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Do past life memories prove reincarnation?

Published: 7 November 2020 (GMT+10)

Alan W., Singapore, asks:


Hello Creation Ministries. Recently I came across the topic of children have “so-called “past life memories and reincarnation. Most of them claim to have memories of deceased people at the age of two to seven, some of their details in memories claim to have been confirmed by relatives and friends of their “past life identities”.

I am a Christian and a devoted reader of your articles and therefore I certainly do not believe in reincarnation and that God will “reuse” one’s soul as each individual soul is a special creation. What I would like to know is a possible spiritual reason of the situation if all of their claims are true and if it is possible that fallen angels or demons can plant “false memories of other people” into children’s minds, or even masquerade as children’s souls, even though they’re just born or do not sin much as often as other sinful people whose sin gives access to demons. I think that this topic can be explained more thoroughly like what you did with UFOs.Thanks.

Lita Cosner and Gary Bates, CMI–US, respond:

Dear Alan,

Thanks for writing in. As with the UFO issue, we are dealing with experiences that may seem true to the person claiming to have memories of a past life, but which are not truthful, in the sense that the person is not actually reincarnated.

When seeking to interpret any experience, we must start from Scripture. The Bible clearly says that life begins at conception; there is no indication that human souls pre-exist the creation of their bodies. Furthermore, we are judged on the basis of our one life on earth (Hebrews 9:27).

The following is a section from a booklet we wrote called Is Human Life Special?:

“Where does our spirit come from?

There are two views as to how a person gets his or her spirit. One is called traducianism and the other is called creationism. Traducianism is a view that both the material and immaterial aspect of humans (the soul) are derived from the parents. Thus our sin nature can also be transmitted via this means. This means it would also apply to artificially generated persons from IVF, cloning, and other reproductive technologies. Scriptures used to support this view include Psalm 51:5, John 1:14; 3:6, Romans 5:12, and Hebrews 7:10, as well as the fact that Adam’s son Seth was “in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3).

The creationist view maintains that at conception God creates a new soul for every individual, because God distinguishes the origin of the soul from the origin of the body. This view would cite Scriptures such as Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 42:5; Zechariah 12:1; and Hebrews 12:9.

While we believe that there is room for both views, we think the one with the most scriptural basis is the traducian view. The creationist view would have God continually creating new human souls, while Genesis indicates that God ceased or rested from creating on Day 7. Additionally, the traducian view better explains how new human souls are infected with sin (because the sin nature is somehow passed on by the parents).”

So, starting from the biblical foundation that human life begins at conception and does not pre-exist it, and that people only have one life on earth during which their eternal destiny is decided, how do we explain what are described as children with memories of their past lives?

First, children have fantastic imaginations and are capable of dreaming up scenarios that amaze adults. It is very possible for a child to tell something to an adult which is then interpreted by the adult to be memories of past lives. You mention children as young as two years old—anyone who has spent substantial time around 2-year-olds knows that this cannot be referring to a toddler giving detailed discourse about their time as a Prohibition-era gangster or servant in the court of Rameses. Even children in the upper range that you cite—7 years old—lack a lot of abstract reasoning skills that adults take for granted.

Second, adults lie about what children say. We would like to think that no parent would lie about their children to get attention. But in this fallen world, unfortunately this is a possibility that we have to consider. Also, parents can coach their children to say what they want them to say. Or they can even unintentionally influence their children. The phenomenon of false memory is something you mentioned, and it is one possible explanation.

So there are multiple explanations that could help us when thinking about so-called memories of past lives without appealing to anything supernatural. But one thing that is mentioned regarding the alien experiences is that one goal seems to be to undermine Christianity, in the small proportion of cases that may be attributable to spiritual causes. Given that past life ‘memories’ serve to undermine Christianity as well, this is an explanation that would not be responsible for a majority of cases, but might explain some. The book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the evolution connection, has a whole chapter on what is called False Memory Syndrome. This is a known and demonstrable medical phenomenon where people (including children) claim to have memories of past events that are actually known not to be true. The memories can be brought about by a range of mechanisms such as imagination, or they can be deliberately or inadvertently planted via people or through suggestion or even questioning someone, or even watching a TV show that stimulates the mind, for example. Past traumas can also cause the mind to imagine events to deal with the trauma in a number of ways. In short, there is no one size fits all answer, because what we do know is that human beings are complex creatures who react emotionally, psychologically and physiologically to all sorts of stimuli.

