Resurrection not Reincarnation

I have recently returned from nearly two weeks in Nepal. It is a country in transition, moving from a monarchy to some type of parliamentary republic. Most of the royal family was assassinated in 2001 (thus effectively ending the kingdom phase) but the new constitution is still being negotiated (thus making the eventual shape of the parliament unsettled).

I think the country is in transition religiously, too. It currently has the largest percentage of Hindu adherents of any nation in the world (over 80%), but Christianity is strong and growing. As in Myanmar, the actual percentage of Christians is understated for political reasons, but may be approaching 5%.

Kumari Palace in Kathmand

Kumari Palace in Kathmandu

While we were there, we visited the historic district in Kathmandu that contains many Hindu temples and shrines. One of these was the palace where the Kumari lives, a young girl who is worshiped as a living goddess by the Hindus of Nepal. This girl was chosen from a group of candidates when she was age 4. She had to pass rigorous tests including spending a night in darkness in a room full of blood and sacrificed animals. If she cried or screamed, she was disqualified. She will remain the object of worship until she begins to menstruate, a time when it is believed the spirit of the goddess leaves the girl’s body.

All of this is based on the concept of reincarnation, the idea that divine or human spirits migrate to different bodies over the ages. This is the great hope of Hinduism, to be reincarnated at a higher level as a reward for a holy or virtuous life.

Christianity believes in resurrection, not reincarnation. Today, Easter Sunday, is the great celebration of the doctrine of resurrection, because it remembers Jesus Christ’s rising from the dead. Jesus was a man unjustly killed by the ancient Romans, his dead body laid in a tomb carved out of the limestone formations outside of Jerusalem. He was truly dead, stone cold dead and buried. But on the third day, Sunday morning, he came back from the dead. He appeared in his resurrection body. He was not reincarnated into a different body. It was the same one. He showed the scars of his crucifixion wounds as signs of identity to his incredulous disciples. He was risen from the dead.

The Hindus have no such hope. We also visited the crematorium area of Kathmandu, perhaps the most terrifyingly depressing place I have ever been in my life. Here the bodies of beloved dead are burned with great ceremony and pomp, and the ashes are spread on the waters of a river. The soul is released to begin its uncertain journey of reincarnation. There is the possibility that the future will not be better, but worse if the soul comes back in a lower caste. We witnessed an extremely low caste man who was tasked with trying to salvage scraps of usable wood for burning from the fires of cremation. Imagine the degradation here: heating a home with charred wood scraps that had been used to burn a human body.

Resurrection offers hope. This life is not the end, nor is it the greatest good. We have been given hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ that transcends our current troubles and pains. We look forward to the time when we will join him in glory. This is more than speculation or legend. We have the confirmation of resurrection through the raising of Jesus from the dead. The son who was dead is now alive, and he lives forevermore!

He is Risen! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Christians in Nepal

baby elephant

baby elephant

Writing from Kathmandu after a week of ministry in Nepal. This is an amazing place. That there is a Christian witness here at all is a sign of God’s grace and power.

I remember the words of an old Larry Norman song that said:

There are Christians in Russia, they meet underground
In China they’re killed when they’re found.
And in Cuba the Christians live up in the hills
Because its not safe in the town.

This reflected the Cold War reality of anti-Christian Communist governments. There was a political agenda to eradicate any trace of the church, which was seen as a threat to the dream of establishing a classless society and a connection to decadent, fascist Western society and its values. At the core, one of the problems was the Christian teaching that each man or woman was a precious child of God and had inherent value. This is the basis of Western democratic ideals, the one person one vote system. In totalitarian Communism, no one person could be greater than the state and the inevitable progress to a classless society.

Nepal lived through several versions of this, often seen as a piece on the global chessboard by the great nations. The strong Maoist (Communist) party and the ancient Hindu culture leave little room for Christianity and its message of hope and love.

Yesterday we attended a large Nepali church and were blessed that it had in-ear translation devices available so we could understand what was being said. Before the sermon, the platform person asked all who “did not know Jesus” to exit, and, if they chose, to speak with persons outside who would tell them about Jesus. I thought it was a curious move. Maybe twenty people out of the 600 there left. Why did they do this. It is a little unclear, but it had something to do with Nepali laws against proselytizing. You cannot do active evangelism here, only passive. You must create situations where others want to come and talk to you about your Christian faith. We, as foreigners, certainly could not do street evangelism or conduct a Billy Graham style crusade. We would either be arrested or asked to leave the country immediately.

Yet the church survives, even thrives in this hostile situation. The church has never required a benevolent monarchy or the open society of a democracy to flourish. Governments come and go, the church marches on. Christ will be victorious, utterly victorious in the end, and all opposition to him will prove to be futile.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College