Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Below is information from A Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kareeft and Ronald Tacelli. (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove).

Six Basic Theories on Life After Death.

    The human race has come up with six basic theories about what happens to us when we die.

    1. Materialism: Nothing survives. Death ends all of me. Seldom held before the eighteenth century, materialism is now a strong minority view in industrialized nations. It is the natural accompaniment of atheism.

    2. Paganism: A vague, shadowy semi-self or ghost survives and goes to the place of the dead, the dark, gloomy Underworld. This is the standard pagan belief. Traces of it can be found even in the Old Testament Jewish notion of sheol. The “ghost” that survives is less alive, less substantial, less real than the flesh and blood organism now living. It is something like a “ghost image” on a TV set: a pale copy of the lost original.

    3. Reincarnation: The individual soul survives and is reincarnated into another body. Reincarnation is usually connected with the next belief, pantheism, by the notion of karma: that after the soul has fulfilled its destiny, and learned its lessons and become sufficiently enlightened, it reverts to a divine status or is absorbed into (or realizes its timeless identity with) the divine All.

    4. Pantheism: Death changes nothing, for what survives death is the same as what was real before death: only the one, changeless, eternal, perfect, spiritual, divine, all-inclusive Reality, sometimes called by a name (“Brahman”) and sometimes not (as in Buddhism). In this view—that of Eastern mysticism—all separateness, including time, is an illusion. Therefore, in this view, the very question of what happens after death is mistaken. The question is not solved but dissolved.

    5. Immortality: The individual soul survives death, but not the body. This soul eventually reaches its eternal destiny of heaven or hell, perhaps through intermediate stages, perhaps through reincarnation. But what survives is an individual, bodiless spirit. This is Platonism, often confused with Christianity.

    6. Resurrection: At death, the soul separates from the body and is reunited at the end of the world to its new, immortal, resurrected body by a divine miracle. This is the Christian view. This view, the supernatural resurrection of the body rather than the natural immortality of the soul alone, is the only version of life after death in Scripture. It is dimly prophesied and hoped for in the Old Testament, but clearly revealed in the New.

Ten Refutations of Reincarnation

    Christianity rejects reincarnation for ten reasons.

    1. It is contradicted by Scripture (Heb 9:27).

    2. It is contradicted by orthodox tradition in all churches.

    3. It would reduce the Incarnation (referring to Christ’s incarnation) to a mere appearance, the crucifixion to an accident, and Christ to one among many philosophers or avatars. It would also confuse what Christ did with what creatures do: incarnation with reincarnation.

    4. It implies that God made a mistake in designing our souls to live in bodies, that we are really pure spirits in prison or angels in costume.

    5. It is contradicted by psychology and common sense, for its view of souls as imprisoned in alien bodies denies the natural psychosomatic unity.

    6. It entails a very low view of the body, as a prison, a punishment.

    7. It usually blames sin on the body and the body’s power to confuse and darken the mind. This is passing the buck from soul to body, as well as from will to mind, and a confusion of sin with ignorance.

    8. The idea that we are reincarnated in order to learn lessons we failed to learn in a past earthly life is contrary to both common sense and basic educational psychology. I cannot learn something if there is no continuity of memory. I can learn from my mistakes only if I remember them. People do not usually remember these past “reincarnations.”

    9. The supposed evidence for reincarnation, rememberings from past lives that come out under hypnosis or “past life regression” can be explained—if they truly occur at all—as mental telepathy from other living beings, from the souls of dead humans

    10. Reincarnation cannot account for itself. Why are our souls imprisoned in bodies? Is it the just punishment for evils we committed in past reincarnations? But why were those past reincarnations necessary? For the same reason. But the beginning of the process that justly imprisoned our souls in bodies in the first place—this must have antedated the series of bodies. How could we have committed evil in the state of perfect, pure, heavenly spirituality? Further, if we sinned in that paradise, it is not paradisiacal after all. Yet that is the state that reincarnation is supposed to lead us back to after all our embodied yearnings are over

    If the answer is given that our bodies are not penalties for sin but illusions of individuality, the pantheistic One becoming many in human consciousness, no reason can possibly be given for this. Indeed, Hinduism calls it simply lila, divine play. What a stupid game for God to play! If Oneness is perfection, why would perfection play the game of imperfection? All the world’s sins and sufferings are reduced to a meaningless, inexplicable game.

    And if evil is itself only illusory (the answer given by many mystics) then the existence of this illusion is itself a real and not just illusory evil. Augustine makes this telling point.

    Where then is evil, and what is its source, and how has it crept into the creation? What is its root, what is its seed? Can it be that it is wholly without being? But why should we fear and be on guard against what is not? Or if our fear of it is groundless, then our very fear is itself an evil thing. For by it the heart is driven and tormented for no cause; and that evil is all the worse, if there is nothing to fear yet we do fear. Thus either there is evil which we fear, or the fact that we fear is evil. (Confessions, VII, 5)

    (See also Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho [ca. a.d. 180], and Albrecht, Reincarnation, for extended Christian critiques of this idea.)

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