Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring||Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright, Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall, Arliss Howard|
|Distributor||New Line Cinema|
Reincarnation: Does the Bible allow for this possibility? Answer
“Be careful what you wish for.”
The Bible does not even mention the concept of reincarnation. The Bible tells us that we die once and then face judgment (Heb 9:27). Scripture never mentions people having a second chance at life, or coming back as different people. Jesus lovingly informed the criminal on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise!” (Luke 23:43), not “You will have another chance to live a life on this Earth.” Matthew 25:46 specifically tells us that believers go on to eternal life. Reincarnation has been a popular eastern religious belief for thousands of years, but not supported by any biblical stretch of God’s complete divine plan for human kind.
In the stark cold of winter “Birth” opens with a dreamy and beautiful view of a man running for exercise along a lone snow covered track in a park. As he finishes his trek, he is seen stopping under a bridge to rest, but then stumbles to the ground and collapses. Unmistakably this poor man has died. In contrast a baby is seen being born as the scene fades out.
Cutting to ten years after, a woman kneels before a gravestone on yet another snowy day. She has made her goodbyes to this loved one, and the feeling is she is finally ready to go on with her life. Next we gather at an engagement party at an upscale apartment building in the city. As the characters come together Joseph (a cold, self-absorbed Danny Huston) lifts his glass to announce that after ten years of loving petition, Anna (Nicole Kidman again showing another side to her never ending talent) has finally said “yes” to marriage. A May wedding is in their plans.
Anna’s mother Eleanor (as ever Lauren Bacall exudes strength and an upper crust elegance) soon after the engagement celebration has a birthday party in her honor and an uninvited guest appears. Ten year old Sean (Cameron Bright from “Godsend”) gloomily states Anna cannot marry Joseph and when questioned as to why, he eerily proclaims he is Anna’s dead husband by the same name. A hurt and irritated Anna sends Sean home instructing him never to contact her again.
Sean hangs out with Jimmy, the doorman at Anna’s apartment building, and it just so happens his Dad (Ted Levine) is a tutor to a family who lives there also. After receiving a note from Sean and enduring many attempts by this poor lost boy to see her, Anna confronts Sean and his Dad who implores Sean to tell Anna he is sorry and will never trouble her again. Sean insists he can’t do that. He is obviously compelled by some unknown power to be with her. As Anna walks away, Sean collapses in his father’s arms, the sight of which disturbs Anna while haunted memories of her dead husband gradually resurface. It is made apparent that she loved her husband Sean deeply, and still does even after ten long years.
Anna finally begins to come to the unbelievable conclusion that this Sean is in fact the reincarnation of her deceased husband when the boy knows the “special place” to meet in the park and is subjected to a battery of personal questions to which the answers could only be known by the dead Sean, Anna, and family members. Sean has uncanny knowledge of the most private aspects of their life. Eventually Sean’s presence eats so badly at Joseph that he blows up, practically kills this little boy (to the complete shock of all those present) and leaves Anna to her folly.
This was a great start and stirs up lots of tension within the plot. Though the acting is intelligent at best and lack luster at worst, it is unfortunate from this point “Birth” loses momentum and is bogged down with painful attempts at some sort of thought-provoking answers to reincarnation and/or life after death.
As the film progresses, we are introduced to many disturbing themes. Clara (a very menacing Anne Heche) is revealed as the deceased Sean’s lover, and when the boy Sean doesn’t even remember her, he comes to the tortured conclusion that he isn’t Anna’s reincarnated husband after all. I suppose to the staunch advocate for reincarnation this makes no sense. Is he after all the reincarnated “Sean” or is this strange boy really a crazy kid who just happens to know everything secret about Anna’s life with her first husband? In the meantime, little Sean and Anna tenderly “kiss,” Sean gets into the bath with Anna, as well as in her bed (this just about borders on child pornography in a subdued respect) and eventually Anna comes up with the inspired idea that all they have to do is wait until Sean is 21, then they can get married and live happily-ever-after. Sean’s Mom (Cara Seymour) is convinced that Sean is under a spell and allows her son to stay with Anna to “break the spell,” as if that’s what any responsible mother would do.
