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Christianity and Reincarnation


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#1    Marcus Aurelius

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Posted 29 January 2014 - 10:56 PM

I'm sure this has been written about before on here; but in light of recent (and excellent) discussions on it, I thought I'd start a new about the subject.

This interesting article was linked in another thread by Jesus Loves Us:

http://cryskernan.tr...incarnation.htm

I thought I would take some time to respond to parts of this article point by point. Now as a Methodist of the Anglican tradition; I must first state as before I personally reject the notion of reincarnation; I simply do not believe in it. I believe Hebrews 9:27 "And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment,"  Such a view is stated by not just Christianity; but also Judaism and Islam. Thus, I take my view from the Abrahamic branches of the tree. However, I don't condemn anyone who believes in it and even I do not rule out the POSSIBILITY of it. Simply put, I haven't died yet, so I can't slam the door on it; so what I am sharing today is simply my opinion and my conviction.

First, let me talk a bit about Origen who is referenced quite a bit in this article, naturally. First of all, he does have a lot of good theology. I don't dismiss his works entirely. However, he was in the habit of allegorizing scripture, and in particular Genesis. This idea of preexistence of souls at a glance does not seem like such a bad idea. However; it flies in the face of the message that the author of the creation accounts in Genesis is trying to highlight. In Origen's view, humanity; as a sort of cosmic Adam and Eve as pure souls, pure spirit become attached to matter. They are outside of creation; but they become entangled IN creation. This is what constitutes Origen's idea of the fall. Spirit becomes chained to matter. I say it flies in the face of Genesis because as we see in the creation stories; God looks at what He has created and He calls it GOOD; when He creates man, He calls it VERY GOOD. My point here is that MATTER WAS CREATED INHERENTLY GOOD. The OPPOSITE is true if we take Origen's view of creation. Man is not material; rather he DESCENDS into matter. Christianity, of all the major world religions and in the mythologies of the past is one of the few to actually affirm matter; that the spirit and the body are irrevocably linked. The Ancient Egyptians also had a solid view of this in their mythologies.

Origen, like many of the Gnostic writers was a Neoplatonist. In Platonic philosophy, there exists a sort of metaphysical dualism. There are two realms of being: the changing, temporal material world (imperfect) and the unchanging, nontemporal and nonmaterial world of Forms. Thus, human beings participate in two worlds; and the lower one is that of the senses. My point here is that we don't find the evidence of metaphysical dualism in the Bible. Christianity does not see matter as evil; but as inherently good as God said that it was...it has merely been subverted and tainted because of the Fall. When humanity fell, all of creation fell along with it. But, as numerous scriptures suggest; not only is humanity to be redeemed, all of matter will be along with it in what is called the New Creation. Again; I believe in a BODILY resurrection as 1 Cor 15: 53 suggests "For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies." (NLT for emphasis) As Christians, we should not view the body as some piece of junk to be discarded at death; rather we should glory in the hope of a physical resurrection similar to that of our Lord. So here is one key are where I see Origen as 'getting it wrong.' Now on to reincarnation specifically....

The article uses this passage as a reference for reincarnation: "And as he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him,  'Rabbi, who has sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?"  Jesus answered,  'Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents, but the works of God were to be made manifest in him.'" (John 9:1)

To me, the emphasis in this passage is NOT on his condition; but rather that the "works of God were to be made manifest in Him." It calls to mind the story of Job. Job did nothing wrong; and yet he suffered. But through his suffering, God glorified Him and restored him. THAT is the emphasis. It is the idea that there is purpose in our perils; that life has meaning, and that God can use something like an affliction or pain to reveal His glory to that individual and to others. Jesus is taking the emphasis AWAY from who may have sinned or did not sin; and instead places the emphasis on His miraculous work of the Kingdom. Simply put, this is a misinterpretation of the text.

"For all the prophets and the law have prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who was to come." (Matthew 11:13-14)

"And the disciples asked him, saying, 'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' But he answered them and said, 'Elijah indeed is to come and will restore all things.  But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they wished.  So also shall the Son of Man suffer at their hand.'  Then the disciples understood that he had spoken of John the Baptist."  (Matthew 17:10-13)

Here again is a clear statement of preexistence.  Despite the edict of the Emperor Justinian and the counter reaction to Origen, there is firm and explicit testimony for preexistence in both the Old and the New Testament.  Indeed, the ban against Origen notwithstanding, contemporary Christian scholarship acknowledges preexistence as one of the elements of Judeo-Christian theology.

