Reincarnation and Apocatastasis - Printable Version
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Reincarnation and Apocatastasis - Mark Fletcher - 22-03-2007 03:07 PM
The idea of reincarnation is a seductive one for many.
I know somebody who sincerely believes (claiming to know for certain) that reincarnation is a reality, on the basis of their own subjective experience.
Is someone who believes in reincarnation outside of the British Orthodox Church?
Surely the person who sincerely believes in reincarnation is being just as "honest" as those British Orthodox Church members who have posted items on British Orthodox Fellowship Forums regarding Apocatastasis?
Both Reincarnation and Apocatastasis are viewed as heretical by some sincere but hard-line Orthodox people. What matters is the Truth, not swallowing second-hand dogma uncritically.
Reincarnation - John Charmley - 23-03-2007 12:06 AM
The idea of universal salvation is neither approved of nor condemned by the Church; some Christians take a firm view that it is heresy, but it is unclear that they are correct; the Church pronounces neither way, and one can call Patristic witnesses both ways.
Reincarnation on the other hand is not a Christian belief, and is hard to reconcile with our idea of the resurrection of the body; pretty confusing if we have had many bodies.
I, too, know people who believe they have had other lives, and I know they are sincere; but sincerity does not equate with truth, and one can very sincerely believe the wrong thing.
As with some of the other very interesting topics you are raising, this really needs a longer answer, but that will have to come on the morrow, since the hour grows late - but I wanted to post the outlines of what I take the Orthodox position to be.
Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 23-03-2007 07:21 AM
Thanks for your posting. But...
Is someone who believes in reincarnation outside of the British Orthodox Church?
- admin - 23-03-2007 09:28 AM
I hesitate to answer too firmly because I rather have the sense that the question I want to answer is whether or not re-incarnation is part of the Christian Faith, rather than whether or not someone who holds to that idea is in or out. If membership of the Church were such a simple matter of being in or out then I would imagine that I would be out because we would have to move from the simple ticking of boxes to ensure right doctrine, to the simple ticking of boxes to ensure holy living. And since I am not a holy person and sin often I would be cast out.
But the Church is not like that, and Christ is not like that, even while it is an historical fact that re-incarnation is not and has never been accepted as being part of the Christian faith.
In Christianity, certainly that of the British Orthodox Church, re-incarnation is not accepted as compatible with the Gospel because it denies the unique value of each person made especially by God to be in relationship with Him. It also denies the unique work of the incarnate Word in salvation because it denies that faith in Christ brings us to life with God in eternity, on the contrary it teaches us that we need to go round again and again, hopefully getting better as we do.
Christianity teaches us that we cannot ever get better enough!
It is a different Gospel than the one we so thankfully embrace. The Good News for us is that despite our weakness, our sinfulness, our regular failings, Christ chooses to make His home in our hearts, to unite us with God and to transform our unique being so that as far as is humanly possible we can share in the divine life.
There is no scope for re-incarnation in such an understanding because our unique personhood is of etrenal value to God, such that He became incarnate, suffered, died and rose again for ME - this ME typing here. And even though I live a weak life that brings Him no glory, and even though given a million lives I would not improve, nevertheless He calls ME - this ME - brother and son and friend.
I am of such value to Him, and you are, and each one of us is. He made us ONCE to be in relationship with Him. It is just not part of the Christian hope that having failed in this life we start again as some other person. Because it denies that the incarnate Christ has saved us at all.
We would have to posit that after coming into relationship with me and offering me eternal life with Him as a gift and not based on any merit of my own, and after starting to see some growth in my life with Him, this is all swept away and some other person linked to me in some way starts all over again.
This denies the unique value of each one of us in God's eyes, and makes the salvation offered by Christ to be meaningless. So it is incompatible with Christianity.
I would suggest, and others, especially clergy should correct me, that you not worry so much about what might make someone in or out of the British Orthodox Church. They let me stay! But of course there are boundaries to the faith that are there for our spiritual health. The catechumenate is the place to work through some of these issues, that is entirely what it is there for. As folk have said elsewhere, just as we are not expected to be perfect when beginning, or ending, the catechumenate, so, especially at the beginning of the catechumenate, we are not expected to have dealt with every doubt, qualm and obstacle to faith.
Today as I was driving to work I was moved by the readings in Our Daily Life, as I often am. The short verse said..
Quote:Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and he will direct thy paths.
I am myself struggling with various issues, not least, badly behaved children, moody colleagues at work, and an exhausted spouse. All of which leave me frustrated if not angry. And this morning I was asking God what He was doing when I was trying to serve Him, and then I read this verse.
