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Just a simple question: is the biblical idea of being born again compatible with eastern religious ideas of reincarnation?

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Can you clarify which concept of reincarnation you'd like to contrast with? I know that Buddhist and Hindu concepts of reincarnation are quite different. –  Sean McMillan Oct 31 '11 at 17:42
    
Geddes MacGregor, demonstrates in his book Reincarnation in Christianity: A New Vision of the Role of Rebirth in Christian Thought, that Christian doctrine and reincarnation are not mutually exclusive belief systems. –  user1054 May 21 '12 at 16:31

4 Answers 4

Being "Born again" and being reincarnated are completely different concepts.

The concept of being born again comes from this Bible passage below. I know it's long but the theological and doctrinal implications found in this passage are profound and critical to understanding what it means to be "born again" and what salvation requires.

John 3:3-21 (NIV)
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

TL;DR
If you balked at reading all of that, it basically says this:

  • You must be born again, which means born of water (from your mother) and born of the Spirit (from God)
  • In order to be born of the Spirit, you must believe in Jesus
  • You must live your life according to Jesus and follow him in order to truly believe in him.

That's the essence of being "born again".

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Essentially the main message is that we are all sons & daughters of God (born of the One Spirit) whether we know it or not. Jesus came to demonstrate & remind those on Earth who had forgotten or were stuck in the illusion/darkness of a purely physical & separated from God state. To believe & follow Him is to be Enlightened & remember our own true Source. –  TrinitronX Apr 22 at 16:56
    
Born of water and of the Spirit can also be, and is in some denominations, interpreted as meaning when you are baptized in water (as a believer) you receive the Spirit, as Acts 2:38 says "Repent and be baptized...and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." –  david brainerd Apr 22 at 22:53

Being born again in Christianity is being born of the Spirit. Triune man, consisting of body, soul, and spirit at creation, died spiritually at the fall. Being born again revives the spirit, but body and soul stay the same. This is shown too when Paul says that we have been saved, are saved, and will be saved. This can be interpreted like:

  • the spirit was saved when reborn by accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour,
  • the soul is being saved as we work out our salvation daily, change our mindset, and become more like Christ,
  • and the body will be changed in an instance at the sound of the last trumpet or when the dead are resurrected.

In eastern religions, the spirit never died, but is reborn into new bodies until it has changed enough to earn Nirvana for example.

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Nirvana is not "earned," it's reached. When a soul reaches nirvana it escape samsara, the cycle of reincarnation - but that doesn't necessarily mean its body has to die. –  user729 Oct 6 '11 at 18:16
    
What Ateo said: Your reincarnation description might be accurate for something. It's certainly not right for Buddhism. –  Sean McMillan Oct 31 '11 at 17:44

The idea of reincarnation is not compatible with the Bible. Others have discussed how the phrase "born again" does not mean reincarnation.

The Bible specifically denies reincarnation. Hebrews 9:27, "it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment". We die once and then are judged. We do not die and then be reborn to "try again".

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In my opinion, there is no contradiction between Christian concept of paradise and hell vs some other religions' reincarnation.

Maybe person has "two spirits" (for lack for a better term than "spirit" here). One person's spirit goes to paradise or hell and the other is reincarnated.

I am not sure that the above is an accurate picture of reality, but I consider this quite possible and not conflicting with biblical teaching.

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What sense would it make for people to have two spirits? Especially considering that the Bible doesn't use the plural when talking about our spirit. So no, this is not compatible with Christianity in any way. –  david brainerd Apr 22 at 22:51

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