After telling Anna he is a “liar” and knowing he has hurt her beyond repair, a very confused Sean runs away from home. Anna wanting a “…good life… to be happy and at peace,” returns to Joseph and asks for his forgiveness which he cooly grants with not much loving fan fair. Sean eventually returns home and to school. Through letters he writes to Anna, we along with Anna, are supposed to be consoled when Sean tells Anna he is sorry for the problems that he caused her and her family and laments “…see you in another life.”
At the unpleasant conclusion, there are no real answers delivered to these hapless characters or to the audience. We leave Anna on her wedding day stumbling along the cold ocean in her wedding dress, near insanity, empty and devoid of feeling.
The idea of having a loved one return after death is an enticing one, featured in many films, good and bad. Some questions to ponder in this movie might be: Has Sean returned to prevent Anna from marrying someone who is hiding his true nature? Was Sean less than the devoted husband Anna wants to remember? Is this just a disturbed boy, obsessed with a beautiful woman? Any of these could have been the basis for a good movie, but “Birth” just hints in those directions and then comes to some pretty confusing conclusions about reincarnation.
“Birth” gets creepy in ways it apparently didn’t intend. It is bad enough when Anna tries to shock 10-year-old Sean out of what she hopes is a delusion by asking him how he intends to satisfy her sexually. It is just plain awful when he takes off all his clothes and climbs into the bathtub with her. And the last fifteen minutes make no sense whatsoever. The R rating is very appropriate as no one under 18 should see this film because of a sex scene that was absolutely uncalled for between Anna and Joseph. This scene was meant to underscore, I assume, the fact that these characters were living together and having premarital sex. Parents should know that this film includes sexual references, including adultery, as well as this explicit (and completely gratuitous) sexual situation along with situations that come close to sexual abuse of a minor. A young boy takes a bath with an adult woman and later they kiss. Characters drink and smoke and use a bit of strong language (in particular one utterance of “He**”).
What does the Bible say about reincarnation? The whole thrust of the Bible opposes reincarnation. It shows that man is the special creation of God, created in God’s image with both a material body and an immaterial soul and spirit. He is presented as distinct and unique from all other creatures that God has created. Scripture teaches that at death, while man’s body is mortal, decays and returns to dust, his soul and spirit continue on either in a place of torment for those who reject Jesus Christ or in Heaven in God’s presence for those who have trusted in Jesus Christ. Both categories of people will be resurrected, one to eternal judgment and the other to eternal life with a glorified body (John 5:25-29). The emphatic statement of the Bible is that “it is appointed unto men once to die and after that the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). This statement and the concept that mankind’s creation in God’s image is unique from the animals and even angels stand totally opposed to the idea of reincarnation-dying and coming back as another person or in the form of an animal or insect. What nonsense! The claim of some that they have information of past history is nothing more than some kind of encounter with demonic powers and has been present throughout human history.
Below are three points humankind either embraces or disputes:
Materialism: Nothing survives. Death ends all and is final. Seldom held before the eighteenth century, materialism is now a strong minority view. It is the natural accompaniment of atheism.
Reincarnation: The individual soul survives and is reincarnated into another body. Reincarnation is usually connected with the belief that after the soul has fulfilled its destiny, and learned its lessons and become sufficiently enlightened, it reverts to a divine status or is absorbed into (or realizes its timeless identity with) the universe.
Resurrection: At death, the soul separates from the body and is reunited with its new, immortal, resurrected body. This is the Christian view. This view, the supernatural resurrection of the body rather than the natural immortality of the soul alone, is the only version of life after death in Scripture. It is dimly prophesied and hoped for in the Old Testament, but clearly revealed in the teachings of the New Testament.