Does this mean I should switch my brain off? I don't think so. But it does teach me not to expect to understand everything that is taking place at a particular time in my life, nor to expect to have all the answers to every question.
This would be my counsel to you. Park this issue, and others which you raise, keep them somewhere in your mind where they can be discussed as appropriate, and they will need to be discussed and considered. But do not let them stand in the way of trusting God. He promises to make things clear, in the end, and even if the path is difficult, but He will make things as clear as we need. And in the end, when it is still unclear, we have faith. Not blind faith, but faith in a person, our heavenly Father, whom we grow to trust more and more as a reasonable response to our existence, and as we experience His loving care in and through our lives and the lives of others.
Likewise in the passage we read today in ODL from Abba Nestoros, he teaches us that we do not find life in Christ through miracles, and I will add through knowledge and human understanding, but through humble love, of God and of others and of ourselves.
You, yourself, Mark Fletcher, are precious to God, and to many of us here who see God at work in you. That being so it is our constant prayer and desire that you, yourself, in this life and no other, find Him and are transformed by Him into the unique person He has made you to be.
All of your questions are completely fair and valid and necessary. But in the end God is a unique person as you are a unique person, and the Christian life is lived in that meeting of the human with the Divine. So trust Him and He will work things out.
Sorry to ramble on, and I will try to read up a bit more on the topics you raise.
Best wishes and continuing prayers
Marian Munt - Mark Fletcher - 23-03-2007 05:33 PM
My reason for asking the question is that this issue concerns my friend Marian Munt. She believes in reincarnation.
For the record, I have no belief in any sort of continuity of consciousness after death. I believe that "when you're dead, you're dead."
As she has no intention whatsoever of changing her mind on this issue, perhaps you could advise me on whether she is welcome at St. Alban's, Chatham or not. If not, then she will not attend again.
Reincarnation - John Charmley - 23-03-2007 05:48 PM
Only Fr. Michael and Peter can answer as to whether Marian would be welcome; but I would be utterly astonished if she were not.
As Peter has so rightly said, we all fall short. My own wife, Rachael, is inclined to believe in reincarnation, and still highly disinclined to believe in One God; Fr. Tony makes her welcome whenever she wishes to come to St. Felix with me.
One of the many things that I have found attractive about the BOC is its spirit of welcome to any one who is searching; I have yet to come across anyone who is not happy to discuss things with those who have questions; and we all recognize that sometime, our answers are not those which the questioner wants; and even if we think they may be what is needful, we keep quiet and respect the views of others.
In the end, His will is done, and He does not need our advice; which is as well, as we'd not be much use; and yet He loves us still.
- admin - 23-03-2007 06:36 PM
As I hope is clear to you from what you know of us, Marian would always be welcome to worship with us, or visit, or whatever she feels comfortable calling being with us at Chatham.
When we make any of our visitors welcome it is not with the thought that they might be potential converts, but with the thought that they are already and always precious to God, our Father, and therefore should be precious to us.
Were Marian a Buddhist, or a Hindu, an Atheist or as she in fact is, a person who has been on her own spiritual journey which leads her to where she is now, she could not be more welcome.
Best wishes and continuing prayers
Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 23-03-2007 09:01 PM
Many thanks for your encouraging and loving postings. I have passed the glad tidings on to Her Muntiness, and she is pleased that this is so. She very much wants to continue attending regularly as she found the last occasion a very positive and blessed one. Thanks again.
Love - John Charmley - 23-03-2007 09:08 PM
I am glad to read the last two posts.
Can I add this from the first letter of St. Clement to the Corinthians (late 1st century A.D.):
Quote:Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ. Who
There is much love here for you both.
- Paul Harrison - 12-04-2007 08:05 PM
Originally posted by Fr Gregory:
Quote: Thus, if I teach that all will be saved, I teach heresy. If I say that I hope that, in the fullness of time and the infinite love and mercy of God, all may be saved, my teaching is Orthodox.
As a former universalist, I have come to agree that the Orthodox doctrine on this matter must be right. In his book "The Orthodox Church", +Kallistos Ware expresses it the same way. A complete universalism both denies human free will and God's right to judge. Yet in keeping with what Fr Gregory writes, none of us would, in my opinion, be much as Christians, if we didn't hold that "pious hope" that all may be saved.
Reincarnation is a much more difficult matter for a potential Christian in that it is in no way compatible with Christian teaching. Apart from the teachings of the Eastern religions, Jewish kabbalists affirm a belief in it. Yet mainstream Rabbinic Judaism shares with Christianity a belief in the resurrection of the dead in a glorified version of the earthly body. There's no room for reincarnation within Christianity.