Here is #8 of 31 Questions in 31 Days! To learn more about this 31 Day series, just search "31 Questions" in the search bar above or click here!
Q #8: What does the Bible say about cremation?
This question asks something I am sometimes asked by families who are planning the memorial of their relatives.
In the ancient world, Romans and Greeks burned the body, as they did not have a concept of resurrection. Early Christians buried their dead and called the places where the dead were laid coemeteria
, meaning "sleeping places". That's where we get our term "cemetery" in fact.
Christians insisted on burying their dead because of four reasons: 1) They believed the body to bear the image of God; 2) Jesus was buried in and risen from a tomb; 3) The incarnation hallowed human existence; and 4) Christians believe that we await physical resurrection from the dead, so leaving in tact the body was a way of expressing faith in that hope.
Somewhere along the way, Christians gradually lost these convictions, as they related to cremation and burial. Today, in America, 25% of people are cremated, compared with 5% in 1962. The Roman Catholic Church said cremation was acceptable in 1963. Protestants believe that cremation is not a deterrent to God calling forth the dead. In fact, there is nothing in the Bible explicitly condemning cremation.
The more important thing here is probably honoring the dead and not making a spectacle or a mockery of their death. Putting a tuxedo on a dead person is probably an ill-fitting idea, along with the idea of making a designer vase out of the ashes of a cremated person for display (as is possible).
Christians believe in the last things said at a funeral and our rites and rituals should reflect it: "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust with sure and certain hope in the resurrection of the dead through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Check out more posts from the 31 Questions series on subjects as varied as marijuana, infidelity, 666, the eternal destiny of children who die, dealing with discouragement, and even more about speaking in tongues!
Labels: 31 questions, Bible, cremation, death, early Christianity, Q Sunday, Question and Answer, rites of passage, rituals