"Is Cremation Christian"?

The article, "Is Cremation Christian?" is an excellent article that treats why the pagan practice of cremation is not Christian.

Cremation is not legitimate for Christians.
8% (1 vote)
Cremation is legitimate for Christians.
92% (12 votes)
Total votes: 13
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There are 336 Comments

Dave White's picture

"If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life's good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he." Ecclesiastes 6:3

RajeshG's picture

Dave White wrote:

"If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life's good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he." Ecclesiastes 6:3

Yes, that is another passage that adds to the force of biblical teaching about burial as the will of God for His own.

I intend to treat it at a later point in this thread.

RajeshG's picture

When Nadab and Abihu sinned by offering strange fire before God, He devoured them with fire so that they died:

Lev. 10:1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.

2 And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.

3 Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.

A careful reading of the passage reveals an important truth about God's use of fire to judge them:

Lev. 10:4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.

5 So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said.

Because their cousins carried them out in their coats, we know that the fire that God used to kill them neither consumed their clothing nor burned them to powder.

To teach people just how sinful their wickedness was, God could have burned them to powder and thereby seemingly have given everyone a much stronger warning about sinning in that manner.

Given that God has ordained that man will return to dust (Gen. 3:19), God would also have spared His people from the added trouble and expense of burying them.

God, however, did not burn these sinning people to powder. His not doing so should serve as a profound warning to His people not to intentionally use fire singly or in combination with any other means to intentionally turn the bodies of His own people to powder even though it is true that their bodies will ultimately return to dust nonetheless!

Mark_Smith's picture

In 1000 BC burial meant finding a cave or digging a hole and dropping the person in it, then covering it up. Yes, Abram bought the cave for Sarah but he was a sojourner.

In 2022 USA, burial means buying a way overpriced plot dirt in a state and local government approved cemetery. Then paying an embalmer to put toxic chemicals in the body to "preserve" it and prevent ecological contamination. All of this costs serious $, whether you pre-plan or not.

Should "obeying God" cost $20,000?

 

Bert Perry's picture

Yes, it's God doing this, but we need to keep in mind that Deuteronomy 34:6 is not law, but rather narrative, and trying to derive doctrine from narrative is extremely dangerous business.  As a rule, we can infer that something is acceptable (or not) from narrative, but we cannot infer that something is mandatory.  That's really the same thing from the other examples Rajesh gives; yes, it was the Jews' cultural preferance, and that of some Gentiles (as anyone familiar with near eastern history knows well), but it does not prove that burial ought to be mandatory for Christians.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

RajeshG's picture

The assertion that the passages that I have treated are Jewish preference is false. None of the data that I have treated was Jewish cultural preference.

1. Job and Eliphaz were not Jews.
2. God did not promise that Abram would be buried because it was Jewish preference. There were no Jews before Abram, and God was free to do whatever He wanted to do regarding the final disposition of Abram's body.
3. God did not command that those who were hanged had to be buried because it was Jewish preference. It was a divine command given solely by divine prerogative.
4. God did not bury Moses because it was Jewish preference. There were no Jews present and God was not under any obligation to bury him or to even reveal anything about his burial.
5. God did not choose not to burn Nadab and Abihu to powder because He had to follow Jewish preference. God was free to do whatever He chose to do in judging them.

It is utter nonsense to claim that God followed or had to follow Jewish preference in any of His actions in these passages.

Bert Perry's picture

To be sure, God did not need  to do some of these things, but it's worth noting that had God said to do something else with the bodies--Abraham, executed criminals, Moses--that would have been going against known cultural preferences in the region, and would have had a very clear meaning.  So in those cases, He's simply going along with what these people would have chosen to begin with.  In other words, following cultural preferences in areas where they didn't have sufficient wood to light a funeral pyre.

Again, narrative passages tell us what happened, but not always the why.  That's why it's extremely dangerous to try to derive doctrine from narrative passages.  

Come on, Rajesh, you should have learned this at BJU.  You should not be making mistakes like this with your level of training.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

RajeshG's picture

Yeah, right. The nonsense notion that God was bound to heed the cultural preferences of human beings in directing His unique people whom He took out to be a light to the world is utterly ridiculous.

God is absolutely sovereign and was completely free to direct His people according to His mind and did just that. Regardless of what anybody may or may not have preferred, God was not bound by their preferences, and He did not determine His actions so that He merely went along with their cultural preferences.

