In trying to sort out fact from fiction, there are confusing moments when faced with two competing views. Take reincarnation. There is the traditional viewpoint which rejects it and alternate viewpoints that accept it as fact. In the latter case, I was stunned by the following:
And finally, the verse below is often used to refute reincarnation.
“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)
The above verse has historically been interpreted to mean that people die physically only once and then are raised to face judgment at the “Last Day. But Hebrews 9:27-28 can also be interpreted in a way which supports both reincarnation and the “one man/one death” concept this verse suggests; but only if interpreted according to the reincarnation principle that a person’s physical body dies once – never to be inhabited again.
I repeat this quote to demonstrate an important principle. This verse is very clearly not about reincarnation, but resurrection. They both involve coming back to life, but they should not be confused. And yet to the reader this appears as a very compelling argument. It shows the idea that one can, out of proper context, take any verse to support any completely opposite position.* A contrived example:
The Bible says “You shall not murder”. This has often been used to mean that you can’t freely kill someone. But what does it really mean? Clearly murder is not the same as killing. Murder is unjustified killing. When the Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites, they had no law of their own. It had to be given to them twice! They had to be trained to understand when killing was justified or not. God didn’t mean for this commandment to apply to us. Jesus told us that he came to bring the sword. For true Christians, there is no murder, but instead the purity of bearing God’s justice.
Is killing justified just because you believe that Jesus authorized it? Of course not! Jesus never abolished the ten commandments, and he never killed anyone or advocated that anyone be killed, justified or not. Any attempt to say otherwise is inserting meaning where there is none. The rationale for why Israel received the law is completely irrelevant.
There are many methods of truth discovery. In the book “Meeting the Masters: A Spiritual Apprenticeship“, William Wildblood suggests that ultimately one has to rely on “intuition” to separate fact from fiction and that rational thought, which has its place, is ultimately in the lesser physical plane of existence. This minimization of rational thought is incredibly dangerous. We must use reason to separate fact from fiction.
The Bible quotations are taken out-of-context to support a viewpoint that the text does not justify. The arguments appear to be compelling and they pass the tests of plausibility. But it is nothing more than believing whatever you want to believe. One cannot posit support for a complicated theology involving multiple rebirths and karma from a statement on singular rebirth at the end of time, no matter how much one tries. The most anyone could say is that the verse in isolation is neutral with the doctrine of reincarnation, but it could never lend support to it.
This is not a post that goes into depth on methods for interpretation and using logic to avoid circular reasoning. There are plenty of books on these topics. But it is a warning to not be swayed or trust alternative viewpoints on their appearance only. The claims being made can be evaluated rationally, and the cracks will certainly shine through. This applies whether the claim is popular or not.
While reevaluating my personal beliefs, I discovered numerous beliefs that were based on traditions without real substance. Many of the beliefs that you hold dear are probably based on foundations of sand. Learning these takes time and a willingness to admit that you could be wrong.
* This is the same process by which in a court of law the two sides can derive completely opposite conclusions from the same evidence.