As for the John the Baptist-Elijah episode, there can be little question as to its purpose.  By identifying the Baptist as Elijah, Jesus is identifying himself as the Messiah.  Throughout the gospel narrative there are explicit references to the signs that will precede the Messiah.

"Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." (Malachi 4:5)"

Here is the supposed main evidence for reincarnation in the Bible, the story of John the Baptist as Elijah. First of all, to refute this interesting argument that has been quite persistent; I must first point to the Transfiguration. After John the Baptist had already been killed, Elijah is one of the ones who appears to the Disciples at the Transfiguration of Christ. What does this suggest? That Elijah was John the Baptist; but after his death he somehow 'morphed' back into Elijah? If the two were one and the same, would they not have recognized him AS John the Baptist? But the Scripture was clear. They saw Elijah.

Secondly, Jesus does not mean Elijah specifically, He means the SPIRIT of Elijah. John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah; that is, as a forerunner to prepare the way of the Lord. This is an example of bad exegesis; pulling a text out of context to make it say what one wants it to, while ignoring other texts; because here we see quite clearly that they are not the same person:

"Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14"And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15"For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb. 16"And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. 17"And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord," (Luke 1:13-17).

John the Baptist came in the SPIRIT AND POWER of Elijah. But he was NOT Elijah. Rather, it is that their MINISTRIES were similar and of the same spirit; as forerunners. The same goes for the article's points about the two witnesses in the Book of Revelation: it is not Elijah and Moses who will return; but ministries in the same spirit of those two men.

I hope this post clarifies my position and I am all too happy to discuss it further.

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#2    Copen

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 02:49 AM

View PostMarcus Aurelius, on 29 January 2014 - 10:56 PM, said:



"Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." (Malachi 4:5)"

I enjoyed your post. It is good to be curious and discuss and disagree with what the bible means. But when the apostleship  of about 120 (the same as the number of priests at the opening ceremony of Solomon's Temple) when they all came together in one accord the anointing Spirit of God came down. It's not hard to get 120 people to agree with each other. You just have to agree with the possibility of every bodies idea. The true way is narrow and not lots of company along the walk. When they came together in agreement with God then God anointed them.  

This is an opinion with no scripture to support it, so it cannot be an absolute truth; but I would think the virgin birth was a sticking point. When they prayed and found scriptural support the accepted it.

Hebrews 6:18 is surely one of the KEYS God gave Peter to open our understanding of the scriptures. And it explains why John the Baptist had to come as a type of Elijah.  God does everything twice in the bible for our strong consolation.  

God is so precise in His wording, which is being lost in the newer casual thinking translations. "All have sinned and come short of the glory go God...all must die." Anything short of the glory of God is sin. Flesh is corruptible. Flesh cannot live an eternity in heaven. Enoch and Elijah have not died. They have to die or else God has lied to us. Therefore since the two witness shall die, they surely must be Enoch and Elijah.

Everything twice is also why there are so many allegories and foreshadows in the OT, which are duplicated or fulfilled by Jesus in the NT. These foreshadows started with Adam. Romas 5:  says Adam was a figure (foreshadow) of Jesus.  How so? Well, Adam had no earthly father.  Jesus had no earthly father. Adam was put into a deep sleep. Sleep in the bible is a symbol of death. While in sleep Adam received a wound in his side. And from the wound Adam received his bride. Justus died and then received a wound in His side. Out came blood and water, the elements of life. And He received His Bride, the church.

I am off the subject of reincarnation so I will try to make one more short comment. Every day of creation God said "Good". Good for His planned purposes. Not perfect, not sinless, but as he planned. Every day except Day Two. He had nothing good to say about the reservoir He placed over the firmament to be used for a curve correction with Noah's deluge.

How could sin have entered by the eating of the proverbial apple instead of what the bible says happened --- they gained the knowledge of good and evil. Adam had already sinned twice (there's KEY 2again) before they gained that knowledge. He didn't hide from God because he had disobeyed and eaten the fruit. He now knew to be ashamed of his nakedness and hid.

Only in the Catholic Apocropha does it say creation fell. It never fell. Adam transgressed---David transgressed. We all have. No scripture for Adam making God come up with another plan.
God bless





#3    Marcus Aurelius

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 03:21 AM

Copen,

Thanks for the post. I agree with just about everything you had to say in your post. To my mind, it is more evidence against reincarnation somehow being in the Bible.

I interpret the Revelation passages about the Two Witnesses a bit differently as noted; but your literal interpretation certainly cannot be ruled out. More to our specific issue it hand, actually, I thank you for pointing that out: according to scripture Elijah didn't even die. So how could he have come back reincarnated? I actually laughed out loud when I read your post...because how did I miss something so obvious??? I KNEW that, I just didn't THINK of it. You're right, though, it could be the two of them coming back.