God did what He did because burying people after death has always been God's mind about what should be done unless He sovereignly chooses to do otherwise. What God did reveals His mind--not His subjecting Himself to human preferences.

Furthermore, the claim that God just went along with human preferences begs the question that God had no mind of His own about what should be done and that it did not and does not matter to Him what is done with a dead body. No one gets to beg that question. Those who want to espouse that view have to prove it from the Bible itself.

Dave White's picture

Rajesh: how would you "score" the doctrine of burial on the "Levels of Doctrine" concentric circle scale?

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/how-do-you-evalua...

The ability to discern the relative importance of theological beliefs is vital for effective Christian life and ministry. Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter. The relative importance of theological issues can fall within four categories:

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
  2. convictions, while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

These categories can be best visualized as concentric circles, similar to those on a dart board, with the absolutes as the “bull’s-eye”:

 

See the article for the concentric circles.

 

RajeshG's picture

Dave White wrote:

Rajesh: how would you "score" the doctrine of burial on the "Levels of Doctrine" concentric circle scale?

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/how-do-you-evalua...

The ability to discern the relative importance of theological beliefs is vital for effective Christian life and ministry. Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter. The relative importance of theological issues can fall within four categories:

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
  2. convictions, while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

These categories can be best visualized as concentric circles, similar to those on a dart board, with the absolutes as the “bull’s-eye”:

 

See the article for the concentric circles.

No thanks, Dave. I'm not interested in that kind of discussion. People will have to decide those things for themselves. My intent is to refute the false notion that cremation is acceptable to God.

Craig Toliver's picture

My intent is to refute the false notion that cremation is acceptable to God.

I am persuaded enough that my own plans (and I hope it is a long time) is burial. My wife's as well.

Should the burial doctine be in a church's statement of faith and / or church covenant?

Thanks

Dave White's picture

Back to the theological triage issue:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/how-do-you-evalua...

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:

  1. biblical clarity;
  2. relevance to the character of God;
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;
  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
  5. effect on other doctrines;
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and
  7. effect on personal and church life.

Here's my scoring on "the doctrine of burial":

  1. biblical clarity; Paul did not condemn cremation and he must have encountered it! Low
  2. relevance to the character of God; Low
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel; Low
  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it); Burial is a pattern in the OT but most of the references are descriptive not prescriptive. Conclusion = Low
  5. effect on other doctrines; Low
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); There is no consensus! Low
  7. effect on personal and church life. Low - not in doctrinal statements / church covenants. No one disciplined for it!

Conclusion: opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over. 3rd order doctrine

RajeshG's picture

Dave White wrote:

Back to the theological triage issue:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/how-do-you-evalua...

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:

  1. biblical clarity;
  2. relevance to the character of God;
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;
  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
  5. effect on other doctrines;
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and
  7. effect on personal and church life.

Here's my scoring on "the doctrine of burial":

  1. biblical clarity; Paul did not condemn cremation and he must have encountered it! Low
  2. relevance to the character of God; Low
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel; Low
  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it); Burial is a pattern in the OT but most of the references are descriptive not prescriptive. Conclusion = Low
  5. effect on other doctrines; Low
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); There is no consensus! Low
  7. effect on personal and church life. Low - not in doctrinal statements / church covenants. No one disciplined for it!

Conclusion: opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over. 3rd order doctrine

At a minimum, I would dispute strongly your scoring on 1, 2, 4, and 6. I am developing my views on #5 and need to study much more the ramifications of Christ's burial being an essential part of the gospel message.

I have not studied enough to comment at this time on #5 and have not thought through all the considerations of #7. Having said that, I have no intention of engaging in further discussion along these lines.

Conclusion: I strongly disagree with your overall assessment. We will have to leave it there.

My intent and desire is to treat the Bible itself and discuss what it reveals in detail. 

Dave White's picture

RajeshG wrote:
Conclusion: I strongly disagree with your overall assessment. We will have to leave it there.

OK you can "leave it there" but I'd invite others to weigh in on my scoring.

 

RajeshG's picture

Dave White wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:
Conclusion: I strongly disagree with your overall assessment. We will have to leave it there.

 

OK you can "leave it there" but I'd invite others to weigh in on my scoring.

I see. So in effect, this will hijack this thread and move it away from an actual discussion of Bible passages themselves.

I will leave the choice up to you. I am not interested in discussing this subject in this manner.

