Reincarnation is the belief that the soul (atman), which is uncreated and eternal, must go repeatedly through recycling in this world. These repeated lives can be lived as a person, an animal, a plant, or even as an inanimate object (i.e., a rock). These continued reincarnations into various lives on “the great wheel of life” (samsara) are part of the “journey through suffering”. This journey supposedly purifies the soul in order to reach moksha – freedom from suffering and total union with the impersonal infinite.
The law of karma is the moral equivalent to the natural law of cause and effect. According to Hinduism, a person can build up good karma (merit) or bad karma (demerit) in this life. This karma (good or bad) becomes attached to the person’s soul and determines what kind of life and degree of suffering a person must endure in their next reincarnated life on the wheel of samsara.
These Hindu concepts of reincarnation and karma differ from the Word of God. The Bible states, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27).
The Hindu idea that the soul (atman) is uncreated and eternal, making possible endless reincarnations, also differs from Scripture. The Bible teaches that people are created by God (Gen 1:26, 27; 2:7) and each person will die once and then be resurrected at the judgment (1 Cor 15; Heb 9:27; Rev 20:11-13). All people have but one life to live.
The human soul is eternal in the sense that it will live on when the physical body dies. However, it will live on either in the presence of God (2 Cor 5:8), or in eternal judgment (Rev 20: 11-15). The human soul does not live on in another life on the earth.
The Hindu teaching on karma has a small amount of similarity to the biblical concept of sowing and reaping: the relationship between our choices or actions and the results that are produced by those choices and actions in our lives(Job 4:8;Prov 11:18;22:8;Gal 6:7,8).
However, karma differs from the Bible in the following significant ways:
- A person’s oneness with Brahman (“god”) is the same whether the person’s karma is good or bad. The Bible teaches, however, that sin damages and breaks mankind’s relationship with a perfectly holy and moral God. Sin reveals man’s selfish heart and his rebellion against a loving Creator.
- Karma does not allow for the possibility of forgiveness or mercy. The law of karma is an unchangeable concept with absolutely inevitable consequences.
But the Bible reveals a God Who is both just and merciful. Through what Christ did for all of mankind at the Cross – by dying in our place and fully satisfying the penalty for our sins – we can receive God’s forgiveness and have the broken relationship with Him mended. Christ’s willing sacrifice was the fulfillment of God’s sovereign will. He did this for all of mankind because God loves us all with an eternal love.