it cannot be a law at all. Personalities change, laws don't.

III. Reincarnation is Unjust

A mother brought her son to school for the first day of instruction. She went to the headmaster and said, "My son John is very shy, so if he misbehaves, just slap the student next to him, and John will learn his lesson and behave." Everybody knows that her suggestion was silly. Such could not be practiced because it is unjust. John has to face his own mistakes and take his own discipline.

And that is a huge problem with reincarnation: it is unjust.

Adolf Hitler ordered the deaths of at least six million Jews in his lifetime. It could be said that he was responsible for the death of 60 million people all over the world; not to mention the evil he inflicted on those who survived. When he died in 1945, can you imagine the karma built up against him? Perhaps he has 60 million reincarnations of suffering to go through before getting back to where he was before he killed the Jews or started World War II.

Let's assume that in 1960 (after a few short lives as a bug, a snake, three mice and a dog) Hitler is reincarnated as a crippled baby girl in New York City named Ruth Jones. Ruth has no idea that she is really Adolf Hitler reincarnated or that she is suffering for the crimes of the Nazi Fuhrer. It is at this point that karma justice breaks down completely. Hitler is gone, and his personality actually ceased to exist in 1945. Little Ruth now bears the massive burden of Hitler's karmic debt. She did nothing wrong, but karma strikes here anyway!

And little Ruth is only the first in a series of 60 million miserable lives spawned by the evil of Hitler. Ruth has to die in distress to let the next body pay for more karma. Now Hitler has affected the lives -- not just of 60 million who died in the war, but 60 million reincarnated people who are paying for the past deeds of their predecessors.

We are up to 120 million people now, and that is not even considering the sins committed by these 120 million that they must pay for later. And where is Hitler in all this? He hasn't paid for anything. Do you begin to see the injustice?

Reincarnation says that, in life, each of us is responsible for our own actions. Yet we are not. In death, the personality is extinguished, and a new personality comes back into the world to pay the burden or karma. The new personality knows nothing, but has to pay for everything. This is unjust.

Here is Ruth -- the poor child born with a horrible defect that will limit or shorten her life. Let's go into her room. We walk over to the bed where she lies. We look at her and then at her mother suffering along with Ruth. We offer a good word of comfort: "This child is working off Hitler's karma." Ruth has no chance because she cannot do any good or evil. Ruth dies without knowing what she did or how to improve. This is totally unjust.

But enough about the evil man. What about the righteous man? His lot in life is also unjust. Consider Rasheeb, a Hindu who gives himself totally to righteousness. He is promised in the Bhagavad-Gita:

"For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Prtha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death. Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt (12:6-8).

But the problem is this: Rasheeb dies. Between one life and the next, every single observable characteristic that defines Rasheeb is destroyed. When he is reincarnated to the next life, the next body and mind reaps the reward. What good did it do the righteous Rasheeb if only a blank mind and soul comes into the world again to enjoy the good karma of the past?

If reincarnation is really karma, or the "law of justice," why not give the person a full vision of what he has done in his past life. That would be justice. Let him remember his good deeds and his flaws in his past life. Thus he could both understand his predicament and correct his life for the future.

IV. Grace Destroys Reincarnation

Almost every Hindu I have ever met has told me, "I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe the same things you do." Of course he doesn't understand the difference in his religion and mine, so he is willing to include Jesus into his collection of avatars or Lords. But for a moment, let's agree that he is right. We believe in the same Christ.

If he agrees that Jesus is truly the Christ -- the anointed one sent by God, then finally, reincarnation for him is finished. Why? Because Jesus died to save him and make him perfect before God. He has gone his last round on the wheel of life, and he has been perfected! He has no more work to do. If he is perfected by the blood of Jesus, never again will he be reincarnated for there is no need. He can go from this life into eternal rest.

This should be great news to a Hindu, for he has been going from one reincarnation to the next seeking perfection. He has been trying, in each life, to purify the bad karma and to collect enough good karma to get off the wheel and find Nirvana.

Well, here is the good news: if he turns to Christ and believes what Jesus taught, he will have discovered the very key he has been seeking. What He offers is called "Grace" (the word means "unearned favor") and God's grace helps him to spiritual maturity.

