Christians and Reincarnation

Could Christian theology adapt to the increasingly common belief in reincarnation? Absolutely, says author Christopher Bache.

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All spiritual traditions agree that people's experiences in the after-death state are not uniform. There is a differentiation according to one's capacity and level of spiritual development. People who have lived badly and made harmful choices encounter all the unpleasant circumstances that mirror back to them the bad quality of the choices they've made, not out of cruelty but out of an intention to teach them. Those who have made reasonably good choices have mirrored back to them those positive choices. There are many orders of heavenly bliss to participate in between lifetimes.

If someone has lived well, made good choices, and reached some sort of heavenly realm, why would the Divine want to chuck them back into physical earthly existence?

Why would the Divine want to create the relatively difficult world of time-space in the first place? There's an adventure. The spiritual traditions uniformly say the divine did not create out of necessity or a sense of deficit. The divine created out of a sense of fullness, sportiveness, adventure, and compassion.

The Divine invites us to participate in the challenging circumstances of time-space existence in order to become more than we were, so that when we return to the world of spirit, we return as more than we were and capable of knowing greater joys. We have greater participation than we could earlier in our evolutionary journey. In the process of evolving ourselves we also participate in the self-evolution of God, of the Divine itself.

How do Christians who believe in reincarnation reconcile the two theologically?

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When I wrote

Lifecycles

, I included a chapter on the compatibility of Christianity and reincarnation. I first thought Christians would have to change a lot of their theology to incorporate reincarnation. But I gradually realized there is actually very little a Christian has to change. I defined a minimum option and a maximum option. At a minimum, all you have to change is the definition of the soul that says the soul only lives one time. You can keep a very conservative understanding of Christ and Christology, of ecclesiology, even of revelation, especially since the New Testament never rebukes reincarnation.

What about the verse from Hebrews that's often quoted when discussing reincarnation: "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment"?

You have to place that verse in its context. The author of Hebrews is not addressing the question of reincarnation. He's addressing the relationship between the individual and the temple's priestly cult.

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