question from a podcast listener and my response


Question:

I just heard your interview on AncientFaith Radio. I come from a Christian background, but see myself as more of a Hindu these days, though I’m looking into the Catholic and Orthodox Church. I was curious as to how whether you believed in reincarnation/rebirth in your Tibetan Buddhist days, and, if you did, how your belief was changed as a result of becoming Orthodox? Maybe you talk in depth about this in the book: if so, could you give me just the basics of how you dealt with this issue of rebirth/reincarnation? (Also: do you believe that rebirth/reincarnation is necessarily incompatible with Christianity?) Thanks.

My response:

I did believe in reincarnation/rebirth not only in my Tibetan Buddhist days, but in my early 20s when I started meditating and had a guru. I do not believe in reincarnation now, but for a good 20 years I really was heavily into channeling, metaphysics, and facilitating past life regressions. I talk about this in my book. It was quite a process for me to move from being steeped in the new age and Eastern religions to what I think is the most profound eastern religion, Eastern Orthodox Christianity. My belief in reincarnation took time and much prayer and soul-searching to resolve.

Acceptance of reincarnation in my early 20s was related to starting to have a relationship with a guru.  I was looking for something spiritual, but not Christian. At the time I was seeking relief from severe depression and health issues.   I found the concept of reincarnation refreshing at the time–because of the guilt I carried about sin.  I was haunted unconsciously by the Western concept of sin–related to being bad–going to hell for my sins–and many other misunderstandings  about Christianity from my early Catholic years.  The thought of having more than one life felt freeing at the time.  Eastern Orthodox Christianity approaches sin a very different perspective–actually a lot of things from a more heartfelt less logic related or legalistic approach taken by Western Catholicism.

I explore so many of my reactions to Christianity and Western Catholicism in my book. From where I am now as a convert to Eastern Orthodox Christianity–I can say that rebirth comes through baptism/reincarnation is not compatible with Christian doctrines and beliefs. This is because we believe that Christ resurrected body and soul and that we will also.

I would like to give you this quote from St. Cyril of Alexandria which might be helpful in understanding the complexity of the relationship between our bodies/souls and the resurrection of Christ:

The prophet Isaiah therefore has said to us, ‘ your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall rise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead’.  (Isa 26:19) And by dew I imagine he means the life–giving power of the Holy Spirit, and that influence which abolishes death, as being that of God and of life and the blessed David also … says of all those upon earth,’ You take away their spirit, and they die and return to their dust; You send Your Spirit, and they are created, and You renew the face of the earth (ps103:29) … For ‘ it is sown,’ it says, ‘ in corruption, it is raised in in corruption; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.” (1 Cor. 15:42) For the prophet Isaiah again assures us that death which is entered in because of sin does not retain its power over the dwellers on earth for ever, but is abolished by the resurrection from the dead of Christ, Who renews the universe, and refashion set into that which it was at the beginning–for God created all things for incorruption, as it is written (wisdom 1:4): for he says, ‘He has swallowed up death having waxed mightily: and God shall again take away all weeping from every countenance: He shall remove the reproach of the people from the whole earth'(Isa 25:8) …But those who have maintained an honorable and elect life, full of all excellence, and have, therefore, been accounted worthy of attaining to a glorious and marvelous resurrection, will be necessarily raised far above the life which men lead in this world; for they will live as become saints, who already have been brought near to God. Since, therefore, all fleshly lust is taken away, and no place whatsoever is left in them for bodily pleasure, they resemble the holy angels, fulfilling a spiritual and not a material service, such as becomes holy spirits; and are at the same time counted worthy of a glory such as that which the Angels enjoy. Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, homily 136 B# 42, PP. 541–542.

Food for thought and prayer,

Veronica

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3 thoughts on “question from a podcast listener and my response

  1. Christian objections to reincarnation
    In response to the question “do you believe that rebirth/reincarnation is necessarily incompatible with Christianity?” I would like to add the following short summary of Christian objections to the theory of reincarnation, which can be summarized in three basic points:
    1. Freedom: Reincarnation is based on the assumption that the world operates mechanically or deterministically, with everything happening as a result of previous actions. This universe operates without divine intervention, leaving God as a powerless spectator of His own creation. Neither are human beings free to choose. In contrast to this view, Christians believe that the world operates on the basis of freedom, both divine and human.
    2. Morality: Reincarnation implies that we have an indefinite amount of time to correct our faults and to grow towards perfection. There will always be another life, and so we have little need to act impeccably now. Christians, on the other hand, believe that we have been given this one life to turn towards God, accept His grace, and prepare ourselves for eternal life.
    3. Christ’s sacrifice: Reincarnation tells us that eventually we make amends for our own sins and work them out through our own efforts over many lives. There is no need for anyone to intervene on our behalf, as only time is necessary. Christians are Christians because they believe that Christ suffered and died to restore human nature to its natural state, before sin came into the world, and that we need to accept this.
    Andrew Vernon (from St Nicholas Orthodox Church, San Anselmo, CA)

  2. This is a very interesting subject for me. I am myself a convert to Orthodoxy, and I came to it via the so-called Eastern religions after being raised as a fundamentalist Protestant . I thought the quote from St. Cyril of Alexandria was interesting. For one thing he seems to echo what I have heard from other Orthodox teachers, that the resurrected life should not be assumed to be living the same sort of life that we now live. St. Cyril says they are “raised far above the life which men lead in this world.” One might point out that if the resurrected life were merely being reunited with a body at some point in the distant future, then this would be a sort of reincarnation in itself. There seems here to be a mystery, and one that might have more layers to it than the rationalism that often encircles the subject of eschatology.

    1. Dear William,

      Forgive me for not responding to your comment. I was not checking comments while on sabbatical. I address some of this in my new book. There is not reincarnation after death – only life in Christ and it is beyond our logic to understand. It is, outside of the worldly understanding that St. Issac the Syrian talks about in Homily 52, that is one of my posts. I think reading Homily 52 will help you to see where to go with this,

      In Christ,
      Veronica

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