I was asked today if I believe in karma. Let me point out that karma can refer to a couple of different things; one definition for it is simply “fate; destiny.” ((http://www.answers.com/karma)) If that is the case, then I suppose I would have to believe in karma — the Scriptures declare that predestination exists and is the work of the Sovereign God. ((Ephesians 1:11; see Romans 9.))
There is another view of karma, however, which holds that your actions have a direct affect on your future. A simplified example of this might be that if you were to hurt someone today, you may be afflicted with sickness in the near future as a direct result of your actions. Often, though not in the context of my conversation earlier today, it is believed that only after attaining perfect karma will the cycle of rebirth come to an end, allowing one to experience Nirvana. ((It is precisely this abhorrently pagan concept which should make any Christian immediately wary of karma, except perhaps as a baby name.))
I disbelieve in karma, but I certainly do not believe that my actions exist outside of causality. However, rather than believing in “for every action there is a reaction” karma, I deeply believe in judgment & justice.
Take a moment to reflect upon Hitler’s life: Unless you buy into the idea of karma-guided reincarnation, there is no way that man received just recompense for his actions within his lifetime. It is possible that 42,000,000 deaths are attributable to Hitler, ((http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm)) millions of which were not war-related but were rather outright murders.
Ages ago, God established with Noah a covenant which was applicable not only to Noah but also to his offspring, ((Genesis 9:9)) of which we are included. ((Like it or not, we’re all related, being descendants of Noah and ultimately Adam before him.)) As part of the establishment of this covenant, God declared the value of human life in that if anyone ever murdered another person, the murderer was to be executed: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” ((Genesis 9:5-6))
How much more would one suffer if they were to take two lives? Or six? Or forty-two million?
So what’s my point? Well, as I said, I believe in justice. One of my favorite passages of Scripture comes from one of my favorite books of the Bible: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” ((Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.))
Whoever you are, wherever you are, however you’ve lived… Ultimately, you will be judged, and that by He who knows your deepest of sins. ((Psalm 90:8 — “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.”))
Karma does not speak of such a future, for it in its classical sense only deals with earthly life — whether this life or a reincarnation cycle of lives.
However, if you define karma as “a person gets what they deserve at some point, whether in this life or the afterlife,” then I partially agree with you.
The Apostle Paul, echoing the great Jewish prophet Isaiah, declared the state of human nature as it has been since the Fall of Man: “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” ((Romans 3:9-12.))
This is the very nature of every person conceived upon this earth. You & I both, in our natural states, are worthless in the site of God, wherein even our best deeds are no more than soiled garments. ((Isaiah 64:6.))
Isaiah & Paul were not merely pessimistic regarding humanity. On the contrary, they not only understood humanity, but they further and more importantly possessed an understanding of who God is. They did come to that understanding naturally, of course, ((“No one understands; no one seeks for God,” is the teaching of both.)) but it was revealed to them.
The point here is that man does not seek after God and indeed does whatever he can to avoid Him — ignoring Him, following false gods, worshipping man, or even creating false ideas of the true God.
The natural, “karmic” result of this is that in judgment, God finds us to be impure, unclean, sinful, unrighteous, and unworthy of His presence. We rejected Him; He must reject us. And while this may seem cruel, the reality of the matter is that God is giving the majority of humanity exactly what they want: existence without the peace, love, joy, and righteousness that comes from God.
On the other hand, there are those whom God saves, the so-called elect from all the nations. The individuals in this group, regardless of how hard they fought to remain in ignorance and sin, are dragged to Jesus Christ by a choosy Father.
This group, rather than receiving the just recompense for their deeds, rather than receiving justice, rather than receiving what they want instead receive that which they naturally hate, fear, and run from: Jesus Christ.
It is at this point any idea of “karma” breaks down completely. When I sin, God grants forgiveness. When I doubt, Jesus intercedes on my behalf. What I want that which is contrary to His Law, the Father looks not upon my deeds but upon the perfect holiness of His Son and upon that basis declares me worthy. ((This whole idea of everyone getting what they want except the Christians comes from Mark Driscoll.)) And as if to throw even more mud in the face of karma, while the Scriptures say Christians will receive rewards for their obedience, it is God Himself who brings about the good works.
Ultimately, I must reject the idea of karma on the simple reason that it is a concept foreign to the Scriptures; karma allows the future to be in the hands of man, yet the Scriptures reveal that from ancient times, God has already declared those things which would happen from then until the end and that His will shall be done. ((Isaiah 46:10.))
The effect upon the free will of man that this has can be argued until all involved parties are blue in the face, though for my part I believe that it is God’s will that man does have free will, but that also man is bound to his nature. In other words, man in his natural state is bound to ungodliness and that is all he will ever want to choose. Part & parcel with not getting what we want, the elect are also denied free will. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; we didn’t ask Him to. While we were yet unbelievers, the Father dragged us to Christ and converted us; we didn’t ask Him to, and it’s only after we are converted and receive the gift of faith that we begin to desire Jesus Christ. It is only after our natures are changed that our affections attest of a faith in God.