The iconic image of the child praying with folded hands in American marketing has been replaced with the child sitting in the lotus position meditating in a Better Homes and Gardens’ ad. Granted, my relative was ahead of the trendiness curve, reading Edgar Cayce and traveling via astral projection before the term New Age was coined, minted and sold as herbal tea.
All beliefs have implications and I wonder how many believers in reincarnation consider the tragedy inherent in this belief.
The night before the funeral, I stayed in my dead relative’s home. As I was looking over his bookshelves lined with hardbacks covering the A to Z’s of reincarnation, his grieving father commented to me, “This is what we believe.” Even if my relative comforts himself with this idea that his son will be reincarnated and live life again as someone else, the tragic implication of reincarnation is that this father will never see his son again. There is absolutely no hope of reunion.
If reincarnation is true and we have lived multiple lives, then we have no idea who we were in our former lives. We have no idea who our parents were in our past lives. Those we deeply loved are forgotten by us and we have forgotten them. It’s all lost. Every meaningful relationship is lost forever. Every memory is gone. Even those who believe in reincarnation do not claim to have clear memories of their former lives the same way they have memories of their present life.
The only people who connect again with long dead loved ones who’ve gone on to live as others are people in movies. But the rest of us poor schlubs will never again be conscious of dead loved ones.
What people probably find comforting about reincarnation is that they do not have to fear judgment of any kind after death, certainly not by a personal God. However, even if karma will get you in your next life, you have nothing to fear because you will not be conscious of how karma gets you in your next life. Reincarnation is both tragic and self-deceptive.
The contrast between the Christian doctrine of redemption and reincarnation is stark.
Take just this one simple verse from the Revelation of the Apostle John, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
In reincarnation every tear is forgotten, but only because of a type of spiritual lobotomy. In Christianity, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There is a personal God who takes our grief very personally. This is the God who knows what it is to grieve, because He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. In Christ there is healing from past hurts and from devastating loss. He doesn’t lobotomize us, He makes all things new.
In reincarnation you have an impersonal and cold universe that doesn’t share its secrets with you. How can it? The universe itself is impersonal. In Christianity, Jesus tells us that everything the Father has made known to Him, He has made known to us. He has held nothing back from us. Everything He has shown the greatest Christians in history, He is pleased to show you.
In reincarnation you are absorbed into the universe. In Christianity you are overwhelmed by the presence of God and what He has done for you in Christ.
Reincarnation rewards those who think they are morally upright. The gospel only rewards the humble wretch from whatever walk of life. Only the sinner self-aware of his sins is brought near to God.
But most vitally, in Christianity, he who dies will live again. We will be like Him in His resurrection. Jesus was recognized after He rose from the grave. He was still Jesus, only resurrected. You will still be you, but now incorruptible, never to die again. We will recognize Jesus and every loved one who died in Christ. There is glorious reunion in Christ. In reincarnation, there is permanent relational loss, not only of loved ones, but of self. Self isn’t made new in reincarnation. Self is lost. Your uniqueness is illusionary in reincarnation as are close family ties.
Reincarnation is indeed a tragic belief.
I was at the funeral.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:20-24)