The ONLY thing I disagreed with in your post is this:

Quote

Only in the Catholic Apocropha does it say creation fell.

I'm  sure you're aware that most theologians; from Augustine of Hippo on believe that creation DID fall when Adam and Eve fell. To be perfectly honest with you, I see it as the only thing that makes sense. Think about it. Adam names the animals in the garden, suggesting his dominion over them...and yet....after the fall...now those very same animals could kill and eat us. That's why I believe there are passages such as 'the lion lying down with the lamb' because it suggests a restoration of all of creation to its original image too. I feel that we have tornadoes and typhoons, the food chain etc. etc. because the entire natural world was subverted and distressed when the Fall occurred in the garden. All of creation, and what was intended to be our relationship to that creation all was torn asunder because of that one moment. So in Christ's redemption, all of creation is to be redeemed...indeed a new heaven and a new earth!!

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#4    Omnaka

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 06:09 AM

Eternal life does not mean, just once.


#5    AZDZ

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 07:45 PM

I've seen lots of Biblical language which seemed to me to be indicating some measure of reincarnation/resurrection going on in both the Old & NT.

I'd post examples but I've been down that road before on sites devoted to Christian conversation and the response is always the same; "'MY interpretation of the scriptures is in error". PFFT, like they were experts on the subject. :td:

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#6    Marcus Aurelius

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 12:24 AM

What about scholarship? People that ARE experts? I did try to address some of the purported Scriptures having to do with reincarnation here in the OP.

I do welcome all opinions, btw.

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#7    AZDZ

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 12:42 AM

I didn't mean to imply you didn't. I am sorry if that was the case.

So far as people schooled to be experts on the Bible is concerned, they've never really been able to adequately respond to my questions. Not to say they do not know what they are doing, I simply wasn't satisfied with the responses. It is probably some fault of my own but it seems they are reading a different book than I am.

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#8    Jack Skellington

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 03:08 AM

Marcus began...

Quote

I thought I would take some time to respond to parts of this article point by point. Now as a Methodist of the Anglican tradition; I must first state as before I personally reject the notion of reincarnation; I simply do not believe in it. I believe Hebrews 9:27 "And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment,"  Such a view is stated by not just Christianity; but also Judaism and Islam. Thus, I take my view from the Abrahamic branches of the tree. However, I don't condemn anyone who believes in it and even I do not rule out the POSSIBILITY of it. Simply put, I haven't died yet, so I can't slam the door on it; so what I am sharing today is simply my opinion and my conviction.

I'm looking forward to this dialogue... :yes:

I find your outlook refreshing Marcus-- which gives me hope! --to think that someone training to be a pastor is not yet so hard-headed as to discount "possibilities" of things they might not yet understand... well let's call that progress.

Maybe we should start by defining terms.  For myself, when I see a word like "reincarnation" it brings to mind a concept, but I recognize that others might have a different concept in mind that is quite different, so to go forward without definition is a disservice to the discussion.  For instance, when you say that you personally reject the notion of reincarnation, I suspect that you think you do, yet from the little I know you, I doubt that you reject the idea that Jesus came back to life after he had died.  I suspect that you accept the story of Lazurus, along with others like Tabitha (Dorcas) who had died and were somehow reanimated.

So it's likely the term "reincarnation" that you reject, not the idea of rising from the dead.  To "incarnate" is to be alive, specifically to be in bodily, human form.  As you say-- once we die, we don't really know what happens, apart of course from a few stories like those I've mentioned when certain folks have come back to life after they had died.  They incarnate again, or re-incarnate.

Some religions (Hindus in particular) have their own definition of reincarnation where one might come back as a bug, or a plant, or a cow (if you are lucky) or a bird and there is a kind of progression of incarnations.... I don't know anything about that.  I'm talking about a human dying and coming back to life as a human.  A distinction might be made that of those mentioned that they all came back to life in the same bodies.  True that.  An exception is John (the baptizer) who Jesus specifically identified as the prophet Elijah --if you can accept it....  Most people (including those who call themselves Jesus the Christ followers) --cannot.


But let's walk through this together...

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#9    Marcus Aurelius

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 05:39 AM

Jack,

Yours is a good post and there is many worthy points of discussion.