We hope this helps.

Helpful Resources

Is Human Life Special?
by Gary Bates and Lita Cosner
US $3.50
Soft Cover
Alien Intrusion
by Gary Bates
US $16.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Joshua M.
I’ve never heard this claim. Seems to me they’re taking children’s imagination and making something out of nothing.
Judith E.
How is it that a very young child can play complicated music etc (ie) piano, violin etc as though they are reincarnated from a past maestro. Or sing an old song that Great Grandad used to sing , knowing all the words .
Robert Carter
There are some people who are simply gifted. At a young age they can pick up a new instrument and more quickly learn to play at a high level, teach themselves advanced mathematics, or challenge grandmasters at chess. However, this has nothing to do with past memories. Memories are simply not passed on. To believe so is to adopt non-Christian beliefs in reincarnation or some similar idea.
Marion B.
Just to say that Solomon in Eclesiastis 12 states about dying," the spirit returns to God who gave it". End of story. Marion
Ian H.
I would be interested in some up to date information on the Epigenetic Code which I am sure the Scientific establishment is doing a lot of research on. James 1:21 implies the idea that thoughts are engrafted into our genome through this code as well as our reactions to different circumstances aka, Darwin's Finch beaks changing due to different environmental stimuli.
Robert Carter
Regarding epigenetics, start with Darwin's Lamarckism Vindicated? Darwin rejected his own theory in favor of Lamarckian evolution. Epigenetics now suggests he was partly right. However, in no way would I take James 1:21 to mean thoughts are written into our epigenetic code. Instead, it is more like the law of God is written on our hearts (Romans 2:15), both metaphorically and spiritually.
Rodney A.
Before you were born I knew you.
How are we known before we were born please?
Lita Cosner
God knows all things from beginning to end. So He knows the full span of a person's life before they are even conceived.
Antonio F.
I often wonder why so many people could allow themselves to believe that reincarnation is real. For instance, if we take the amount of testimonies that they were once Joan of Arc or Caesar Emperor Nero or any other famous person then at least 1 million souls would've existed in the bodies of the most well known figures in history. No one though claims to have been a lowly door man at the Waldorf Astoria for 40 years or a kid that polished shoes during the early 20th dying of the Spanish flu before they reached adulthood.

