Now THAT’s a Good Question!!!!

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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.’ 

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 11:11; and 1 Corinthians 15:51.

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. 

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13 and 2 Corinthians 6:10.

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.

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

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?

Recap:

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.]

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3 thoughts on “Now THAT’s a Good Question!!!!

  1. janis says:

    The choir’s song yesterday opened our hearts to receive God’s message through your voice…and God gave the increase. Praying continually for you, choir committee as you/we continue following the lead of the Holy Spirit as He leads us to live for Him in El Do n wherever else. Proverbs 29:2. janis

  2. Ilene Harral says:

    Matt, you are brave about touchy subjects, and I appreciate that. This is a hot one today, pun intended. When you speak out loud the things we often whisper or just have private thoughts about, I always admire you for it and usually carry it around to ponder for a long time. In a country that tries too hard to be p.c., you are a breath of fresh air. Mother has made it clear that she does not want to be cremated and has already arranged and paid for her own casket and funeral (not that she is afraid I’ll go against her wishes but just because it’s the practical thing
    to do and she never wants to be any trouble for anyone). You wake up our lazy minds and encourage us to make decisions about things we often don’t want to face. Ignoring things doesn’t make them go away. There are no easy answers to some of the burning questions you propose, another intended pun.

  3. Becky and Johnny says:

    Dear Brother Matt,
    Thank you for writing your thoughts on this subject! It is a decision that our family has addressed, as recently as two years ago when my mother (Becky’s) died at age 91, after spending the last seven years of her life in nursing homes in New Mexico and then here in El Dorado. She had dealt with the death of her husband and his request to have his body cremated and ashes sprinkled on the hillside in Texas where he had spent two of the “happiest years of his life”! She was a very practical and frugal woman during her life, and died here in El Dorado. We had a special “Gathering” to honor her at one of the small visitation rooms in Young’s and then Johnny and I carried her ashes to Hobbs, NM and had her ashes buried next to her husband of 34 years. We sprinkled dried flower petals on her grave there, as that cemetary did not allow flower arrangements left at the grave. She would have been pleased with the way we closed the chapter of Alice Hudson Moon’s time here on this Earth!
    (My very Baptist neighbor was horrified, as she said now Alice won’t have a body to go to Heaven when Christ returns!) We would like to know what happens to people who died in fires etc.!
    My Aunt Lela, Mom’s eldest sister, died last Saturday, April 20th, and was buried in a more traditonal way. She had not told us how she wanted it, so we tried to do what was most comforting to her care-givers and friends there in the old town of Batesville, Arkansas. Aunt Lela lived to be 100 year plus three months; she left quite a legacy of love!
    Becky and Johnny

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