Reincarnation vs Creation
You’ve heard about evolution vs creation, but what about reincarnation vs creation? According to a Barna Poll, a growing minority of people in the West (1 in 5 Americans1) say they believe in reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that if we do good, we will come back as a higher life form; but if we do bad, we must come back as a lower life form and work our way up again.
The notion of reincarnation is very appealing to the evolutionist because it is basically the same concept with an added moral: one life can evolve into a higher life form by doing good. Whereas evolution per se lacks morals, reincarnation offers a moral explanation for life. This is one reason why Buddhism is touted by its Western proponents as a ‘religion of reason’.
How should Christians respond to the growing popularity of Buddhism and the associated idea of reincarnation? What if you were to approach someone with the Gospel and they responded, ‘No, thanks! I believe I will be reincarnated in my next life’? Just as with evolution, the more we understand belief in reincarnation, the more effectively we can evangelize those who think they are, or will be, reincarnated!
The science of reincarnation
What is the scientific evidence for reincarnation? What should we find in nature if reincarnation were true? For starters, one would perhaps expect to find some well-behaved mosquitoes, spiders and cockroaches. After all, the mosquito that bit me could be my uncle trying to get promoted to a higher life form. In reality, all insects I have ever observed act instinctively and without concern for morals. Most animals survive by killing, which is considered to be bad karma, i.e. is a sin. So reincarnation contradicts observable evidence in nature.
Another problem of reincarnation is one of mathematics. Somebody has to die in order to be reincarnated. Since there were less people in the past than now, who is being reincarnated to account for the current population explosion among humans? With more than 6 billion people now on planet Earth, where are all the souls coming from? They would have to be created. So we come back to the Bible’s explanation that God created the first couple in His image and gave them His ability to create more children. None are recycled.
The Bible plainly states, ‘It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment’ (Heb. 9:27, italics added). Hence, Christians can confidently refute reincarnation both on scriptural and scientific grounds.
Origins of reincarnation
Why did Buddha teach reincarnation? Technically, Buddha didn’t. Reincarnation originated from Buddha’s former religion Hinduism, which is a religious tradition based on the caste system. The four Hindu castes range in colour from white (at the top) to red to brown to black (at bottom). Hindus believe that being born with dark skin is the result of bad karma, but being born with white skin is a sign of good karma. Just as evolution served to justify many whites’ persecution of Australian Aborigines (who were tagged as less ‘evolved’), so too reincarnation serves to justify the racial, social and economic stratification of the East.
The word ‘Aryan’, which Nazis used to refer to a ‘master race’, actually comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘noble’; as in arya sat yani in Sanskrit or ariya sat see in Thai, meaning the ‘four noble truths’. Adolf Hitler adopted his racist plans from two anti-Christian influences: evolution and Hinduism. Nearly all Hindus and Buddhists who believe in reincarnation desire to come back in the next life with whiter skin, as Aryans are at the top of the caste system.
Westerners are usually shocked to find this out. Westerners generally tend to believe in the equality of the races because of their Christian background. This is despite the negative effects of evolutionary indoctrination tending otherwise. Though many in the West are no longer practising Christians, yet we have had the truth of Creation taught for many centuries. The abolition movements of the 18th and 19th century were led by creation-believing Christians like William Wilberforce. The world owes much of its present freedom to Christ, Christians and creationism (all men are created equal by God). If, as evolutionary thinking erodes the authority of the Bible in people’s minds, we allow our Christian heritage to be stripped away from our Western schools and government and law, we will lose the very foundation upon which Christians struggled to lay our society, with all its blessings.
For many in our culture, the penchant towards evolutionary thinking (coupled with the spiritual hunger we all have, being created in God’s image) means that they are increasingly toying with mystical and ‘spiritual’ notions such as reincarnation, ideas that have a long history of justifying social stratification and racial inequalities. This is a danger for our children that we need to be aware of.
When evangelizing Buddhists, I am careful to point out that it is unlikely Buddha himself believed in reincarnation. This is a complex issue dealt with more fully in my book From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider’s View of Buddhism & Christianity, but in brief, we can say that Buddha was not a racist. Buddha did not have any allegiance to the Hindu caste system. He was a rich prince (highest caste) who left his royal palace to wander like a poor beggar (lowest caste).
Boys are better?
It shocks most Westerners to find out that the doctrine of reincarnation is, as shown above, racist. Yet another shock to Westerners is that the doctrine of reincarnation is also sexist. It is always preferable to be reincarnated as a man than a woman. Women do not have the same status as men. Buddhist nuns have to keep 311 laws, but monks have only 227. Since women are considered inferior, they have 84 more laws to control their flesh than men!
By contrast, Christianity has long taught that every person is equal before God. ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28). The Bible recognizes women in leadership and in ministry. Roles may differ, but not intrinsic worth. Biblical values are literally thousands of years ahead of their time.
Introducing Buddhists to God
Having the person you are witnessing to believe in reincarnation is not all bad. In fact, once we understand it and why Buddha taught it, it can be a great friend to evangelism! Buddha never taught that the goal of life is to be reincarnated. It was actually something to escape from! If Buddha believed in reincarnation, then he saw it as a curse!
Most Buddhists, in fact, do not want to come back to pay for their past. This can be utilized as a point of commonality we have with Buddhists. We recognize that our past demands some form of punishment. The solution is not for us to be reincarnated to suffer some more, but to be recreated in Christ Jesus to live a life of freedom and purpose!