Friday, July 23, 2010

REINCARNATION & THE HOLY BIBLE [Part 1 Of 4]

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And now for something completely different: something serious for a change.

[From the STMcC archive; 2005, September.]

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"WATCH THAT YOUR KARMA DOESN'T RUN OVER YOUR DOGMA!"
~ Anonymous (The ancient Greek philosopher)

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INTRODUCTION

Before we really dig into the matter of reincarnation in the Bible, I think it would be prudent to say a few words about reincarnation in general because reincarnation is an exceedingly misunderstood subject. Even people who have studied it for many years often develop misconceptions about it. So, let's all get on the same page before we explore its connection with the greatest book on planet Earth, shall we?

WHAT IS "REINCARNATION"?

There once was a Country music supergroup called The Highwaymen (Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash & Kris Kristofferson) and the title track from their debut album, ‘Highwayman’, related the story of a soul that was reborn multiple times in a variety of settings. The song concludes with these lyrics:

I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can
Perhaps I may become a highwayman again
Or I may simply be a single drop of rain
But I will remain
And I'll be back again, and again and again and again and again...

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This illustrates the single greatest misconception there is about reincarnation. What is described in the song 'Highwayman' IS NOT REINCARNATION! It is a separate concept known as Soul Transmigration. Soul Transmigration posits that a soul might return as a human being, an animal such as a dog, a cat, a (sacred) cow, or even as ostensibly inanimate objects such as rocks or raindrops. Reincarnation, on the other hand, implies the soul's return to Earth is strictly in the human form. There is no compelling evidence to support the former theory, and much to support the latter.

WHAT IS "KARMA"?

Karma, which is directly tied into the idea of reincarnation, is another very misunderstood subject. Although the word, which originates with Eastern mystical religions, strikes the average person as being mysterious, there is really nothing mysterious about it. Its equivalent can be found in The Bible in the idea that "whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." (Galatians 6:7) We live in a reciprocal world, and karma simply means that what we do will ultimately be done to us. Our benevolence and our malevolence both return to us in one form or another. Jesus even made the connection in relationship to sin and judgment: "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14,15) "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." (Matthew 7:1,2)
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Karma simply means that we receive what we give, and we do not receive what we withhold.

WHAT IS "GOOD" AND "BAD" KARMA?

We often hear people speak of acquiring good or bad karma. In the ultimate sense, this is really a misnomer. The entire purpose of karma is to teach us lessons that we are required to learn. If we think of karma in simplistic terms like "good" and "bad" we will fail to comprehend the true spirit in which God created this universal law.

This is illustrated beautifully in The Bible, when the disciples of Jesus asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2)

Note that the question alone shows that they had reincarnation and a connection between sin and physical ailments in mind - implying that the blind man may have sinned prior to this particular birth. But the response of Jesus raises the issue from the idea of mere retribution, to the spirit of Love. "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him." Jesus then proceeded to heal the man. In essence, Jesus was saying that the situation should be viewed, not as a punishment, but as a lesson, and an opportunity to experience the Grace of God. (Incidentally, this passage is often misused in an attempt to refute reincarnation.)

One rarely encounters true profundity in song lyrics, but on the album ‘Unforgettable' by Natalie Cole, there is a beautiful song called 'Nature Boy' which contains these words:

The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return

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I've studied The Bible intensely for sixteen years, and I believe that it could be boiled down pretty nicely into the above sentiment. But it must be remembered that "GOD IS LOVE" (1st John 4:8) and so we must learn to Love according to God's definition of Himself; not according to our human conception of love. But if the purpose of karma is simply to teach us this lesson, then in a real sense, ALL acts of karma should be viewed as "good."

WHY ISN'T REINCARNATION VERY EXPLICITLY STATED IN THE BIBLE?
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Reincarnation appears in The Bible in several very real, irrefutable ways. But according to Jesus Himself, it will be acknowledged only by "He who has ears to hear." (Matthew 11:15) The reason it is not specifically spelled out in The Bible is because it is not at all necessary that one believe in it. In fact, for many people who require a sense of urgency in order to compel themselves to live as they should, believing in reincarnation would not be helpful. Believing in reincarnation is certainly no prerequisite for Salvation. It is a universal law that works as other universal laws do, regardless of whether or not the individual has any knowledge of it. When a child throws a ball into the air, the ball comes down again even if he or she has never heard of Isaac Newton. So it works with or without our knowledge.