Quote

I doubt that you reject the idea that Jesus came back to life after he had died.  I suspect that you accept the story of Lazurus, along with others like Tabitha (Dorcas) who had died and were somehow reanimated.[/size]
]

Exactly. I believe that they were raised from the dead in a physical and bodily resurrection; or as you say, reanimated. They were not reborn, as in their spirit did not leave their body and travel to inherit a new body. Dead flesh was raised; as the Bible says 'corruption' put on 'in-corruption' in the case of Jesus. Lazarus and Dorcas one would assumed lived natural lives and died natural deaths. Their spirits went to be with God and they await the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, when again, corruption shall put on in-corruption.

Quote

Some religions (Hindus in particular) have their own definition of reincarnation where one might come back as a bug, or a plant, or a cow (if you are lucky) or a bird and there is a kind of progression of incarnations.... I don't know anything about that.  I'm talking about a human dying and coming back to life as a human.  A distinction might be made that of those mentioned that they all came back to life in the same bodies.  [/size]]

I've actually studied eastern religions at length. I've read the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Rig Veda and the Mahabharata. I've also studied Buddhism in great detail. I've read all the volumes of the Pali Canon as translated by Bikkhu Bodhi, the Dhammapada and numerous other things; but more specific to the topic at hand, I've read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The Hindu concept you refer to could more appropriately be called 'transmigration.' The Bhagavad Gita says that the physical body is 'like a garment, to be worn for a time, then when the garment is warn out, it is removed and another garment is put on' (meaning another body.) The Upanishads provides a much more detailed account of this. The last state of being; or the final thoughts of the mind or spirit determines where the soul will exit the dead body. Where the soul exists actually determines its next incarnation. People come back as animals or insects, supposedly because it is a combination of their karma and these final thoughts; thus...if the soul was more focused on its baser instincts, it will lose the human station that it has attained. To the Hindu, it is a rare gift to be given a human life. That is why so many Hindu mystics are complete ascetics; they want to mortify the flesh and its 'baser instincts' so that they can break the eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

Now the Buddhist view is similar but with key variants. First; they do not believe in transmigration. A human does not become an animal or vice versa. For them, reincarnation would solely be from one human form to another human form. Now most schools of Buddhism do not accept the idea of an individual soul at all; thus what reincarnates is not the individual "I", the Marcus Aurelius or Jack Skellington; but the KARMA that we have carried. The easiest way to explain that is only 'fragments' of us survive. This is why the goal of Buddhism is cessation; the individual ego is the thing to be snuffed out. This is also why some call Buddhism an 'atheistic' religion. But we don't know this for certain. The metaphysics are unclear. Some have said that Nirvana is a transcendent state of being; like there is some universal "I" without an ego while others again, say that it is all about cessation. The metaphysics of course, are unclear because this was the Buddha's aim...his aim was to 'show the path to the cessation of suffering' in the here and now. He rebuked his followers when they asked him about metaphysics and things like the state of the "I" after death.

Tibetan Buddhism is however a bit unique. According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead; the individual "I" at least survives his own death, so to speak. When a soul passes from the body; it enters into what is known as the Bardo state...now this Bardo, Jack, is very unique. I say this because if you research it or read about it in the Tibetan Book of the Dead; it sounds virtually IDENTICAL to the Catholic concept of purgatory. It is a sort of in-between state. And like Catholicism, there are very specific rituals that Tibetan monks are to perform for days and months after the individual passes to aid the soul on its journey to make it to the next life. This again SUGGESTS an individual reincarnating.

Now I did mention I left the door open for the POSSIBILITY of reincarnation, that is a dying in one body and the soul returning to another body at another point in time; and there is one specific reason I have for it. Omnaka came very close to hitting that nail on the head with his one sentence post. This is a quote from the Bhagavad Gita; one of my favorite religious works of all time: "You mourn for that which is not worthy of grief. The wise grieve neither for the living, nor the dead. There was never a time that neither you, nor I, nor all these kings did not exist; nor shall there ever be a time when we cease to be." -The Bhagavad Gita

What if there was no such thing as death....at all? What if what we perceive as physical death is merely a passing through from one door to another door? What if death is just a transition? That is really the Hindu belief. There IS no death; it's all continuous, eternal. I can't even rule this possibility out Biblically because Jesus conquered death.

Now this is getting into the realm of metaphysics; and as we both concede, we can't be certain. However, I do maintain that there is no BIBLICAL evidence to support reincarnation; and as to your mentioning of Elijah, double-check my OP. I talked about that at length and 'debunked' it from traditional Biblical scholarship.