When Jesus went to the cross, He died as a substitute. He was sinless, but He died in your place; taking the punishment you deserved. He did it so that God could take your "bad Karma" and put it on Him, and so Jesus could pay for it once and for all. From that point on, you are to "walk in the light as He is in the light..." (I John 1:7). The process is called "Justification." Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are all declared by God to be righteous." When we are baptized into Christ, our sins are washed away. We go to our God redeemed, saved and happy provided we live faithfully unto death.

V. Reincarnation Destroys Grace

Those of us who have been saved by this wonderful grace of God, are taught immediately to show that same grace (undeserved kindness) to others around us. By doing so, we make this world a better place in which to live by showering our path with sweetness and goodness. If there is one who is suffering, we must comfort and help him.

But in the view of reincarnationists, such kindness should not be practiced. The people who are suffering in this world are "working out their karma." Whatever suffering they experience in this life is due to the evil of a past life. They deserve their fate. This is based on the Hindu concept of Dharma which may be roughly translated, "the inevitability of what must be," or "doing what is set before you."

So what about being kind and helping that poor, suffering soul? Why not feed that hungry man? Why not clothe the naked or heal the sick? Because it is wrong to disturb the process of karma. That poor fellow has to pay for his evil some day, so let him suffer in silence now. Helping him is not wise. In fact, interrupting his karma could be a sin that you yourself will pay for in a next life.

Let's go even one step further: have you ever thought that it might be a good thing (under the system of reincarnation) to murder, rape, steal and abuse others? Why not? You are merely purifying the bad karma in the people you victimize. They deserved what you are doing to them. In fact, they need for you to be vicious toward them if they are going to go on in the evolution process. Karma might even reward you for carrying out upon them the pain they deserved! If that were true, Hitler should be thanked for his evil; and so should every rapist or murderer in the world! Do you see what I meant earlier about "bad food that seems good"?

And that suggestion is not so far-fetched. For centuries the rich Hindus have reveled in splendor while the poor go without. There is no compassion or kindness in such a system. The rich deserve their wealth and the poor deserve their misery. You can search the entire world and you will not find a Hindu orphan's home, or a Hindu hospital. The system doesn't work on the basis of kindness.

The Christian looks at this situation in disgust. Jesus Christ came to this world teaching and practicing the very opposite of that. He said to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the poor (Matthew 25:34-40). His followers were taught to be kind to everyone.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up (Rom 15:1). Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Gal 6:10).

VI. Reincarnation is not Vital

A Christian was studying with a Hindu a few years ago in Guyana. As they discussed the two religions, the Christian asked, "What difference does your religion make?" "What do you mean?" asked the Hindu. "Well," answered the Christian, "if your religion had never existed, how different would the world be? If you discovered today that your religion had totally disappeared -- that you and no one else believed it any more; what difference would it make?" The Hindu thought for a while and then admitted, "It wouldn't make a bit of difference." If there is nothing "out there" beyond the grave except another reincarnation, all the rotations of all the souls in all the history of the world do not matter one whit. The earth is no better, no soul is saved, and no good is done.

Christianity on the other hand is vital. If correct (and it is) the message of Jesus Christ is crucial to know and follow. If you do not hear, heed and obey this message from God, the Bible says you are lost.

This truth is illustrated in the story of the man and his wife who purchased a Bible and took it home to read. After reading the first portion, the man looked at his wife and said, "Wife, if this book is correct, there is a God who loves us." After a few more nights reading, the man looked at his wife again and said, "If this book is correct, there is a Devil who has deceived us." The next night, he said, "If this book is correct, we are lost." And the very next evening, the man said, "Wife, if this book is correct, we can be saved." And they were.

Do you need the Bible message? Yes! You can't live without it!

VII. Reincarnation is Not Pleasing

People who choose to believe in reincarnation usually do so because they don't like the concept of a hell for the wicked. They would much rather think of going through another life, and making good their old mistakes. A person would much rather meet himself than his Maker on the other side of death. But in choosing reincarnation, people never stop to think what a lifeless and sterile thing it is, both in life and in death.