Furthermore, reincarnation is often transformed into a false god by many spiritually immature seekers. In that case, they would have been better off to have never discovered the law at all! The concept of reincarnation has often been misunderstood and misapplied, turning it into a stumbling block for many.

Understanding how one arrived at their present condition can be valuable if it helps one to turn aside anger and resentment. For that person, reincarnation is an aid to grasping the bigger picture. But what we will choose to do about our present circumstances is far more important than understanding how we arrived in these circumstances in the first place. The act of karma is understood at the soul level, even if it escapes our conscious recognition. For most of us, learning that reincarnation occurs is all we really need. Then it's time to let it go and get on with our living - learning to Love and being Loved in return.

AREN'T REINCARNATION AND THE SALVATION OF CHRIST MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE CONCEPTS?

NO! But because mainstream Christianity finds reincarnation incompatible with traditional Christian dogma, reincarnation is vehemently denounced as a blasphemous idea. We have indeed been saved by Jesus Christ. His magnificent, atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of mankind cannot be overestimated nor overappreciated! Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Holy King, the Savior of the world. He has been given ALL authority in Heaven and on Earth. Thank God! (Matthew 28:18) Jesus removed all "consciousness" of sin for those who accept His gift. (Hebrews, chapters 9 & 10) We have no more reason to hold our sins against us. They have been atoned for and forgiven. And so have our neighbor's sins. We can KNOW that our sins are no longer a barrier between us and God.

So although our old sins should be released from our consciousness (so as not to crucify Jesus over and over again in our minds) this does not eradicate the necessity of our learning to Love as God defines it, because these are two separate issues. What if every believer in Christ immediately gained access to Heaven? We'd have a place full of forgiven people who are still sinning constantly; acting selfishly and egotistically because they still haven't learned to live a life of selfless Love! It wouldn't be ANYBODY'S idea of "Heaven." In fact, it wouldn't be much different from Earth. Make no mistake about it: we HAVE been forgiven our transgressions (past, present and future) through the sinless life and perfect sacrifice of Christ, but every one of us still has an awful lot to learn about Loving before we can all live together peacefully in a "Heavenly" state.

And that's why I call reincarnation, "The patience of God in action." He gives us plenty of opportunities to accept His Son, and learn to live as His Son urged us to. Do I think that we must reincarnate until we live a perfect life? Certainly not! If that were the case, we'd probably never get out of here. But Jesus did it - He lived a perfect life and He overcame the world on our behalf (John 16:33), but we must be living at some standard (determined by God) before we can leave our Earthbound lives behind altogether, and dwell permanently in a spiritual, Heavenly realm.

The best analogy that can be drawn is that of a school. We Earthlings are all in the same class - sixth grade perhaps. Just like in any classroom, some students are excelling and progressing faster than others. Those individuals can help tutor some of the slower learners, but we all have one teacher: Jesus Christ. Having fully mastered the curriculum Himself, Jesus is qualified to show us The Way, and if we follow His examples we are sure to learn the lessons. The Holy Bible is the class textbook. Karma is the grade on our tests. It is not necessary that the students score 100% on every test, but they must exhibit an overall understanding of the material taught in the course before they can graduate to the next grade.

Now that we're all on the same page with the word "reincarnation", we can explore references to it in our textbook, The Holy Bible.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

Continued below in “Reincarnation & The Holy Bible [Part 2]”

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.
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16 comments:

welcome to my world of poetry said...

This was really interesting Stephen,I have never gone into great depth about reincarnation before, but I see you obviously has and very well too.
I look forward to the rest though it may take a wee while to read.
Thanks for a most fascinating post and subject.

Yvonne.

Marjorie said...

Stephan, I think I may have just fallen in love with you!