Either I will bow out of this thread and start a new thread in which I will copy all of my comments from this thread and continue that thread as a discussion of Bible passages and you can have this thread or you start a new thread and have the discussion that you want to have on that new thread.

Let me know what you decide.
 

Dave White's picture

RajeshG wrote:
So in effect, this will hijack this thread

Reality check! You don't own this thread!

RajeshG's picture

Dave White wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:
So in effect, this will hijack this thread

Reality check! You don't own this thread!

Yes, I do not "own" this thread. That is why I am prepared to give it over to you and start a new one in which the discussion will be the type of discussion that I would like to have.

Dave White's picture

RajeshG wrote:

 

Dave White wrote:

 

 

RajeshG wrote:
So in effect, this will hijack this thread

Reality check! You don't own this thread!

 

 

Yes, I do not "own" this thread. That is why I am prepared to give it over to you and start a new one in which the discussion will be the type of discussion that I would like to have.

I'll be there!

Bert Perry's picture

I agree with Dave's comment here.  The passages used by Rajesh to justify his position are narrative, description and not prescription, and hence it's (again) extremely dangerous business to try and draw doctrine from these narratives. 

It is especially dangerous business when one considers that in the near east, cremation was often very difficult simply because it takes a lot of fuel to burn a body, wood that they simply didn't have to spare.  The Bible refers to burning the cuttings from grape vines and cooking over manure for this very reason.  Hence the cultural preference for burial was more or less "well, we can bury Dad and have fuel to bake our bread and warm our homes, or we can cremate Dad and go hungry and cold this year."

Really, Rajesh's exegetical method reminds me of the old joke where a man is looking for guidance from God, and decides he'll get it by opening the Bible and reading whatever he saw.  So he opens first to Matthew 27:5, and then, rather sad about that lack of guidance, opens next to the second half of Luke 10:37.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Dave White's picture

I literally have read hundreds of doctrinal statements!

  • Christian colleges & seminaries
  • Churches 
  • Ordination statements
  • Applications for pastoral positions / positions for other Christian organizations

I have NEVER ONCE seen cremation / burial even as a 3rd order issue. 

Telling isn't it!

Bert Perry's picture

It should be conceded that just since the ancients didn't see it as a big issue, that doesn't mean that we might not later find that it is indeed important.  Really, being "novel" is one of the chief fallacious arguments against dispensationalism--new therefore wrong.  

(side note; a big part of what we've got going on here is that cremation was not typical in Europe and the U.S until relatively recently, and that increases the temptation to simply assume that what's been done before is the only right way)

But that conceded, we ought to remember that at the same time, if the rest of history does not mention this as a significant matter, then we ought to at least have the decency to make sure we've got a very good argument for our position.  

It doesn't need to be a simple "Paul wrote this in 1 Corinthians x:yz", but it does need to be a better argument than observing the near eastern patterns and inferring that because the Hebrews and others buried people, that therefore it must be mandatory for God's people for all time. 

A good example is how Francis Schaeffer worked to make evangelicals aware of the horrors of abortion, and another is the Trinity.  It is something that takes a bit more doing than a simple prooftext, and since we're so addicted to prooftexting, we often find that we're out of practice when we need to establish truth in other ways.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

RajeshG's picture

Dave White wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

 

Dave White wrote:

 

 

RajeshG wrote:
So in effect, this will hijack this thread

Reality check! You don't own this thread!

 

 

Yes, I do not "own" this thread. That is why I am prepared to give it over to you and start a new one in which the discussion will be the type of discussion that I would like to have.

 

 

I'll be there!

I am sure you will because suppressing full expression of opposing viewpoints and full discussion of the Bible data itself are very high priorities for various people on SI.

Craig Toliver's picture

RajeshG wrote:
I am sure you will because suppressing full expression of opposing viewpoints and full discussion of the Bible data itself are very high priorities for various people on SI.

Ha ha!

Last time I heard, you are not a moderator or admin. Dave is doing nothing to "suppress full expression"

RajeshG's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:
I am sure you will because suppressing full expression of opposing viewpoints and full discussion of the Bible data itself are very high priorities for various people on SI.

 

 

 

Ha ha!

Last time I heard, you are not a moderator or admin. Dave is doing nothing to "suppress full expression"

Ha ha! I never claimed to be a moderator or admin. My not being in either of those positions does not mean that I cannot express my viewpoint on what I believe is taking place.

