Discussion: On Christian Reincarnation

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  • rroyblake on Nov 4 2016 @ 4:14 PM

    Most theologies tell us that absent divine intervention, at death few if any of us would be absolutely pure of heart and sufficiently sinless to be with God in heaven. Likewise, few of us would be evil enough to deserve hell. Logic would seem to say that if the only two possibilities that are known to exist account for very few cases, a third possibility is very likely. Certainly the idea that the vast majority of humans would be consigned to hell suggests a vengeful and unfeeling God, the kind of God that I, and many others, refuse to believe exists.

    In researching the subject I found that the idea of reincarnation and Christianity was never thought completely laughable. Indeed, one of the founders and martyrs of Christianity, Origen of Alexandria, firmly believed in Christianity and reincarnation, although Origenism, as it was known, was declared heresy at the Council of Nicaea, presided over by Constantine in 325 A.D. Since that time only very small Christian sects (perhaps including Celtic, Grail or Druidic Christian churches) have attempted to officially reconcile Christianity and reincarnation. Believers in Christian reincarnation can, however, point to the Bible itself, especially the book of Matthew and particularly Matthew 17. In it, Jesus identifies John the Baptist as the literal reincarnation of Elijah. In fact, for Old Testament prophecy regarding Jesus to be possible, Elijah would have had to have been present at the time of Christ. The logical problem this poses for Christians that do not believe in reincarnation is obvious.

    It can also be argued that the reason that organized Christianity has for the most part refused to entertain the idea of reincarnation is social control. Without a heaven for the righteous only and a hell waiting for all sinners (in the past mortal sin included simply missing Mass) the Church had a good deal less to compel attendance or the need for indulgence. Clearly embracing the idea of reincarnation threatened the social control of the Church. Yet since the logic and essence of Christianity argued for more than just heaven and hell causing, the Roman Catholic Church to retreat a bit from this extreme position and create a third possibility, Purgatory. The idea of Purgatory has never been particularly theologically satisfying, but it retained an element of social control that reincarnation did not, that being that to be eligible for Purgatory and avoid hell altogether one had to die in a state of grace. There are no preconditions to reincarnation and hence no instrument for social control. To me it would seem a lot more logical to accept the idea that purgatory and this life are in fact one and the same, giving support to one of the "Noble Truths" of Buddhism, that "life is suffering."

    It might also be argued that without the idea of only Heaven and hell, there isn't even a compunction for belief, since if we are likely to reincarnate we don't necessarily need Jesus to save us. That, of course, suggests that we would not want to seek a relationship with Christ if the threat to our souls were not imminent, hardly the basis for the sort of love that I believe that Jesus wants us to have for him.