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but I agree so fully with everything you just said it's a little crazy. I mean EVERYTHING you just said is what I have been telling people I believe for YEARS. I follow many world religions, but in the context of Christianity this is spot on.

I'm telling you that you and my mother could get along so well. She thinks the same way I do about religion. Of course she is a little stricter about it being a minister and all. Plus she's older and I find that as people get older they get more religious.

I think you are very perceptive about religion. How did you come to believe this way? I hope you don't mind my asking.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on some of this but have issue with reincarnation. If God is in fact letting us into heaven if we figure it out a little better than before, wouldn't that be works? My main issue with this is not that you believe in reincarnation (which we both know we disagree on) but that of works. Even if those that believe in reincarnation don't believe salvation it self is of works, they would have to believe that they have to reach a certain bench mark to get in once saved. That would be to justify or to be worthy of your salvation. Which for me is a fancy way of saying works, or earned salvation. That could lead to pride, and self worship for many.

In a way I agree with you. You believe many people might be better off not believing in reincarnation so they don't squander the opportunity now. I just happen to believe all people would be better off not believing in reincarnation.

I don't personally like the work Karma mostly because our society has butchered that word badly. On the other hand, how you tied it into Gods word an that you reap what you sow was really solid.

I'll keep reading. I like your start even if I don't agree with all of it.

Marc

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

YVONNE ~
Thanks for commenting. Glad to know you're finding it worth your time to read. (I probably wouldn't bother reading the whole thing myself. Too long!:o)



MARJORIE ~
>> Stephan, I think I may have just fallen in love with you!

Ha!-Ha! SHHHhhhh... Don't say that so loud. You want Robert Pattinson to hear it and become jealous? (Or maybe that's your plan, eh?)

>> I think you are very perceptive about religion. How did you come to believe this way? I hope you don't mind my asking.

Gee, thanks! All glory to God. But, no, of course I don't mind you asking.

I had ALWAYS been very spiritual-minded, even when quite young, but it wasn't until I was 35 that The Bible took center stage in my life. Prior to that, I had mistakenly dismissed it as a bunch of myths and fables, etc.

On April 6, 1994, I had some kind of spiritual experience which, from my limited human understanding, is probably impossible to explain. I don't fully comprehend it myself, but I refer to it as "a Baptism by The Holy Spirit".

As a result of that, I became thoroughly fascinated by the life of Jesus and began an ongoing study of The Holy Bible. I also went down a few wrong paths during that time (e.g., "A Course In Miracles", etc.) but Jesus always showed me the error of those ways and saved me from myself and from false teachers.

I learned so much so fast, that I knew The Holy Spirit was playing a role in my education and I eventually came to see that EVERYTHING anyone really needs to know in order to advance spiritually/religiously is contained somewhere in The Bible, or can be learned directly from The Holy Spirit through prayer and (correct) meditation.

And that pretty much brought me to where I am today, a dude who sins but knows better, and if at first he doesn't succeed, he tries, tries again.

Thanks for your comment, Marjorie. I certainly didn't anticipate such an enthusiastic comment from anyone. You made me smile!

~ Stephen
"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

BR'ER MARC ~
As you can probably imagine, over the years I have had as many debates with Christians over this reincarnation issue as I have had debates with Liberals over political issues.

A long time ago, I made up my mind that there would be no further debating it with ANYONE, nor even debating it in the disguise of a simple "discussion".

It makes no difference to me in the least whether or not anyone accepts or rejects the concept of reincarnation. It IS, and it IS all by itself without any need for me to defend it. I just put this out there for anyone who feels they might be helped by the knowledge of this Godly law. It can sink or swim on its own; it doesn't need my protection.

In response to your observations about works, I hesitate to say ANYTHING and inadvertently be drawn into an ongoing debate/discussion, but you deserve at least some sort of response, so I'll keep this super-brief:

As we both know, the major issue against the concept of "works" is mostly a result of the Protestant Reformation. And you and I have previously agreed that some concepts accepted by mainstream Christianity (for instance the "Trinity") are incorrect.

