Saturday, 2 February 2013

Cremation v Burial - which is more biblical?

As an Anglican clergyman, I do a fair amount of funerals (about 1/month) and every so often the thought crosses my mind - between a cremation and burial which is more biblical? Here is a brief answer to where my mind currently stands. Given how the heroes of the Faith were treated at death, we Christians ought to lean towards preferring burials over cremations. A few examples of those who were buried at death are: Rachel (Gen. 35:19-20), Joseph (Gen. 50:25Exod. 13:19Josh. 24:32), Aaron (Deut. 10:6), Moses (Deut. 34:5-8), Joshua (Josh. 24:30), Samuel (1 Sam. 25:1), David (1 Kgs. 2:10), John the Baptist (Matt. 14:12), Lazarus (John 11:17-18), Stephen (Acts 8:2), and, of course, Jesus Christ (John 19:38-42). In fact we can assume that the list of OT saints buried is much longer than the above, given how the Apostle John introduces Jesus' burial as being done in accordance with Jewish burial customs (John 19:40) i.e. it was the custom of the Jews to bury their dead. The point is this, even though Scripture nowhere gives an explicit command as to how we are treat our bodies post-death, it however gives us numerous examples of how the godly took special care to ensure their bodies were buried. This I think is partly because of the high dignity with which Scripture views the human body, coupled with the firm hope that the OT and NT believers have in the resurrection from the dead. In other words, going for a burial is a statement about the immense value of the deceased's body as well as an expression of the Christian hope that those in-Christ will be raised imperishable one day. Burials therefore are a way for the 'sleeping' Christian to proclaim God's powerful gospel, even when they are 6 feet down under!

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