Reincarnation is the belief that the soul travels from one life form to another.
It is often understood as the soul leaving the body at the point of death and, not too long after, taking a new birth.
However, in most Asian religions the reincarnating soul may spend a considerable amount of time in astral realms before returning to an Earthly body.
Does reincarnation make sense?
The theory of reincarnation hinges on the notion of karma. Opponents say that karma theory is an easy way to create meaning out of a sometimes harsh and unjust world or perhaps to rationalize bad habits and personal weaknesses.
Meanwhile, believers say karma theory is rational–it makes sense and is based on knowledge instead of blind faith.¹
Statements like the above send up a red flag for those not adhering to reincarnation theory. Opponents to reincarnation say the immense and awesome workings of God cannot be reduced to human theories like karma and reincarnation, nor may the divine mystery be fully understood through reason alone.
In the Jewish and Christian prophetic traditions God’s workings are said to supersede our human psychological projections, imaginings and philosophical systems. Moreover, God is not understood as God’s creation, a popular idea in New Age circles where “The Universe” is synonymous with ultimate reality (philosophers call this perspective natural pantheism).
The voice of God (as Yahweh) speaking to the Jewish prophets illustrates the difference between natural pantheism and the belief in God as supreme Creator of the universe.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are my ways higher than your ways
And my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55: 8-9).
Likewise in the Book of Job, Yahweh poses a series of questions to emphasize Job’s human limitations.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me if you have understanding?
Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades
or loose the chords of Orion? (Job 38:4, 31).
Job is a “blameless servant” who, nevertheless, undergoes intense suffering. While this is not the place for a theological discussion about this thought-provoking book of the Bible, it’s enough to say that Job is reminded of the inestimable value of humility.
¹ In some models of reincarnation God’s grace may override bad karma, which arguably is a faith position.
Copyright © Michael Clark. All rights reserved.