Hijacking threads is very effective in preventing those with opposing viewpoints from conducting discussions about subjects from the Bible the way that they want to discuss them.

josh p's picture

That is certainly true of a lot of hyper-fundamentalism but it's not true of the movement at its inception and in its "true" forms. The beauty of fundamentalism to me is that it frees one to have at least some basis of fellowship with any person who believes the gospel. 
 

Edit: not wanting to hijack so if others care to discuss this further I can start a thread. 

Craig Toliver's picture

RajeshG wrote:
Hijacking threads is very effective in preventing those with opposing viewpoints from conducting discussions about subjects from the Bible the way that they want to discuss them.

Here it is: "Try to stay on topic. This is a famously subjective call. Do your best. If you think your comment might be seen as unrelated, include something to help us see the connection."

The thread is "Is Cremation Christian"

My point of view is that it's the best choice, my choice, but a 3rd order doctrine. I'm completely on topic. You don't like it but I'm in the room and I will not be shut down or bullied by you 

 

RajeshG's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:
Hijacking threads is very effective in preventing those with opposing viewpoints from conducting discussions about subjects from the Bible the way that they want to discuss them.

 

 

 

Here it is: "Try to stay on topic. This is a famously subjective call. Do your best. If you think your comment might be seen as unrelated, include something to help us see the connection."

The thread is "Is Cremation Christian"

My point of view is that it's the best choice, my choice, but a 3rd order doctrine. I'm completely on topic. You don't like it but I'm in the room and I will not be shut down or bullied by you 

I have not done anything to try to shut you down or bully you. My original comment to which you responded was not directed toward you. I got an email notification about your original comment that showed that you misread what I wrote as if I was speaking to you or about you. I have a screenshot of that original comment by you that shows that you misread what I wrote and then changed it from "I . . ." to say that "Dave . . . "

My comment was in response to what I believe Dave implied about what he would do if I were to have another thread. You jumped into a comment that was directed toward Dave, misread it, and now are trying to make it look I targeted you.

Craig Toliver's picture

Aside for Rajesh: you're doing a commendable job to:

  • Raise the issue
  • Trace burial narratives and passages (Kudos on God buried Moses. Excellent point and thanks)

Frankly I'm convinced burial is the choice I should make

The weakness of your presentation thus far is making it a 1st or 2nd order doctrine. I'm not even convinced you buy into the concept of doctrinal triage. Perhaps you could comment on that.

Further aside and this is personal: Perhaps face to face you're easier to have a conversation with, but online you seem to take a very unnuanced view of things. Peripheral teachings are very black and white to you. Using words and phrases like "hijack" the thread and "suppress" the conversation are not helpful.

Moderators - feel free to edit this post if it is deemed offensive.

Also you dodge conversation points (many examples in this thread) that you seem to be befuddled to answer. Example from way up this thread - how did Paul deal with the cremation issue.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Rajesh, When you post a topic, you cannot prevent people from commenting. You are free to ignore comments or people that you don't wish to respond to. Do not start another thread on the same topic. Confine it to this thread. 

This thread is not being hijacked. People are expressing disagreement with you and telling why. That's the way a discussion works.

RajeshG's picture

Larry wrote:

Rajesh, When you post a topic, you cannot prevent people from commenting. You are free to ignore comments or people that you don't wish to respond to. Do not start another thread on the same topic. Confine it to this thread. 

This thread is not being hijacked. People are expressing disagreement with you and telling why. That's the way a discussion works.

I disagree with your assessment, but will comply since you are a moderator. I believe that it is being hijacked because I want to discuss Bible passages but they want to discuss 1st order vs 3rd order doctrines, etc.

RajeshG's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

Also you dodge conversation points (many examples in this thread) that you seem to be befuddled to answer. Example from way up this thread - how did Paul deal with the cremation issue.

I am not befuddled to answer "conversation points." I am not going to get into a premature discussion that will divert the thread from a discussion of actual passages. I will respond to your statement about Paul much later after I have treated a lot more Bible to lay the foundation for my answer.

Craig Toliver's picture

RajeshG wrote:
I believe that it is being hijacked because I want to discuss Bible passages but they want to discuss 1st order vs 3rd order doctrines, etc.

Not really true!

This instead: "Is Cremation Christian? Is cremation vs burial vs the half of dozen other ways to dispose of a body (like this (joking) ) a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd order doctrine?!

