Author: Dr Rob Cook, Head of Theology, Redcliffe College.
Amongst the human race there is a pretty strong vote in favour of reincarnation. To begin with it seems to be a recurring, if minor, theme in primal religion. Indeed, close to home for me, Caesar reported it as an element of the religion of the Druids in his Gallic Wars. It is, of course, central to the Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and then later, Sikhism. Possibly through the influence of the East, reincarnation (metempsychosis) was taught by the Orphics, Pythagoras, Empedocles and Plato and on through the Neo-Platonists and the Manicheans. It is found in the more esoteric schools of Judaism (certain Kabbalists) and Islam (e.g. the Druze sect). Occasionally it has also featured in Christian heretical groups such at the Cathars in thirteenth century France. In Europe, Kant, Goethe, and Schopenhauer flirted with it and, in our own day, it is commonplace amongst those influenced by New Age thought; New Age itself having been influenced by Theosophy and Anthroposophy. In fact I have heard of ‘come as you were’ fancy dress parties and of latter-day hippies proclaiming that they are ‘born again, born again Krishnas’!
Yet the orthodox Christian verdict on reincarnation has been a resounding veto. To sketch out why I will employ the epistemological tools of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience
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