Resurrection, Reincarnation, and Humanness -- By: H. Wayne House

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 148:590 (Apr 1991)
Article: Resurrection, Reincarnation, and Humanness
Author: H. Wayne House


Resurrection, Reincarnation, and Humanness

H. Wayne House

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Theology
Western Baptist College, Salem, Oregon

What is human existence? Philosophers, poets, sages, gurus, and theologians have pondered that question throughout history.

Gautama Buddha declared, “Human life is suffering.”1 He explained,

The world of transmigration, my disciples, has its beginning in eternity. No origin can be perceived, from which beings start, and hampered by ignorance, fettered by craving, we stray and wander. A mother’s death, a daughter’s death, loss of kinsmen, loss of property, sickness, all these have you endured through long ages—and while you felt these losses and strayed and wandered on this long journey, grieving, weeping because you were bound to what you hated and separated from what you loved, the tears that you shed are more than the water in the four oceans.2

However, the psalmist described human existence as the deliberate and special creative product of the Almighty God: “What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, and dost crown him with glory and majesty” (Ps 8:4–5). The Prophet Isaiah described human existence as purposeful, designed by the Creator for His glory (Isa 43:7).

Both views of human existence are ancient, and both offer a starting point for the search for human fulfillment. The two views are, however, mutually exclusive, for the first, the Eastern view exemplified by Buddhism, assumes that suffering inheres in human existence, whereas the second, the Judeo-Christian view, assumes that purposeful beneficence inheres in human existence.

The concepts of reincarnation and resurrection, of karma and atonement flow from different world views, different theologies, and different anthropologies. A proper understanding of the nature of man and his relationships to God and the world shows the inadequacies of reincarnation and affirms the cogency of the biblical concept of resurrection, typified and empowered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Second Adam.

Definition of Terms

Reincarnation

Five terms are used to describe what is commonly considered reincarnation. Metensomatosis is probably the most precise term for reincarnation, meaning, “the changing of bodies,” that is, some sort of continuity of ex...

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