I would argue (if in fact I was inclined to argue it, which I'm not) that the anti-works theology is likewise a concept that has been somewhat misconstrued and blown out of proportion.

My position (in a very small nutshell) is that we are saved from the consciousness of our sins by the Atonement of Jesus, and our subsequent actions are the proof that we have had a change of heart, repented, and come to value our Salvation by Christ and our Forgiveness from God. If you or anyone else wishes to call those subsequent actions "works" and thereby take issue with them, well, that's none of my business nor any of my concern.

I believe I have a sound understanding of what James meant when he wrote:

Though a man say he has faith, what profit is it, my brethren, if he does not have works? Can faith save him? ... Even so, by itself, faith without works is dead. For a man may say, "You have faith, and I have works". Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
[~ James 2:14, 17 & 18]


Well, my Brother, that's all I wish to say about it, unless we should find ourselves drawn into another one of those long, drawn-out discussions such as the one we had about whether or not all of the dead "sleep" - which we know will profit neither of us in any way.

But thanks for reading, Br'er Marc, and I'm glad to know that you did appreciate at least some aspects of this blog bit.

Love ya, my man!

~ Stephen
"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

Marjorie said...

Stephen, While I disagree that things like "a course in miracles" are wrong or false I understand that you discovered that those teachings are not for you. Everyone has a path that they feel they must follow and if something isn't ringing true you have a right to seek your own path. That's why I follow many world religions as I hold to the view that "All paths lead to the summit." Some paths are a fast track and some are slower, but so long as that path is leading steadily upward and teaches loving your fellow man you're definitely good.

Yes, I am a firm believer in Jesus Christ, but I also believe that there are other teachers that have achieved Christ like status for lack of a better way of saying it.

I applaud you for putting your beliefs out there and opening them up to scrutiny. Though I'm not really scrutinizing as much as I am giving you a standing ovation.

DiscConnected said...

>its connection with the greatest >book on planet Earth

I was unaware that you could connect reincarnation to "Green Eggs And Ham"

Sureley you do not mean another book?

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>> I'm not really scrutinizing as much as I am giving you a standing ovation.

--[Takes a bow ... splits his pants ... rushes off the stage with his boxer shorts showing.]--

MARJORIE ~
I commend you for studying other religious beliefs. I think that everyone ought to have at least a basic understanding of the world's principal religions.

And I also agree that if a religious belief isn't ringing true for a person, they have a "right" to seek their own path.

However, whereas I once thought more along the lines that you do, in that "all paths lead to the summit", that view has been altered for me. I also have reasons for believing that the life and work of Jesus is of singular importance in this world.

As for "A Course In Miracles", boy, do I ever have a story to tell about THAT!

I was deeply committed to it for 5 years, and actually completed the course (i.e., performed all of the lessons) nearly 3 full times before developing some serious misgivings about it.

The mental concern about the validity of it all finally drove me to do what I should have done IN THE FIRST PLACE! I went to Jesus with my questions. And He answered me in a very remarkable way. Result? Thumbs DOWN!

I think my story is so revealing that for years I actually entertained the idea of writing a full-length book about it. But knowing that New Age publishing houses would never accept the manuscript because it exposes one of the most famous "New Age Bibles" as a fraud, and that Christian publishing houses would never accept the manuscript because of my belief in reincarnation, I put the book idea away.

Who knows? - Maybe one of these years I'll actually write the story up in multiple installments and post it on my blog. ...Or not.

Thanks, Marjorie, for your support! :o)

~ Stephen
"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>> I was unaware that you could connect reincarnation to "Green Eggs And Ham" Sureley you do not mean another book?

Don't be silly, DiscDude. OF COURSE I meant another book: "The Cat In The Hat".

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

Anonymous said...

("A long time ago, I made up my mind that there would be no further debating it with ANYONE, nor even debating it in the disguise of a simple "discussion".)

I wasn't here for an argument brother. Actually, the only reason I commented here was that I was shocked to find I agreed with one of your premises in an installment about reincarnation. Believe it or not it was a compliment.

