Monday, June 16, 2008

Should Christians be cremated?

After the Saturday morning session of the Resolved conference, several of us went out for lunch and got into a conversation about cremation. I guess it's kind of a morbid dinner table topic, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Up until recently, I had pretty much decided cremation was fine for the believer. After all, cremation simply hastens the natural process of decompotion and returning to dust (Gen. 3:19). But a recent article by Russell Moore has me rethinking the issue a bit further. Here's an excerpt:

Of course God can resurrect a cremated Christian. He can also resurrect a Christian burned at the stake, or a Christian torn to pieces by lions in a Roman coliseum, or a Christian digested by a great white shark off the coast of Florida.

But are funerals simply the way in which we dispose of remains? If so, graveyards are unnecessary, too. Why not simply toss the corpses of our loved ones into the local waste landfill?

For Christians, burial is not the disposal of a thing. It is caring for a person. In burial, we’re reminded that the body is not a shell, a husk tossed aside by the “real” person, the soul within. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6–8; Phil. 1:23), but the body that remains still belongs to someone, someone we love, someone who will reclaim it one day.

His conclusion:
[Recognizing that cremation is sub-Christian] simply means beginning a conversation about what it means to grieve as Christians and what it means to hope as Christians. It means reminding Christians that the dead in the graveyards behind our churches are “us” too. It means hoping that our Christian burial plots preach the same gospel that our Christian pulpits do.
At this point, I would say cremation is not inherently sinful, but neither is it preferable. I would recommend a traditional Christian burial if it does not put an undue financial strain on the family.

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