Reincarnation and Christianity have more in common than most people might think when you consider the central story of Christ's resurrection, which lies at the very core of Christianity. While the belief in reincarnation and Christian beliefs may share some similarities about spirituality, life and death, there are also very significant and important differences.
Devout Christians Don't Believe in Reincarnation
Devout Christians do not believe in reincarnation. It goes against everything that is taught in the New Testament. This part of the Bible clearly states that Christ is the way to eternal life. It's through the Christian belief that Christ was the son of God sent to Earth to deliver mankind from sin that a Christian gains life eternal. That's because Christ died for all of mankind's sins and his resurrection from the dead after being crucified shows that through him, Christians can also defeat death. They, too, will be resurrected from death and enter the Kingdom of God in heaven.
A Christian believes in one life and one redemption through Jesus Christ. Depending on the church denomination, at death, you may go to purgatory to await God's judgement, you may be raised from the dead on Judgment Day, the same way Christ rose from the dead to join Christ when he returns to reign over the world, or your faith in Christ will carry you to heaven upon your death. To a Christian, you cannot believe in reincarnation and the message of salvation through Christ. The two beliefs are exclusive. To espouse reincarnation is blasphemous to a devout Christian since Christ is the only path to life after death.
Hybrid Christians Who Believe in Reincarnation
The influence of Eastern culture and its belief in reincarnation has impacted many Christians. Some Christians have embraced different aspects of other religions for a type of hybrid Christianity. For example, it was revealed in a 2009 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll, that 22% of American Christians also believe in reincarnation. This is clearly a shift from the basic Christian belief and reflects a mix of religions for a strange Christian hybrid that is not reconcilable with the tenets of true Christianity.
Another form of Christianity is what's known as a double belief or double belonging. This is a common hybrid where the beliefs of two religions are melded together. For example, there are Buddhist Christians. While the two religions are clearly very different, some people believe in both religious concepts without finding any conflict in their Christian faith.
To a devout Christian, this seems like an impossible conflict of faith. There is no possible way that a devout Christian would ever contemplate, much less believe in reincarnation.
Reasons Christians Might Believe in Reincarnation
There are a few reasons why some Christians believe in reincarnation. They point to various Bible texts as proof of reincarnation in the New Testament.
One such instance is the multiple references made about the true identity of John the Baptist. John is referred to as Elijah in three bible passages. Those Christians who believe in reincarnation state these passages aren't analogies. They believe Jesus's words should be taken at face value as statements of truth.
These passages appear in the New Testament and include:
- In Matthew 11:13-14, Jesus says to his disciples, "For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come."
- In Matthew 17: 12-13, the identification of John the Baptist is once more discussed. Jesus further explains to his disciples, "But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands."Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist."
- However, in John 1:21, John is asked, "Are you Elijah?" He states that he is not Elijah, implying that he was not the reincarnation of Elijah.
However, theologians state these are simply examples of Jesus's words being taken out of context of the lesson or the analogy Jesus was using to convey a point that even when prophets are presented to the people, they refuse to recognize them as such. Other possible interpretations of Jesus's words are given that he is merely being the great storyteller to get people to open their eyes to messengers of God.
Were Reincarnation References Expunged From the Bible?
Since the New Testament as known today was written between the death/resurrection of Christ and 500 AD, many people argue that the original texts included reincarnation. It's a well-known fact that when the Bible was being compiled, many religious texts were excluded from the final version. There are some scholars who contend that early Christians did believe in reincarnation.
This belief is based on the text that references reincarnation as having been purposefully excluded from the final version of the compiled Christian Bible of the Old Testament and New Testament. In Geddes MacGregor's book, Reincarnation in Christianity (1978), Dr. MacGregor, a Christian scholar and professor, examines the foundation of the Bible of the Christian church and concludes that Gnostic Christinas believed in reincarnation.
Edgar Cayce Readings of Incarnations of Jesus
The Sleeping Prophet, Edgar Cayce was a Christian and Sunday School teacher who read the Bible one time for each year of his life until he caught up with his age and an angel appeared before him. It surprised Cayce as well as other Christians when several of his readings revealed 11 lifetimes that Christ had lived.
Relation of Reincarnation in Christianity
At first glance, and for many people of faith, reincarnation has no place within the Christian belief. However, some Christians embrace both belief systems and don't consider themselves lesser Christians.