Is Karma Consistent With Christianity?
The Eastern world is recognized by its varied Yogic religions. Yoga derives from ancient Indian spiritual practices and is an explicitly religious element of Hinduism. Yogic practices are also common to Buddhism and Jainism. Karma is understood to be a cosmic law of cause and effect that guarantees a fair and just outcome. The behavior of every person will be exposed to the ultimate consequences distributed through the process of reincarnation. The concept says that unselfish, kind, and holy behavior during this lifetime will be rewarded with reincarnation into a pleasant life. The people that lived selfishly and evilly will be reborn into a less-than-pleasant lifestyle.
Frequently a sense of compassion towards those who are suffering results in displays of generosity and help from others. This is a very natural response in most instances. The karmic viewpoint, though, discourages such demonstrations of charity because one’s suffering is seen as justice done resulting from the corrupt actions of a prior life. The idea of aiding somebody suffering poverty, sickness, and more is to block karmic justice from being served. No person is believed to carry such a right in the Yogic world. The Buddha refused to offer help to his disciples in their times of need. He taught them that suffering was a harsh reality in life and that trying to alleviate pain through external resources was wasteful. Karma is intended to motivate the devotee away from personal desires. Conversely, Jesus commanded His followers to assist the needy, heal the sick, and minister to the struggling. Where karma fails to encourage a believer to serve the community around them, Jesus succeeds.
Even a superficial look at Christianity shows a stark contrast between Yogic religions and Christianity. They are nothing alike whatsoever. Karma is fundamentally about proportional compensation for the way somebody lives. Unlike Hinduism and Buddhism, the God of the Bible knows that humans are weak and incapable of doing good without Him. Christianity clearly shows that believers do not receive what they have earned. Christians are granted everlasting life when they really deserve eternal punishment. Christians should not believe in karma because the sum of people’s works does not determine whether they are eternally saved. Only faith in Jesus Christ saves people from condemnation. Christians are granted a relationship with God the Father instead of the death they deserve.
Many promoters of biblical and karmic compatibility cite the Epistle of James for their reasoning. James 2:24 teaches, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” From this verse, some people postulate that Christians should subscribe to karma because a person’s works seemingly justify them before the Lord. But looking closer at the context, one can see that faith leads to righteousness before God, and then works ensue. All of this is the result of the godly overtures of grace brought to the sinner by the Holy Spirit. Karma is about progressive advancements, not instantaneous justification that culminates with eternal life.
The Bible teaches that heaven is the destination of believers in the afterlife. This promise is based exclusively on Scripture and Jesus’ numerous statements about eternity (John 14). Karmic religions point to reincarnation. While Hinduism and Buddhism have different understandings of nirvana, both fundamentally teach that good works obtain this aspiration through successive earthly experiences. When a person lives a good life, they are elevated to a higher position in the next. The ascension ultimately leads to a release from reincarnation entrapment and rewards the individual oneness with the ultimate cosmic force.
Karma is incredibly different from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Knowing how to speak to these issues is imperative with the expanding influence of pantheistic religions in Western culture. An inability to distinguish between karma and the gospel leaves the Christian impotent in sharing the good news with others, especially those who embrace the beliefs that come with karma.