Monday, February 19, 2007

Reincarnation?

Last month, Anon asked: “What do you feel about reincarnation?” Shortly thereafter, another Anon wrote, “What do you feel about reincarnation? I think the whole idea is kind of cool coming back again and again according to what you did in your lives times.” While I appreciate the question and comment, please keep in mind that reincarnation is not a Christian doctrine. Christ uses another word in talking about what happens to us after we die; it, too, starts with “re” an ends with “tion” – RESURRECTION.

My thoughts on reincarnation are the same as the Church’s thoughts: “There is no ‘reincarnation’ after death” (CCC, # 1013). If we have lived in Christ, there is resurrection after death. We don’t keep coming back to this life in different forms or as different people.

Reincarnation is not based in Scripture or Tradition. In fact, we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, “It is appointed for men to die once" (9:27). The Catechism explains further, “Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When ‘the single course of our earthly life’ (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium #48) is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives” (# 1013).

There have been statements made by different groups or individuals, especially those in the New Age movement like Shirley MacLaine, that the Bible as well as early Christians taught the doctrine of reincarnation. An online article that is pretty good debunks this; to view it, please click on the title of this post. It also includes teachings from some of the more prominent early Christians. I have included a few of my favorites below which show how nonsensical the doctrine of reincarnation is.

Gregory of Nyssa

"[I]f one should search carefully, he will find that their doctrine is of necessity brought down to this. They tell us that one of their sages said that he, being one and the same person, was born a man, and afterward assumed the form of a woman, and flew about with the birds, and grew as a bush, and obtained the life of an aquatic creature—and he who said these things of himself did not, so far as I can judge, go far from the truth, for such doctrines as this—of saying that one should pass through many changes—are really fitting for the chatter of frogs or jackdaws or the stupidity of fishes or the insensibility of trees" (The Making of Man 28:3 [A.D. 379]).


Ambrose of Milan

"It is a cause for wonder that though they [the heathen] . . . say that souls pass and migrate into other bodies. . . . But let those who have not been taught doubt [the resurrection]. For us who have read the law, the prophets, the apostles, and the gospel, it is not lawful to doubt" (Belief in the Resurrection 65–66 [A.D. 380]).


Basil the Great

"[A]void the nonsense of those arrogant philosophers who do not blush to liken their soul to that of a dog, who say that they have themselves formerly been women, shrubs, or fish. Have they ever been fish? I do not know, but I do not fear to affirm that in their writings they show less sense than fish" (The Six Days’ Work 8:2 [A.D. 393]).

8 Comments:

At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friends and I had an interesting conversation today and now I have a few question-

1. When Jesus was ressurected, it is my understanding that he rose into heaven in his body. If that is so, why do we not take our bodies too?

2. When we go to heaven, how old will we be? If a mother dies in her twenties but her daughter dies in her eighties, how will they be in heaven? Maybe it sounds like a silly question, but one no one had an answer for. Do we maintain our likenesses?

 
At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus rose body and soul as was the will of His Father. Mary was assumed into heaven - body and soul. There are fragments of bones preserved from thousands of saints. A fragment of Mary's physical body has never been found.

If we go to heaven, it is our soul (our body remains in the grave). So we are souls without our physical bodies so how could we maintain our likenesses? Also age would seem much less relevant without our physical bodies.

 
At 11:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But I would think your soul would have some reference for being. Even if your body isn't of essence, how are we, as souls, as we ascend into heaven. My 95 yr old grandma is different in her personality than she was 35 years ago. So who goes to heaven- the 95 yr old soul or the 30 yr old soul? They are quite different here on Earth.

 
At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It comes to mind that we are accountable to God when we die. We receive judgement - Seems to me your soul or your soul's time on earth would be judged in its entirety......If a person dies at 95 years then 95 years, not thirty. We are called to constant conversion/turning away from sin/growing in holiness throughout our lives.
The bible tells us to persevere on earth so that we might win the race - salvation.

 
At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Our Lady of Fatima is visited by up to 20 million people a year."



That's where I will be going in November!

 
At 8:30 PM, Anonymous tom said...

Our souls may go to heaven (God willing, and likely after some detailing in purgatory) after we die, but that's not the end of the story.

We are composite creatures, both body and soul. Having our souls separated from our bodies ain't natural (it's called "death"), which is why they will be reunited at the General Resurrection and forevermore after.

As for what it's like to be a soul without its body, I don't think anyone alive really knows. That said, it's my understanding that the soul in heaven is somehow the soul as it is at the moment of death, purged of imperfections.

Now, what it will be like after the General Resurrection is anybody's guess. Will we all look like we did or will or could have at 18? At 30? Can we pick our appearance depending on what mood we're in at the moment? Who knows?

Somewhere, St. Augustine suggests that everyone might be as they were or would have been at 30 or 33, that being the perfect age, because (St. Augustine reasons) that was how old Jesus was during His public ministry. But he admits that he's just guessing.

 
At 9:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom,

I understand that our bodies and souls will be reunited at the Gen.Reserrection. In the past, the Catholic Church did not condone cremations of our bodies. Now it is an acceptable process. I wonder how this came about? What the reasoning is behind it?
Kelly

 
At 11:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Somewhere, St. Augustine suggests that everyone might be as they were or would have been at 30 or 33, that being the perfect age, because (St. Augustine reasons) that was how old Jesus was during His public ministry. But he admits that he's just guessing."

To look like a 30 year old again. Smiles at the happy thought.

 

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