Reincarnation seems to be an absurd claim that seems more an attempt to boost a persons persona, in this case parents consciously or subconsciously pushing views onto their children indirectly lifting their own self importance, rather than have them deal with reality. That we are fallen beings in need of redemption.
Brian P.
Hebrews 9:27 also has much to say on the subject!
Seathrún M.
I have Jewish friends. If such ideas as reincarnation undermine Christianity, can I tell these friends that the same ideas also undermine Judaism - or indeed any belief in One True God? (A Jewish friend has objected to the doctrine of original sin, which you mention in connection with traducianism. Is it possible to use your arguments on reincarnation to break down their objection to this Christian doctrine?)
Lita Cosner
Modern Judaism rejects Jesus, and so also rejects the true God. I do not have enough knowledge about modern Judaism to know what they would think about reincarnation. What your Jewish friend needs is the Gospel, which will overcome all other objections if God enlightens his heart.
Nichola W.
Interesting article and response. I've always had a memory of my grandparents house being on stilts. And even the process of lowering it. However this happened before I was born so I couldn't have actually seen what I remember seeing. The world is full of mysteries.
Norman P.
Could this be connected to another phenomenon, which may be more prevalent in certain cultures where ancestor worship or overt idolatry is practised? "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:31; Cf. Isaiah 29:4).
Lita Cosner
It's an interesting thought, but I'd prefer not to speculate.
Jules D.
One known source of such "memories" is familiar (concerning the family) spirits. Many Christians have had "visits from deceased family members". Those who know enough to try the spirits find that they don't pass the test..
Tyler H.
Very interesting article. I do not think I ever thought of where our spirits come from. I suppose I naturally thought along the lines of the creationist view, however the traducian view makes the most sense to me. Does this mean our spirits and souls are one in the same? I have always been taught in church they are different. Something along the lines of the spirit is what gives us life, and our souls are what makes us who we are (personality). “I am a spirit that lives in a body and has a soul”, I believe was the saying. Anyways, thank you for everything CMI does! Keep up the good work.
Gilbert B.
Thank you for your thought provoking article. The concept of reincarnation is popular among some people today.
I have noticed that a basic problem for some people today is their confusion regarding the definitions of reincarnation and resurrection. I remember a long conversation with a young college graduate regarding spiritual things. We talked for about an hour before I realized that every time I said "resurrection," he was thinking "reincarnation."
The issue was cleared up when I explained that the two concepts have opposite views of the human body. In resurrection, your physical body is special. That dead physical body is the body that is restored again at the resurrection.
Even Jesus, when He was raised and glorified, possessed a body which had marks of His crucifixion. Jesus told doubting Thomas reach out his finger to identify his [wounded] hands, and to reach out his hand into His [spear-pierced] side, and to be not faithless but believing (John 20:26-29). The reality of Jesus' resurrected body was physically evident. His resurrection body was linked to the reality of his physical, mortal body.
On the other hand, reincarnation has an opposite view of the physical body: almost any body will so. The human spirit comes and goes into various bodies. Some people who believe in reincarnation also believe that all physical reality is an illusion.
The person I was talking to came to realize that according to the Bible, our bodies are of eternal permanent significance.
Kathryn P.
Dear CMI,
I read with interest your answer to Alan W., Singapore.
As an avid follower of your articles I've done a tiny bit of research regarding possible memory encryption within DNA.
Here's my question:
Since we are products of our parents and have "inheritable" physical attributes, do you think it's possible to carry "memories",
even miniscule flashes of the past, through genetic markers?
God bless you for your amazing work!
Lita Cosner
Hi Kathryn,

I asked Dr. Robert Carter, our Ph.D. geneticist, for his take on your question. He responded:

The answer is no. Memories are written onto the brain through a complex process of interactions between millions of neurons in multiple brain regions. It is a multi-dimensional storage system and simply does not exist in sperm, egg, or ovum. It would be like claiming a pen can carry all the information in a book.

I hope this is helpful.
Charlie Sivick C.
Children may have overheard parents talking about the past and are simply offering affirmation in a way they get more attention.
Johan V.
I think the following text supports the view that there is no reincarnation, as Hebrews 9:27 states “And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment:”

“Once” or in Greek ‘‘hapax” means “only once” or “only one time”. So this means that you die only once and then are to be judges worthy of eternal life (or not). In reincarnation you should die many times.
Philip Snow S.
I have several personal experiences of 'False Memory Syndrome' etc from my own Pre-Christian, 'New-Agey' days, and they are fairly easy to generate - in my case a combination of 'Transcendental' drugs, meditation, imagination, NLP etc - but you don't need drugs. NLP & Huna are especially powerful with their combination of neural 'modelling' of past achievements, Creative Visualization and auto-suggestion of past lives - I was twice taken back with incredible clarity, conviction & complete assurance to my childhood, even imagining I was a helpless baby! ......But when combined with false 'spiritual' ie Demonic influence, they can be deadly, deeply disturbing & downright satanic. And don't think it is just obvious 'Black Magic' etc - .some of the subtlest demonic influences are the outwardly 'straight' Cults as I also personally know, as well as elements of the supposedly Christian Faith-Prosperity church . THERE IS ONLY ONE NARROW WAY TRUTH & LIFE - YESHUA'S!!

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