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#10    Paranoid Android

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 05:53 AM

I must say I really enjoyed that most recent post, Marcus. One thing that did pop to mind as I read was a question about the Christian idea ox the New Heavens and New Earth. When the Saints are called to God after the final judgement they are said to shed their old body, flesh and corrupted by sin as it is, and put on a new body, a spirit body that is incorruptible.

I suppose this would be more like a transmutation rather than a reincarnation, but your post dipped into this topic a bit, and I thought I'd put it out there.

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#11    Marcus Aurelius

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 09:41 AM

PA, I totally agree with that statement. This 'new' body I think will be similar to the one of Jesus after His resurrection. As you and I both know He was able to do things like materialize and yet Thomas touched him. He ate. I think He is in a sense the 'model' for what will happen with us in the end.

As an aside, PA, this was perhaps the main reason why I personally came to reject the idea of reincarnation after wrestling with the concept for many years. The Christian (also Jewish and Islamic) view is that there will be a physical resurrection, a perfected body...as opposed to the eastern idea (which I do respect) which essentially views the body as a piece of junk to be discarded, favoring instead a continuing on of the soul or spirit....in short, spirit over matter. As you would know this same idea also takes us right back to the Gnostics and neoplatonists. There's a distinct parallel.  The idea of a bodily resurrection is unique to the Abrahamic faiths, with the rare exceptions of a few others, like the ancient Egyptians. It is my belief that it is matter AND spirit, not one over the other.

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#12    Paranoid Android

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 09:53 AM

I'm not very well read on the Neoplatonists, couldn't really say what beliefs they hold. But I get your meaning on the Gnostics. And naturally I'm with you on the general premise of the resurrection/reincarnation debate, though sometimes you hear stories about "past lives" and such. Most of the time you can cast the stories aside, but to use one example that you hear from time to time - a person who's never played music in their life gets a knock to the head and the next thing you know they sit down at a piano and start belting out Beethoven. As a musician myself (classically trained pianist, plus saxophone and bass guitar) I find these types of stories fascinating.

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#13    Marcus Aurelius

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 10:10 AM

Yeah, me too. I've read a lot of interesting stories and cases on it too, books like Life After Life, Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls are some particularly good examples. Bridey Murphy (though the jury is still out on that). I certainly don't think it's harmful to be open to the possibility of it.

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#14    Light_Within

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 11:24 AM

View PostMarcus Aurelius, on 29 January 2014 - 10:56 PM, said:

I personally reject the notion of reincarnation; I simply do not believe in it. I believe Hebrews 9:27 "And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment,"  

Simply put, I haven't died yet, so I can't slam the door on it;
You haven't died yet. That's the point, isn't it? Lazarus's body was decaying when Jesus reinterpreted the Old Testament. Do you agree? Define in your own words what irrevocably linked means? Body turns to dust but dust is not physical body. Miracle can shape random dust into a living form. What did Jesus say about the number of times we should forgive? One lifetime wouldn't be enough? Are you one of those christians who believe in the death of the soul for the sinner who didn't believe in christ? I like what NBP said in How far will you go to be "INCLUSIVE" thread. "Perhaps we reincarnate to finally figure out that Jesus is the way out, a ticket to Heaven?" My ride is here gotta go. Thanks for taking the time follow up!


#15    Jack Skellington

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  • I am a wanderer. A seeker of the Truth. I stumble often along the path and by the grace of God, discover much while on my knees.

Posted 31 January 2014 - 11:02 PM

View PostMarcus Aurelius, on 31 January 2014 - 05:39 AM, said:


What if there was no such thing as death....at all? What if what we perceive as physical death is merely a passing through from one door to another door? What if death is just a transition? That is really the Hindu belief. There IS no death; it's all continuous, eternal. I can't even rule this possibility out Biblically because Jesus conquered death.

Now this is getting into the realm of metaphysics; and as we both concede, we can't be certain. However, I do maintain that there is no BIBLICAL evidence to support reincarnation; and as to your mentioning of Elijah, double-check my OP. I talked about that at length and 'debunked' it from traditional Biblical scholarship.

Best to take it one step at a time when walking together...  I'd like to start with Elijah, but along with that you mentioned that you reject the idea that Origen proposed regarding the pre-existence of souls.  Scripture frequently affirms pre-existence with statements like "Before Abraham, I am" and the mentioning of our having been chosen even before the foundation of the world.  I'd like to revisit that specifically, but first I'd like to address a few other things you said in your opening post.

I apologize in advance for going slowly.  I have limited time right now, but I promise to address all I can with you... Step by step and slowly shouldn't be too much of a problem for someone flying the banner of "Methodist" -- no?  :tsu:

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