Revisiting cremation and burial

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post defending cremation on the grounds that it is not prohibited by Scripture. I still do not believe cremation is explicitly prohibited, but having reconsidered the issue I now believe that Christians should definitely bury our dead.

First, what actual harm is there in burying? Is there some sort of principle involved in burning the body of a loved one? If there is no harm done here, and no principle to defend, then there is no good reason for Christians not to choose burial over cremation.

Second, are we truly wiser than our fathers in the faith? Christendom has for two thousand years embraced the burying of our dead as a testimony to the fact that the dead in Christ will be raised. Tradition is not Scripture, but we should respect the wisdom of generations past, especially those who suffered for the faith and have given us to much in building the church and spreading the gospel. Obviously, being cremated will not in any way impact someone’s eternal destiny, but why not use this to testify of the resurrection?

Third, here is my primary error: Why does it have to be about what is “not prohibited” or what we are “allowed” to do? I was selfish in making this argument. Of course the fact that something is not prohibited does not mean it is a good thing to do. We are far too often motivated by what we are allowed to do instead of what we should do, especially when it comes to honoring God. This selfishness is a typically American attitude, not a Christian orientation.

Fourth and finally, by burying our dead we witness that we “plant” the body in hope of the resurrection. This is a means of spreading the Gospel to unbelievers and reassuring those left behind that “the last enemy” will be destroyed. Death’s time is over, because Jesus Christ has already defeated it. Now it is just a matter of waiting on the final victory over this hated enemy. As we honor the Lord in our lives, we should also honor Him in death by testifying to the hope we have in Christ.

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