Last week I was asked a question that I am guessing many Christians wonder about.
Ready? Here goes. . .
Is it wrong for a Christian to be cremated?
Now THAT is a good question!!!!
Opinions on this subject are rampant. . . and S-T-R-O-N-G!!!
I’ve known stout followers of Jesus who have had their loved ones cremated and desire the same for their own body.
I’ve known stout followers of Jesus who have adamantly opposed having themselves or their loved ones cremated.
My own family has even found itself hotly debating this topic. On a former blog, I wrote about it here. Nothing says ‘Christmas with Family’ like cremation at the breakfast table:
“Can you pass the bacon? It looks extra crispy.”
“Speaking of crispy, what do you think about your father and me being burned to smitherines when we die?”
“Never mind – don’t pass the bacon – not hungry.”
Want to get your mom off your back at the next family gathering? Bring up cremation in front of the whole family.
Christians debate it. Non-Christians debate it. Republicans and Democrats debate it like Obamacare. Auburn and Alabama fans debate it like National Championships (Ask an Auburn fan how many National Championships Alabama has. . . then ask an Alabama fan. . . then put them in a room together and ask both of ’em. . . whoah.)
Think about it: it is very difficult not to defend something when your great-great-great-grandmother is now resting in a vase above the fire place next to Aunt Flossie and Uncle Ding-Ding. Bless her heart. At the same time, it is difficult to think about a current loved one (or yourself!) being burned, reduced to ashes.
So, “Is it wrong for a Christian to be cremated?”
The reason – I think – this is such a good question and such a debated topic is simply because the Bible does not give any clear commands one way or another on the issue.
There is no, “Thou shalt not burn and be put in an urn.”
There is no, “Be buried in a very expensive box in a plot you won after fighting over it with a fellow church member.” [Yes, it happens. Go visit a small church sometime that has a graveyard right beside where they eat ‘dinner on the grounds.’ You’ll see.]
So every time you and I talk about something that has no clear directive in Scripture – we need to really be careful in how we express opinions and convictions. To put it another way: It is never wise to make a ‘live or die’ issue (pun intended) out of something where Scripture is silent.
Based on this, I am going to say ‘NO’ it is not wrong for a Christian to be cremated. But I do want to very QUICKLY follow that up to say that it IS wrong for a Christian not to AT LEAST think through some biblical pointers on the issue. Though the Bible gives no clear directives, it does offer some pointers that get us thinking why body burial has been historically a Christian practice.
Let me offer you 4 biblical pointers to guide you in your thinking on the subject:
1. ‘Dead’ Christians are really ‘sleeping.’
A ‘dead’ follower of Jesus is, in a sense, just taking a nap. They’ll wake up when called for.
2. Christians deal with death differently.
Jesus people don’t do death like the world does. We are weird. . . and for good reason.
3. A believer’s ‘dead’ body will be reunited and made new.
Can Jesus raise ashes to life and make them back into a body? Yes. He can, and I believe will for many. But notice that, for Paul and the early church, bodily resurrection from the ground was expected.
4. Much like baptism, a Christian’s body burial is symbolic and hope-filled.
Read Romans 6:1-4.
Jesus was buried and placed in a tomb, bodily. God raised Him from the dead, bodily. He was the first fruits of all who would come after Him. Why do we baptize by immersion? To picture this. Why have Christians historically been buried bodily? To picture the Gospel. Russell Moore suggests “that our Christian burial plots preach the same gospel that our Christian pulpits d0.”
Is it wrong for a Christian to be cremated?
1. There is no direct biblical command one way or another on the issue.
2. NO – I do not believe it is wrong/sinful for a Christian to be cremated.
3. At the very least – HOWEVER – Christians need to be biblically informed and seriously think through some of the pointers.
In thinking about the issue, it would be wise to ask yourself:
(a.) Why do I want want to be cremated?
(b.) How does that line up with biblical pointers on burial?
What do you think? What would you add here? What would you remove?
Got any bacon?
[FOR FURTHER READING:Russell Moore has written helpful articles on this subject here, here, and here. There is no way I can even BEGIN to improve on his work. It would serve you well to read all three. However, if you are short on time, read this one first.]