Saturday, January 05, 2008

To Bury or Burn . . . The Cremation Question

Sometimes I answer questions for our church on Sunday morning, but there are some questions that just demand too much of a response for a quick answer. The question of cremation for the Christian is one of those questions.

Recently someone at Creekside Church asked, " Is cremation an acceptable practice for the Christian, since it is rooted in pagan culture?"

I have to tell you, as I researched this, I got turned around on this one. For decades as a pastor, I have conducted funerals, and many were cremations. In fact, I have conducted two cremated burials at sea aboard my boat. My attitude has always been that cremation was as acceptable as burial for the Christian. I no longer hold to that position.

This is not to say that I will live or die on this question. Burial or cremation is not the kind of theological issue that my salvation hangs on, and I will certainly conduct funerals and memorials for those who have been cremated.

What I am saying is that when someone asks me honestly what I believe about cremation, I no longer believe they are equal in impact or choice. I now honestly hold to the pattern of burial for the Christian as the best way.

My simple answer used to be, "Don't worry about it. Either one is fine because you will get a new body anyway. What about all those people whose bodies were lost in a fire or at sea? God will make sure that get a new resurrected body anyway." While these statements are true, this response was trite and simplistic and certain did not give the subject the thought it was due.

Now maybe you are reading this and someone you love was cremated and you are wondering if you made a mistake. As I said before, this issue is important, but not critcal to our salvation, and as far as making mistakes goes, we all do. That's why Jesus came in the first place.

Cremation has become much more popular among Christians since 1970, and does have it's roots in pagan culture, but it goes deeper than that. As I researched this subject, I came across an article that I found extremely helpful by a trusted author. I encourage you to read it by going to our website at and it will be listed for you on the homepage. Look for, " To Bury or Burn: The Cremation Question".

One final thought . . . I do not intend to become a crusader of Christian burial over cremation, it is just that I no longer hold them as two equal options, and after an honest read, I don't think you will either. Nevertheless, if you take a look at the material and still believe that cremation is just as acceptable as burial, I'll still conduct your funeral. Let's just postpone it as long as possible, OK? We all have a lot of work yet to do.


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