Monday, May 30, 2016

Should Christians Cremate Or Bury Their Dead?

            “Christians should prefer burial rather than cremation based on what the Bible says about the human body in relation to God and resurrection,” said Pastor John Piper on April 26, 2016 in his modest appeal to Christians.1 It’s a preference, not a mandate, added Pastor Piper.

            Founder of Prison Fellowship, the late Chuck Colson, and the American author and radio host, Eric Metaxas, deemed cremation as a pagan practice.2 So if cremation is a pagan practice, are Christians mandated to bury their dead?

            But you may argue that the cremation of the bodies of King Saul and his sons challenges the notion that cremation was a pagan practice, “When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their valiant men marched through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.” (1 Samuel 31: 11-13, NIV, Emphasis Mine) If cremation was a pagan practice, the bodies of King Saul and his sons would not have been cremated, is it not?

            Would cremating dead Christians render them ineligible for the final resurrection?

            No well-meaning Christian would argue that cremation renders Christians ineligible for final resurrection. Why?

            What about the Christians who died thousand years ago? Their bodies would have disintegrated into dust by now, is it not?

            What about Christian martyrs burnt to death? What about Christians who are burnt to death in fire accident? Would not their bodies be burnt to ashes?

            Cremation is merely a faster process of disintegrating a body. If the Lord would return after another 2000 years, would not the bodies of those buried now be disintegrated then as well? If the total disintegration of bodies would prevent the final resurrection, then only those who have died closer to the Lord’s return would be eligible for the final resurrection. Moreover, if total disintegration of bodies would prevent the final resurrection, then the implication is that God cannot raise a totally disintegrated body. This limitation ascribed to God is incorrect for it is a severe slur on HIS omnipotence.  

            The Bible does not speak against cremation. The Bible teaches that God will resurrect a [cremated] unbeliever (a good number of unbelievers are cremated). Hence, it is not impossible for God to resurrect a cremated believer, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5: 28-29, NIV). So to argue that cremation renders a believer ineligible for final resurrection is to argue in vain. 

            Having said this, the more favored Christian practice is to bury their dead. Why?

            The early Christian gravesites in the catacombs were called “coemeteria” (cemeteries), which literally means “sleeping places.” They were termed sleeping places because of the belief in the future final resurrection.

            Four reasons are attributed to favoring the burial of the dead, “(1) The body of every human was created by God, bore his image, and deserved to be treated with respect because of this. (2) The centrality of the Incarnation. When the Word became flesh, God uniquely hallowed human life and bodily existence forever. (3) The Holy Spirit indwelt the bodies of believers, making them vessels of honor. (4) As Jesus himself was buried and raised bodily from the dead, so Christians believed that their burial was a witness to the resurrection yet to come.”3

            Pastor Piper states the dreadfulness of fire as a disincentive to cremation, “The use of fire to consume the human body on earth was seen as a sign of contempt. It was not a glorious treatment of the body but a contemptuous one. This is the meaning of Achan’s cremation. He had betrayed Israel and so was not only stoned with his family, but deprived of an ordinary burial by being burned… To be sure, fire is a great gift from God. It warms, and brightens, and guides, and cooks, and refines. But in relation to the human body, it is a dreadful thing. It wounds and tortures and kills and destroys.”4

            Consider this theme from the perspective of salvation. Burial or cremation is immaterial to man’s salvation. Salvation is only through belief in Christ. Belief or unbelief in Christ is realized during life and not after death.

            The biblical pattern is to bury the dead; ergo, if we can, we bury our dead. But if we cannot bury our dead for any circumstantial reason whatsoever, and if cremation is the only possibility, then let us cremate our dead without guilt or shame.

            God will resurrect the dead, whether they were buried or cremated. Those who believe and remain in Christ in their lifetime will be with HIM forever and ever. This is the unshakeable hope we have in Christ.

            Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ. who will transform our frail bodies that they may be conformed to his glorious body, who died, was buried, and rose again for us. To him be glory for ever. Amen.

Endnotes:

1 http://www.christianpost.com/news/john-piper-why-christians-should-bury-not-cremate-their-dead-162709/#b7dMQiIjhlz4G7YH.99

2http://www.christianpost.com/news/why-cremation-is-pagan-burial-is-christian-161240/

3 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/may21/27.66.html


4 http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/should-christians-cremate-their-loved-ones

1 comment:

Anup Salve said...

You are right sir....Sometimes people just make a hype of things