Reincarnation or Resurrection?
A Rising Interest in Reincarnation
According to research, interest in the belief in reincarnation is rising strongly. The New Age magazine “Onkruid” (translation: Weeds) informs us that for fifty-three percent of the Dutch, reincarnation is plausible. “That is a possibility,” responded more than half of the population is of course a vague formulation. Yet a good seven percent of the people are convinced that reincarnation is a reality. About forty percent say of reincarnation that it is “nonsense.”
Young people too are open to the concept of reincarnation. They see something attractive in it. Whatever is unjust and unequal in this life can be made right in the next life. And although the process of reincarnation can take a long time, everything does come together in the end, as everyone shares in the “unending light” or participates in the “All” becoming one with the soul of the world.
So, what is wrong in this life, whether or not through one’s own fault, is eventually remedied by the almost endless process of reincarnation. Reincarnation serves as a form of justice for everyone.
A Few Considerations
The concept of reincarnation is romanticized. If one delves into the various view points that exist around reincarnation, one soon discovers that reincarnation is an extremely somber and fatalistic belief. Not one good word can be said about it. People can fantasize and romanticize about reincarnation, but that does not say anything about the truth about this belief.
Reincarnation is in essence all about the relocation of the soul. Beliefs vary as to how this happens, depending on what “faith” one adheres to.
For the origin of the belief in reincarnation, we must look at India with its Buddhism and Hinduism. In the West, the main idea is that in the next life, a person always returns as a person. So we would have already used up many lives… But in the East people say that in a next life we can return in the form of an animal or a plant. We would then be able to meet one of our distant ancestors in a cow or sheep in the pasture, or in the wasp we might see one summer. In this regard, the answers go contrary to one another, and that makes the belief of reincarnation complex.
In Buddhism and Hinduism, reincarnation works according to the law of vengeance. This law is called karma. We return after this life then depends upon what we have done in this life. And the life we are now in is retribution for what we have done in past lives. So people either become resigned to the circumstances in which they find themselves, or they begin to display a hardness and cruelty toward everything that is weak and poor and sick. This is evident in India. The (holy) cow is treated better than a person on the fringes of life. It’s his own fault. He must pay for what he has done wrong, and can hope for a better situation the next time around. What it comes down to it that everything is determined by the law of cause and effect.
The process of reincarnation, of repeatedly coming back to life in other forms, can be endless. The Buddha said that a world age lasts unimaginably long, and there are many hundreds of thousands of world eras.
How must we evaluate this idea of the relocation of the soul? In the first place it can be stated that there is no proof for it. In all of human existence there is not the slightest indication of it. The teaching of reincarnation is hopeless and harsh. People try to avoid its fatalistic character by romanticizing it or reinterpreting it, all without proof. It becomes a whirl of thoughts that are based on nothing. Prof. Dr. J Verkuyl once said it like this: “The whole reincarnation concept is a dangerous siren song.”
In Concise Reformed Dogmatics, Prof. Dr. J. van Genderen writes that the relocation of the soul, in whatever shape or form, certainly has nothing in common with the Christian faith.
The question is real and unavoidable: “What happens to a person during and after death?” The brevity of life is a given. You can try to come to grips with the shortness of life and the inevitability of death by saying that everything just ends with death. You can declare death to nothing. The light simply goes out and then it is eternally dark. But it’s not a bad thing, for we notice none of this. You are no longer there as you were also not there in the long past. You come briefly into life, you work through a few years, and then you are released back into the black hole. In this secular view, death is seen as a sort of grace. We should be happy that a person dies at some time. Imagine that there would be no death. Where would our hope then be? So the thought of death becomes a reason to enjoy our short life as much as possible, to get all we can out of life. You only live once!
This is exactly what the Bible says to us with all clarity. And also with all seriousness. We only live once. In Hebrews 9:27 we read that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Indeed: we only live once and we only die once. There are no do-overs. This one life and this one death are decisive for the future. God’s judgment over our one life and our one death determines what our future will look like.
Besides all this, we must bear in mind that each person is a unique creation of God. This uniqueness is not transferrable to any subsequent life. After our death we must give account to the Creator of our existence. In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul writes that we must all must come publicly before the judgment seat of God. Then we will receive what we have done in our body, whether good or evil.
The gospel answer to the belief in reincarnation, and to questions regarding the brevity of life and the incomprehensibility of death, is Jesus Christ, the crucified and resurrected one. In our need and in our death, Christ came. He broke through death by giving his own life on the cross, as an offering for the sins and guilt of his people. This happy news may and must be told throughout the world! It is a message for all people. This gospel message is based upon unique facts. It is no shot in the dark. This true and joyful news of God for his people stands over against all the “happy tidings” from the devil. In the end it comes down to faith. The belief in reincarnation lacks any basis whatsoever, and is unable to point to any evidence. People require that they analyze and scrutinize their “faith” thoroughly.
Upon what grounds do I believe? Why do I believe what I do? Can I give an accounting of this? Do I dare?
Reincarnation does not offer a single hope. But the Lord Jesus Christ has truly arisen from the dead. God gives us reason to celebrate Easter. Whoever sings of the risen Saviour witnesses of him, and will also witness to others about him. For so many people have no true hope, especially when they claim to believe in the deceiving darkness of reincarnation, in whatever form.
This article was translated by Angela Blok.