Is cremation a valid option for Christians?

Dec 27, 2013

Concerning cremation, the Bible neither explicitly condemns nor affirms it.

On the other hand, burial is the mode that God Himself chose for Moses' body (Deuteronomy 34:6); it was also the mode chosen by the New Testament saints to care for John's body (Matthew 14:12), Jesus' body (Matthew 27:57-60), and the bodies of early Christian martyrs (as the catacombs in Rome attest).

Presumably, the practice of burial was a display of the Christian belief in 1) the resurrection of the body by Jesus in the last day (although Christians believe that cremation certainly does not prevent this, they have generally sought to affirm their belief in the resurrection by their respectful treatment of the body that will one day be resurrected); 2) the fact that man is uniquely created in the image of God and that God further honored humanity by sending his own Son to take on a human body and by sending his Spirit to indwell the bodies of his saints (John 1:14; 1 Corinthians 6:19).

For these reasons, it has been the strong tradition of Christianity through the ages to bury their dead. As one Christian historian observes:

"The first cremation in America took place in 1876, accompanied by readings from Charles Darwin and the Hindu scriptures. For many years, relatively few persons chose cremation. But that has changed dramatically. Only 5 percent of Americans were cremated in 1962; by 2000 it was 25.5 percent. In Japan, where burial is sometimes illegal, the cremation rate is 98 percent. The rise in cremations reflects many factors: concern for land use; the expense of traditional funerals; the loss of community and a sense of "place" in modern transient society; and New Age-type spiritualities" (Timothy George, Cremation Confusion).

No matter what means of final disposition is used for one's body, the most important thing for us to remember, as Christians, is that it truly is not final! We look steadfastly by faith to the marvelous return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, when "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump... the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:52). We are meant to draw great comfort from the promised resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:18). May this comfort be yours.

Resource: Q&A
Categories: Death and Dying, Worldview and Ethics

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