("It makes no difference to me in the least whether or not anyone accepts or rejects the concept of reincarnation. It IS, and it IS all by itself without any need for me to defend it. I just put this out there for anyone who feels they might be helped by the knowledge of this Godly law. It can sink or swim on its own; it doesn't need my protection.")

Well stated. Since you believe it to be true there should be no need to defend it. I never asked you to.

("In response to your observations about works, I hesitate to say ANYTHING and inadvertently be drawn into an ongoing debate/discussion, but you deserve at least some sort of response, so I'll keep this super-brief:

As we both know, the major issue against the concept of "works" is mostly a result of the Protestant Reformation. And you and I have previously agreed that some concepts accepted by mainstream Christianity (for instance the "Trinity") are incorrect.")

I'll I will say is that doens't mean they got everything wrong either. Yes, we agree the trinity. We agree on many things biblically actually. Reincarnation and death just don't happen to be two of them. In the end trust me I don't want or need a debate right now. As a matter of fact had you just left it at, "This subject doesn't need me or anyone else to defend it, I love ya brother, but take a hike on this one" I wouldn't even be commenting right now. I didn't take what you said personally, and I hope you'll see my comment is not meant to be inflammatory either.

I believe I have a sound understanding of what James meant when he wrote:

("Though a man say he has faith, what profit is it, my brethren, if he does not have works? Can faith save him? ... Even so, by itself, faith without works is dead. For a man may say, "You have faith, and I have works". Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
[~ James 2:14, 17 & 18])"

I've heard this before. I'll just say we shall have to agree to disagree. No theological debate from me. I've worked these verses in the past as well. I do see why you have come to your conclusion here. You formulate your idea well. I just don't agree with it, enough said.

("But thanks for reading, Br'er Marc, and I'm glad to know that you did appreciate at least some aspects of this blog bit.")

Well brother, I'll always read when I have the time. I love you buddy and simple differences of theologial opinion is not going to change that. I won't comment on any blog bits on this subject from here on out. I'll read as I'm interested as to your thinking on this, but will remain silent.

Brer,
Marc

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

BR'ER MARC ~
I was not AT ALL insinuating that I thought you were spoiling for an "argument". That was the FURTHEST thing from my mind!

I only meant that I wished to spare us BOTH the trouble of going 'round and 'round, like we previously did about whether or not all of the dead "sleep". We saw that the results of THAT discussion led to nothing. After a lot of back and forth, you walked away holding to your view and I walked away holding to my view. There was no profit in it for either of us.

I know from MANY past experiences that Christians simply cannot accept reincarnation, regardless of the Biblical evidence. I accept that. And it is one reason (among several) that I NEVER refer to myself as a "Christian".

If in reading these installments on reincarnation and The Bible, a question or an observation should occur to you, I would be more than happy to have you post it here. Please feel welcome to do that. And I am MORE than willing to answer any question you might have.

I'm merely saying that I don't wish to engage in an EXTENDED debate about it (with you, or anyone else) because I have been there, done that, and I have found that it is a waste of EVERY participant's time. But a comment, or a question? Please feel free to make it known, Brother!

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

arlee bird said...

This may take me some time to get through each installment and digest it. As you may know I'm in the midst of being visited by my daughters so my computer time is going to be limited. I will probably be taking this little by litte. This is one time when I'm glad you don't post everyday.

I won't say much about this installment except that it feels like a matter of semantics and word play at work so far. But I look forward to the Biblical evidence to come.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

r-LEE-b ~
Hey, no problem, Bro. Take yer time.

>> I won't say much about this installment except that it feels like a matter of semantics and word play at work so far.

Semantics and wordplay?
WHA'?

~ Stephen
"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

DiscConnected said...

Some antics?

I'm always up for some antics!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Not "some antics" - SEMANTICS, you dumb dago! [To borrow an epithet from Rocky Balboa's manager.]

~ D-FensDogg

Dixie@dcrelief said...

I'm thinking to skip reading the comments and read only the blog bits. Wow... and yeah I know... might miss something. I can always go back to them later. Post my comments but resist reading the above. I don't know why I find this funny. Sorry sir :))