“There is no karma to Christianity.”
I have received criticism from other Christians for making that statement before. My accuser’s reply was, “What about God and how he makes you reap what you sow? Isn’t that in the Bible? It’s all the same thing.”
But, the Buddhist definition of karma is far different from the biblical Christian’s understanding of causality and consequence and even of life’s source, progression and “end.” Buddhism tries to explain inequality or the “unevenness” experienced in life and circumstance as not accidental but rather the result of karma. “In this world nothing happens to a person that he does not for some reason or other deserve.” What is more, Buddhists believe that both one’s past life and his present intentional actions make up his karma and the results (vipaka). According to the Buda, “All living beings have actions (Karma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states.” So, to a Buddhist, the explanation for one’s poverty, intelligence level, suffering, etc. in this life has to do with what he did in “a previous life as well as what he has done in this life.”
What is Christianity’s response to this? Firstly, biblical Christianity views life linearly. That is, we do not believe in a reincarnation (cyclical life), because the Bible teaches us that everyone is born, lives, and then dies physically to go on to the Judgement (Heb. 9:27). This is like a line, not a circle. Only God is without beginning and ending. So, the Bible eliminates the inheritance of “evil” from a past life and the furtherance of evil to a future life. Rather than each one being accountable to himself or the Universe until he attains the highest state; the Bible teaches that one is accountable to God, the Creator and Judge of all, who has given him said singular span of life as a gift.
Secondly, biblical Christianity affirms there is such a concept as cause and effect, action and consequence. This is not only drawn from the Bible, but it is naturally observable. However, as is mentioned in other posts, like If God is so ___, then Why ___? and The Meaning / Purpose of Life, Christians understand that the God of the Bible is not vindictive or arbitrary.
The things which one suffers in this lifetime have several explanations. Ultimately, all evil is the result of mankind’s federal choice to operate in a nature apart from God’s Person, and so, apart from true Life. As consequence of mankind’s original choice, all creation along with the inner nature of mankind is now corrupted and/or subject to decay and disease and disaster and all deterioration. It is also true that the present choices of mankind and individuals can either help to slow or minimize this universal hardship. For examples, please think on good and sustainable farming practices, proper diets, rest, generosity to others, disaster relief, charity, and education. Also note that one can receive good from good; but, he can receive bad from good just the same, and this (again) is not God’s vindictiveness or his being arbitrary (Job 1) but may be (for the believer only) the result of what Christians term redemptive suffering, which in most cases is due to spiritual warfare (Eph. 6). Another Christian explanation for suffering states that one can expect negative consequences in relationships or in regards to governments for deviant actions. This is not the same as karma. Said consequences may be personally received or may unfairly/indirectly fall upon another and are the pure effect of human responses to the offenses made against innate ideals of morality and justice [instilled by God, Rom. 1 & 2]. The principle of sowing and reaping, especially concerning institutional punishment, applies in this sense. If one lives recklessly, of course there will be raw consequences whether falling to one’s self or to others in his life. Yet, on the grander scheme, there is an end to all things due to the results of the Fall of Mankind (Gen. 1-3).
The good news of Christianity is that the Lord Jesus Christ has made provision for the redemption and renewal of all things, especially the souls of men. One’s personal birth defects are not due to God’s judging one’s sins or his predecessor’s sins, but rather such things are the result of sin’s presence in the world in general (Rom 5:12). Again, other hardships are the result (indirectly or directly) of others’ choices or ours, which freedom of choice is the result of one exercising Free Will–another irrevocable gift of God. God has allowed such hardship to remind us that it is not us who have made ourselves, as if we can live life free of Him. He wants to rescue us inwardly and outwardly, and he has left hardships in place so that God’s glory can be revealed through God’s either presently healing that individual outwardly or through the redemption of the soul inwardly, or both… which ultimately also means the believer will have a new and glorious body one day (1 Cor. 15) in a time when all things are made new (Rev. 22).
Lastly, biblical Christianity’s response to karma is: we know grace! Grace means God sees everyone the same. No one has to get what he deserves, and because of Christ, God gives no one what he really deserves in this life (this side of death, 2 Pet. 3:9). God wishes to show all people everywhere his favor. Christ has taken all condemnation and suffering upon himself. Grace means God sees everyone as equal in his sight, no matter “cast” one is born into and no matter one’s intelligence or any other “lot in life.” All are in need of God’s mercy, and all may receive God’s grace for reconciliation to God and for a renewal of their spirit through exercising faith in Jesus Christ alone.