RajeshG's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:
I believe that it is being hijacked because I want to discuss Bible passages but they want to discuss 1st order vs 3rd order doctrines, etc.

 

Not really true!

This instead: "Is Cremation Christian? Is cremation vs burial vs the half of dozen other ways to dispose of a body (like this (joking) ) a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd order doctrine?!

I am not interested in any discussion of your notions about fundamentalists, 1st, 2nd, 3rd order doctrine, etc. and will not be commenting on such things at any point in this thread.

Craig Toliver's picture

RajeshG wrote:
I am not interested in any discussion of your notions about fundamentalists, 1st, 2nd, 3rd order doctrine, etc. and will not be commenting on such things at any point in this thread.

Fine but perhaps others will find it valuable AND here's why it's important:

  • Because "In 2021, the US cremation rate was 57.5%. In 2020, 56.1%. By 2025, the US cremation rate is projected to reach 64.1%"
    • My sense is that the practice is growing b/c it's the cheaper option AND
    • Because tradition burials are getting so expensive AND
    • Because Christians (as consumers) are strapped financially and have failed to to adequately prepare
  • Because Christians are choosing this option for themselves and for their loved ones: Anecdotes:
    • A friend didn't even have a funeral for a parent ... the parent was cremated and the remains sent 1000 miles away for interment
    • A dear friend (a godly man) died in 2021 and was cremated
    • I've know of cases where cremated remains are stored in the back of closets ...
  • Because elders either have or will soon confront the issue
  • If cremation is a 1st order doctrine, church doctrinal statements should be updated and sinners (if it's a sin) should be confronted
RajeshG's picture

Ultimately, the Bible is God's self-revelation of Himself and His mind. Paying attention to what God Himself has ordained and done concerning burial, etc. is absolutely and fully legitimate and vital to a proper understanding of His mind and what He wants His people to do.

To that end, I have presented 4 passages so far that all explicitly deal with divine actions:

divine promise of burial, divine command for burial, divine burying of a human, and divine choice of not burning two sinful Israelite priests to powder.

 

Craig Toliver's picture

RajeshG wrote:

Ultimately, the Bible is God's self-revelation of Himself and His mind. Paying attention to what God Himself has ordained and done concerning burial, etc. is absolutely and fully legitimate and vital to a proper understanding of His mind and what He wants His people to do.

To that end, I have presented 4 passages so far that all explicitly deal with divine actions:

divine promise of burial, divine command for burial, divine burying of a human, and divine choice of not burning two sinful Israelite priests to powder.

 

"And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp." Numbers 11:1

 

Craig Toliver's picture

"And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” And a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the incense." Numbers 16:34-36

Craig Toliver's picture

"If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you." Lev 20:14

Craig Toliver's picture

"all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there." (1 Samuel 31:12)

RajeshG's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

Ultimately, the Bible is God's self-revelation of Himself and His mind. Paying attention to what God Himself has ordained and done concerning burial, etc. is absolutely and fully legitimate and vital to a proper understanding of His mind and what He wants His people to do.

To that end, I have presented 4 passages so far that all explicitly deal with divine actions:

divine promise of burial, divine command for burial, divine burying of a human, and divine choice of not burning two sinful Israelite priests to powder.

 

 

 

"And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp." Numbers 11:1

The Heb. verb "consumed" here is the same verb as in Lev. 10 where it did not mean burned to powder (Nadab and Abihu were carried out in their coats after they had been burned). As God used fire to kill Nadab and Abihu but not to burn their bodies (to powder; i.e., cremated), so He did likewise here when He judged these people.

RajeshG's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

"And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” And a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the incense." Numbers 16:34-36

Same Hebrew verb is used here as in Lev. 10 and Num. 11 and does not mean burned their bodies (to powder; i.e., cremated).

RajeshG's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

"If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you." Lev 20:14

This same Hebrew verb is used in Lev. 10:6 to speak of what happened to Nadab and Abihu whose bodies were not burned to powder (i.e, cremated). Lev. 20:14 was not a command to cremate these to powder.

RajeshG's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

"all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there." (1 Samuel 31:12)

The men of Jabesh Gilead did not cremate Saul and his sons. They did burn their bodies but their bones were preserved and later buried (1 Sam. 31:13). David did not commend them for burning their bodies. He only commended them for burying them (2 Sam. 2:4-6).

Craig Toliver's picture

Basically my view:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/to-bury-or-burn-c...