Christianity rejects reincarnation for these ten reasons:
Ten Refutations of Reincarnation
It is contradicted by Scripture (Heb 9:27).
It is contradicted by Biblical witness in all Christian churches.
It would reduce the Incarnation (referring to Christ’s incarnation) to a mere appearance, the crucifixion to an accident, and Christ to one among many philosophers or great thinkers. It would also confuse what Christ did at Calvary.
It implies that God made a mistake in designing our souls to live in bodies, that we are really pure spirits in prison or angels in costume.
It is contradicted by psychology and common sense, for its view of souls as imprisoned in alien bodies denies the natural psychosomatic unity.
It entails a very low view of the body, as a prison, a punishment.
It usually blames sin on the body and the body’s power to confuse and darken the mind. This is passing the buck from soul to body, as well as from will to mind, and a confusion of the reality of sin with ignorance.
The idea that we are reincarnated in order to learn lessons we failed to learn in a past Earthly life is contrary to both common sense and basic educational psychology. I cannot learn something if there is no continuity of memory. I can learn from my mistakes only if I remember them. People do not usually remember these past “reincarnations.”
The supposed evidence for reincarnation, “rememberings” from past lives that come out under hypnosis or “past life regression” can be explained-if they truly occur at all-as mental telepathy from other living beings, from the souls of dead humans in purgatory or hell, or from demons. The real possibility of the latter should make us absolutely terrified about opening our souls to “past life regressions.”
Reincarnation cannot account for itself. Just why are our souls imprisoned in bodies? Is it the just punishment for evils we committed in past reincarnations? But why were those past reincarnations necessary? For the same reason. But the beginning of the process that justly imprisoned our souls in bodies in the first place-this must have antedated the series of bodies. How could we have committed evil in the state of perfect, pure, heavenly spirituality? Further, if we sinned in that paradise, it is not paradisical after all. Yet that is the state that reincarnation is supposed to lead us back to after all our embodied yearnings are over.
There is no such thing as the dead communicating with living people. The dead are confined, according to Scripture, and cannot reveal themselves. This is suggested in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 and by the extreme surprise of the witch of Endor when she saw Samuel who was dead (see 1 Sam. 27:8f). She claimed to be a medium or one who contacts the dead, but when Saul requested that she contact Samuel and when God brought him forth, it startled her and brought great fear. This appeared to be her first experience with the real thing, i.e., with seeing the dead because this is normally not possible. When people do experience such experiences or contact, what they are seeing or experiencing is better identified as Satan himself.
“Does each person live many times in the same or different form? The Bible says, “It is appointed for men once to die, and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The Scripture pictures death as a separation of the soul from the world, Christ Himself describing death as God requiring man’s soul (Luke 12:20). When a saint of God dies, rather than merely being promoted to a higher status for another lifetime, he enters his eternal estate, secured for him by God’s grace. Paul, divinely inspired exclaimed, “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Christ’s record of the rich man and Lazarus shows that both the saved and the unsaved enter their respective rewards following death (Luke 16:19-31).” (From: The Bible Has the Answer by Henry M. Morris and Martin E. Clark)
Reincarnation: What the Bible Does Say
Simply stated, reincarnation is not compatible with what God’s Word teaches us. In fact, the Scriptures clearly state that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Reincarnation is the same deception used by Satan in the Garden of Eden when he told Eve, “You surely shall not die.” The Lord professes that eternal salvation from sin is a gift from God through Jesus Christ. Reincarnation is a complete myth, which teaches that “salvation” will ultimately come to those who have perfected themselves by going through cycle after cycle of lives until they become “worthy” to be put out of their misery.Only faith in Jesus is required for us to reach Heaven, not lifetime after lifetime of working off bad lives and building up good works. As Jesus announced: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That, indeed, is good news—for this life and beyond! Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Mild