Re: Unitarian, reincarnation, etc.

Date: Fri Sep 08 2000 - 12:41:42 EDT

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    David Campbell wrote:

    << Seriously, there is a minor thread of reincarnation within the
    Judeo-Christian tradition, with the suggestion that Elijah's return was to be
    by reincarnation or that John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated.

    Well..., yes, but this is stretching the context of eastern thought
    a little I think. Anyway, I also trivialized the point in my
    comments about coming back as a roach.

    There really is no clear doctrine with Buddhism. There are more
    books written than you could read in 10 lifetimes. Some forms of
    Buddhism (of Chinese origin) even have the Bodhisattva (Bosatsu
    in Japanese) acting as the guide who helps enlighten and
    lead those who seek. The notion is akin to saying that we cannot
    do it on our own. That sounds a bit like Christ and almost surely,
    it has a grain of Christian influence within it. The Nestorians
    appeared in China in the 7th century. Buddhism overtook China in
    the 9th century. As a little aside, just keep in your hearts
    one memory, the old river didn't move for Buddhism, so to win
    the Chinese heart to Christ, we need more than to win a brief
    popularity contest this week.

    The Biblical account speaks of God doing the "reincarnation"
    and we have essentially no influence we can exert from our end.
    In Christian theology, the mechanism is the Grace of God. In
    Buddhism, it is effectively achievement or attainment.

    Scientific evidence, especially archaeology, can disprove a lot of
    reincarnation claims, along the lines already noted-actual memories of a
    previous existence ought to be accurate; statistically most people ought to
    be reincarnations of ordinary people, etc.

    Yes that would be a kind of testability. However, we also have claims
    of near death experiences, and claims of seeing heaven. We also have
    atheists who say that it was a mere going blank. It would be arguable
    that *if* there is life after death, it comes as a result of God
    "remembering" us at the second coming (an idea I barrow from Polkinghorne).
    So crossing the line is a one way deal and that is all. Whatever such
    people saw, if it has any truth at all, would have to be a revelation.
    Most likely, such claims are not so.

    I think what is interesting here is *what* God might remember. The
    bible says that we should come to God as Children (Mt 19:13-15,
    Mk 10:13-16, Lk 18:15-17). So it would suggest that what God
    values is not our work, our great debates, or our great deeds,
    but simply our childlike natures. Most of the things we do then
    will be burned by fire (figuratively speaking). The conclusion
    then is to live out a meaningful life this time around and you
    will probably have more chance of something in heaven -- if such
    is the case. In a way, it does seem self consistent at least.

    So then, the person suffering
    from alzheimer's disease need not think that what they are is
    something less than they should be. *If* there really is such
    a thing as an afterlife, then I think it has to be completely
    separate, and discontinuous transition and much of what we
    value and even are is of little importance there anyway.

    Finally, speaking generally, and not necessarily to David or
    his post, in comparing other beliefs, we on this particular
    list should be rather cautious. The Skeptic lists I have
    inhabited from time to time typical come out as overly anti
    christian, and although I cannot deny that there are many
    things that can easily be questioned about the Bible
    if the criteria is "fact and facts alone", I still sense
    that there is bias and comfort in numbers. I would like
    to strive to do better, because that is what Christ I think
    would call me to do.

    Hard teachings that Jesus gave.
    By Grace alone do we proceed

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