For example, the reincarnationists in the West love to tell of their "past lives" -- how they were Joan of Arc or Mohammed or Abraham Lincoln. It is strange that none of them ever recall being a worm in a garden or a snail on a rock. But if reincarnation were true, then that is what some of them were -- or what they soon may be. Depending on their bad karma, they could be a mule as easily as a man. They could as easily be a hog as a human.

Then consider the undesirable death of reincarnation. Even if we work off the bad karma and purify our souls completely, what do we receive? The Hindu's reward is nothingness -- extinction in Nirvana. The devotee has successfully annihilated his personality and sinks into oblivion .

So here is something strange -- think carefully about this:

Nirvana has sometimes been described as "The further shore, the harbor of refuge, the cool cave, the matchless island, the holy city. It is sheer bliss." But for what? We have already annihilated our personalities in purifying ourselves of bad karma. So what use have our souls for such a wonderful place? How can an obliterated personality enjoy sheer bliss?

Author John Weldon said: There is only one thing that makes a future life worthwhile -- that is the preservation of the consciousness -- personal identity and uniqueness. Yet in reincarnation, (such things) are forever obliterated." How is it possible to draw meaning from life, if the goal of existence is to slowly annihilate personality?

The Christian, on the other hand, is promised heaven -- that glorious place of joy, peace and rest, prepared for the faithful by God Himself. The conscious soul goes there to enjoy glory forever. That is reasonable and full of happiness and hope. A rational person would rather have the holy happiness of heaven than the nothingness of Nirvana.

The Conclusions We Must Draw

After studying it, we find that reincarnation does not answer the question of pain and suffering in this world. It merely points to a foggy past as a cause for it. But what caused the suffering in that past? Another past even further back in the fog. So reincarnation claims that there is no personal God out there beyond time. There is merely karma -- a law of the universe. It claims there is no judgment. No one answers to anyone. You end this life merely to begin again in a lower or higher life, depending on your karmic debt. Christians say, "That's not true!"

So how can we know what is right? The only way we can know the truth of the matter is to find someone -- anyone who has been through death and has come back to tell about it. That "someone" is Jesus Christ. He is the only one who ever has.

Historians admit that Jesus was nailed to a cross, and a few hours later that he was taken down dead. He was laid in a tomb as a dead man, but the Bible says that, on the third day, He was resurrected from the grave. In Revelation 1:17, we read of the resurrected Christ:

"When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid, I am the first and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."

Here, then, is the only one who went into the cold grave to do battle with death. He came back victorious. This is a proven fact! He has a right to speak, for He knows what is on the other side. So what does He say about life after death? He said things like:

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28).
Again He said:
"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it ... I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out -- those have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." (John 5:21-30).

Jesus also told the interesting story of a wicked rich man and a good but poor, man. Both died and were taken into a waiting place for the dead. The evil man lifted up his eyes being in torment, but the good man was placed in a secure and comfortable place. There they were to wait for the judgment that is coming upon all people. I believe Jesus was speaking of what He knew. Do you believe Him?

When the day of judgment arrives, the living and the dead will be gathered before the great white throne. Everyone will give an account of his deeds, whether good or bad. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.'" (Matthew 25:34).

You get one chance, my friend. I beg you to live your life in view of eternity. You will face your God one day to answer for your deeds. There is not just some "force of law" out beyond the grave -- there is the one true and living God. He hopes you will be wise and make ready for that great day called "Judgment."

There is a song many Christians sing. Part of it goes like this:

There's a great day coming,
A great day coming,
There's a great day coming by and by,
When the saints and the sinners
Shall be parted right and left.
Are you ready for that day to come?

An Invitation

If Jesus has been through it; and if He testifies that there is no reincarnation, I beg you to believe Him. He is the only one who can save you and get you safely home to heaven. His message to you is this:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28).

If you accept Him as Lord and Savior, please obey His Gospel. Seek out a local congregation of the church of Christ. Those Christians will help you find the true path to eternal life -- the path that leads to your eternal home.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. " (2 Cor 5:10).