Full paper: https://media.thegospelcoalition.org/static-blogs/justin-taylor/files/20... (13 pages)

After reviewing some of the key historical, Biblical, and theological considerations that have been a part of the moral discussion of cremation within the Judeo-Christian tradition, ultimately the practice must be viewed as an adiaphora issue [i.e., something biblically indifferent]. This being said, however, it seems legitimate to draw the following three conclusions.

  1. First, church history witnesses considerable opposition toward cremation with the normative practice of the church being burial.
  2. Second, while Scripture is silent on the specifics of how to treat the deceased, both the example of Biblical characters and the general trajectory of related passages seem to be in a pro-burial direction.
  3. Third, the body is theologically significant; thus, both the act of and the imagery conveyed by the treatment of the deceased ought to be weighed carefully.

Certainly not all deaths will afford loved ones an opportunity to choose the method of interment. Indeed, factors such as the location and manner of death, nation-specific legal parameters, as well as the resources of the surviving family will bear upon funerary practices and decisions. Yet, if given a choice, those left behind ought to consider carefully what is being communicated in their handling of the body of a decedent. After all, within the Christian tradition, funerals are not simply ways of disposing of dead bodies, nor are they solely about remembering the departed or expressing grief. Rather, for believers, funerals ought to be Christ-centered events, testifying to the message and hope of the gospel.

RajeshG's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

Basically my view:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/to-bury-or-burn-c...

Full paper: https://media.thegospelcoalition.org/static-blogs/justin-taylor/files/20... (13 pages)

After reviewing some of the key historical, Biblical, and theological considerations that have been a part of the moral discussion of cremation within the Judeo-Christian tradition, ultimately the practice must be viewed as an adiaphora issue [i.e., something biblically indifferent]. This being said, however, it seems legitimate to draw the following three conclusions.

  1. First, church history witnesses considerable opposition toward cremation with the normative practice of the church being burial.
  2. Second, while Scripture is silent on the specifics of how to treat the deceased, both the example of Biblical characters and the general trajectory of related passages seem to be in a pro-burial direction.
  3. Third, the body is theologically significant; thus, both the act of and the imagery conveyed by the treatment of the deceased ought to be weighed carefully.

Certainly not all deaths will afford loved ones an opportunity to choose the method of interment. Indeed, factors such as the location and manner of death, nation-specific legal parameters, as well as the resources of the surviving family will bear upon funerary practices and decisions. Yet, if given a choice, those left behind ought to consider carefully what is being communicated in their handling of the body of a decedent. After all, within the Christian tradition, funerals are not simply ways of disposing of dead bodies, nor are they solely about remembering the departed or expressing grief. Rather, for believers, funerals ought to be Christ-centered events, testifying to the message and hope of the gospel.

What is so conspicuously absent from all these summary points of this information is the total lack of attention to divine actions and the non-attention to Christ's burial--it is no wonder that they come to faulty conclusions. Point 2 is flat out wrong. God did issue a command to the Jews. That command must be explained and examined for its significance for what it reveals concerning Christ's burial and for what it implies about the mind of God for ordinary situations.

RajeshG's picture

I posted the following elsewhere tonight. It reveals fierce divine judgment on those who burned the bones of a human being to powder and teaches us plainly about God's mind:
 

Amos 2:1-3 is direct divine speech that reveals fierce divine punishment on a pagan nation for burning the bones of a pagan king into lime:

Amos 2:1Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime: 2 But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kirioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet: 3 And I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and will slay all the princes thereof with him, saith the Lord.

God provided this revelation on purpose because He wanted to communicate truth not just about the sinful people involved–most importantly, He wanted to communicate truth about Himself and His mind.

To understand and profit fully from this revelation, we need to ponder the answers to two key questions:

What does this passage teach us about God?

Why does God want us to know this information?

If God judged the pagan Moabites for burning to powder a pagan king, what do the following verses imply about His mindset about those who burn the bodies of believers to powder?

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

Revelation 1:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 5:10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

We are a royal priesthood! We are kings unto our God and Father! We will reign on the earth!

Because God was intensely displeased when pagans burned the bones of a pagan king to powder, how much more intensely displeased is He when anyone burns the body of one of His royal saints to powder!

Our bodies belong to Him. We are not free to do whatever we want to them.

Through this revelation, He has made known that He does not want human bodies burned, etc. to powder (except when He may have specifically authorized it as a form of judgment). Burial--not cremation--is the mind of God for His own!

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