It is claimed for reincarnation that it explains our present experience and shows why we suffer or enjoy as we do. In suffering we are punished for wrongdoing in a past incarnation. In present well- being we are rewarded for bearing hardships.
The teaching implies that the poor must accept poverty and look for compensation, not in this present existence, but in a future incarnation. In fact, each incarnation is said to compensate for past ones. The rich man of today may return a thousand years from now in the dress of poverty. Someone who exploits others may return to earth and be exploited.
The law of retaliation has a prominent place in the theory. Even if we are completely unaware of wrongs done in a former incarnation, we will have to pay the bill. It seems to me that the payment can hardly be helpful or reforming if we have no idea what it is for. It is more likely to bring on bitterness and rebellion. In actual fact, we experience the consequences of our actions in the present life, and our wrongs are not held against us if we do not persist in them. The rigid caste system in India is supported by the widely accepted teaching of reincarnation. The person of low caste is told he must be content with his lot. His present position is attributed to his behavior in former incarnations, and he is taught that submission to an obviously bad condition will lead to a better position in a future incarnation.
Social change is impossible under the tyranny of this kind of belief. Indeed, the belief is fatalistic, and leads to tame resignation. It overlooks the saving power of the Lord, which is always at work and can set us free from the tyranny of circumstances if we cooperate with it.
Those who suggest that Christianity should adopt the teaching of reincarnation must hardly realize that they are advocating an impossible union. Christianity calls for change in the present, and newness of life here and now. It is concerned with present issues, dealing with things as they are. It
does not evade the urgent call of the present in speculating about remote causes.