Reincarnation and Its Place in Christianity

Reincarnation is the belief that, when we die, our souls come back to life in new bodies. It is a philosophical concept that many religions believe to be true. Reincarnation is a core belief in Hinduism, closely linked to “karma” – the sum of one’s good and bad deeds that eventually determines one’s rebirth. Other religions – especially Eastern religions like Buddhism, Sikhism, and Taoism – also believe in reincarnation albeit with varying theories.

The early Christians also believed in the concept of reincarnation. Though it’s not expressly mentioned in the Bible, it is said that Jesus himself espoused the concept of reincarnation. Notably so, according to Matthew 11:14, Jesus told his disciples that John the Baptist was Elijah reborn. According to the Old Testament, Elijah was whisked off to the heavens in a chariot of fire, and his reincarnation was prophesied by the prophet Malachi.

Another thought-provoking scripture is James 3:6, which reads (according to the American Standard Version Bible): “And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell.” The “wheel of nature” in this scripture has been interpreted by many to mean reincarnation as it is alleged that the process of rebirth continues in a cycle until the soul attains perfection and is worthy of returning to God. The tongue in this context is taken to be a major cause of sin.

While the above scriptures have been used to inculcate the doctrine of reincarnation in Christianity, they are subject to varying interpretations as are most Bible verses. Commingled with the fact that other versions of the Bible have completely different phrasings of the same scriptures, this leaves us wondering whether Jesus was really preaching reincarnation. The “wheel of nature”, for example, appears as “course of life” or “course of nature” in many of the other English versions of the Bible.

Reincarnation was declared a heresy by the ecumenical Council of Constantinople in the year 553 AD, and, according to some conspiracy theorists, the scriptures that outright mentioned reincarnation were struck out of the Bible. All in all, no single scripture succinctly teaches reincarnation in the Bible; all we have are scriptures that may allude to reincarnation.

So what is reincarnation’s place in modern-day Christianity? To many Christians, reincarnation is a fallacy and it is against the doctrines of Christianity. The Christian doctrine on the existence of Heaven and Hell dictates that everyone has but one life on this Earth to determine whether they’ll achieve eternal life or eternal damnation upon their death. Furthermore, the reincarnation belief undermines the Christian teaching that Christ died for humanity’s sins; why then would we have to be reborn continuously until our souls were perfect enough to be in God’s presence?

Many arguments have been made for and against reincarnation in Christian circles but, in the end, reincarnation is truly dependent on one’s interpretation of the scriptures. It is therefore nobody’s prerogative to determine the place it should hold in Christianity, but it is up to you to read the scriptures carefully and accept what makes sense to you.

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