Recent surveys indicate that up to a quarter of Australians and Americans subscribe to the possibility of reincarnation, the belief that people "come again in the flesh".
According to the undiluted Eastern version of reincarnation, the soul's original state-of-being was in divine union with the "Absolute". It then inexplicably "forgot" its true nature and erroneously sought to establish its own identity apart from the un-individualistic god-consciousness.
This "alienated" soul subsequently enters a cyclic wheel of repeated reincarnations, until it realises that all things are merely illusionary extensions of the one Absolute.
In other words, the soul really does not exist, it is in a 'fallen' state because it thinks that it is, and must suffer repeated rebirths (human or animal in Eastern thought) until it is once again absorbed back into a 'blissful' non-existence known as nirvana.
Though its leading proponents would profess otherwise, reincarnation does not, and indeed cannot, solve the problem of evil.
For example, according to the cause-and-effect 'Law of Karma' the soul of a man who habitually beats his wife will accumulate negative karma relative to his crime. To alleviate this debt, he must be reborn as a wife who is beaten by her husband, who then must in turn be likewise reborn as the beaten wife, and so forth ad- infinitum.
Where is there a reasonable resolution to the sin of wife-beating in this endless cycle? Although this example is hypothetical, the same inherent concept would apply to any human fallibility.
Furthermore, when karmic law is followed out to its logical conclusion, it inevitably produces apathy, not compassion on those who suffer. Since poverty, sickness, or misfortune are to be accepted as an individual's punishment for previous sins, the attempt of another to alleviate such suffering, as did the "Good Samaritan" in Luke chapter 10, is therefore discouraged, and even viewed as a sin itself.
The end result of Karma is perhaps best exemplified by the adverse living conditions found in most of India, in which the care and feeding of the destitute rests squarely upon the shoulders of Christian missionaries and those that they have directly influenced. Jesus taught that "Whatever [kindness] you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for Me" (see Matthew 25:31-46).
In the end the Law of Karma falls hopelessly short of God's solution.
As the Bible says, "If we [humbly] confess our sins, He (Jesus) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). This offers the hope and comfort that no sin is too great to be forgiven the offender, while the Law of Karma demands an uncompromisingly rigid payment for each and every ill thought or deed.
The Bible tells us that no matter how many consecutive attempts are made, human beings can never reach a point of self-righteousness, for we are by our very nature, unholy sinners separated from an infinitely holy God (Isaiah 59:2).
This is the reason that it was necessary for God to incarnate Himself into human flesh: Jesus had to bear the condemnation that our sins have incurred. Acceptance of the cleansing power of Christ's sacrifice in our lives is the only way that we can receive the free gift of salvation (John 1:12).
The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27; "It is appointed to each man once to die and then comes judgment." The consequence for rejecting Jesus' salvation is everlasting judgement and separation from God, not future opportunities through cyclic rebirth.
As we approach Easter it is worth considering if reincarnation really does hold the answers to life's purpose and whether the decisions we make in this life will ultimately determine our place in eternity.•