IS THIS LIFE A DO-OVER?
That’s the Bible Question of the Week. It comes from Bill Smith, who wins a free book for asking it.
Here’s what he wants to know:
“My question to you is about reincarnation. I often wonder if this topic was purposely left out of the Bible as it may have been considered too far out there. The concept of same soul/many lives has got me perplexed and I wonder if you can offer any insight.”
Yes I can, since I’ve been told I lived a previous life in the 1800s.
About 20 years ago I was interviewing people for a magazine article I was writing about near-death experiences.
I spoke by phone with a woman on the East Coast who described her experience of dying and coming back to life. Same ol’ same ol’ descriptions that are common among the resurrected.
Then she shocked me.
“We’ve met before,” she said. “In a previous life.”
“You won me in a poker game. Then you took me upstairs and had your way with me. We didn’t get married, but we had children.”
“Really?” I said. “I don’t know how to play poker.”
My current wife will confirm that I sometimes forget stuff, like putting the seat down on the toilet. That became a problem in the middle of the night.
My son will confirm that I don’t remember wrecking my mountain bike at our dad/son vacation on Whistler Mountain, breaking some ribs, both collar bones, and puncturing a lung.
I’d like to think I’d remember winning a woman in a poker game and having my way with her.
What a terrible thing to forget.
Certainly it would have been a terrible thing to do. But if I did it, I’d want to remember it.
And doggone, if we had kids, I might be my own great-grandpa.
[Note to cousin Arlene: Did any of our Millers in the 1800s win a woman in a poker game, far as you know?]
This is part of the problem with reincarnation.
I’m having my way with a woman in one life, and I’m writing Sunday school lessons in the next.
Which me shows up on Judgment Day?
I’m thinking Sunday School Stevie with a Bible.
Not Card Shark Stevereno with a woman.
Scholars would add questions like these:
- Which me did Jesus die for?
- Which me accepted Jesus as Savior?
- What happens to the me who didn’t?
Do we tally the good lives against the bad? Winner gets to go to heaven. Loser gets a deck of cards, a woman, and a fast pass to blue blazes?
Let me offer some advice, as one allegedly back from a previous century.
Don’t worry about it.
If reincarnation were a thing, you’d think it would be notable enough for someone to remember Jesus talking about it.
Had I been covering the Jesus story, for the Gospel of Steve, and had Jesus said anything comparable to, “Steve, you were once Elijah,” I’d have written that down.
But it’s possible that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John let it slide. Maybe Jesus told them they were women in a previous life. I’m not sure they would have written that down.
“Steve, you were once Stephanie.”
Yeah, I think I’d have skipped that, too.
If reincarnation exists—if we’ve all been there and done that—then our new life is a fresh start.
- We may have won a woman at a poker game in a previous life.
- We may have been the woman who got won in a previous life.
- Or, more likely according to theologians, we may not have had a previous life.
In any case, we’re here now. Whether it’s a do-over or a one-time shot, why not think of it as a fresh start?
Get it right.
Sure, we’ll be tempted to learn poker.
Let’s just not go crazy.
But if we do, let’s come back home.
“Lord, through all the generations you have been our home” (Psalm 90:1).
Doesn’t the Bible say we are appointed once to die?
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Tom. I wanted someone to mention that because it’s a key argument Christians make against reincarnation. Here’s the line from the Bible:
It’s in Hebrews 9:27-28: “Just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people.”
There are a few reasons some Christians wouldn’t read reincarnation into that.
Unsubstantiated source. No one knows who wrote the book of Hebrews. So how much should we trust it?
A preacher trying to make a point. Whoever the writer was, he was trying to keep Jews from abandoning the Christian faith during a time of persecution; many apparently were returning to the synagogue because Jews weren’t being persecuted. So if the writer was simply trying to make a point about Jesus dying for our sins, the writer’s fleeting reference to our dying once could be just an illustration he thought people could relate to, not necessarily a hard and fast statement of fact about the destiny of all souls.
I think the stronger argument against reincarnation revolves around the question of salvation. You’re a godly soul in one life, a stinker in the next. What’s God to do with you when you finally come in for an eternal landing in the afterlife?
Many of us have a lot of questions about matters of faith. I do. But when I hit a dead end in my quest for the truth, I decide to trust that God knows what he’s doing…whatever it is he’s doing.