06 (June 2016)

Burial or Cremation for Christians?

Burial or Cremation for Christians?
Stephen Ford Stephen Ford is pastor of Lordshill Baptist Church, Snailbeach, Shropshire.
31 May, 2016 1 min read

Adrian Freer helpfully discusses the question of whether Christians should be buried or cremated. The subject is rarely raised, giving the impression that it is purely a matter of personal preference.

While there are no explicit biblical commands or prohibitions, scriptural testimony does suggest a presumption in favour of burial, with many approving references to the practice. The burning of bodies, on the other hand, is usually referred to in negative terms.

The ‘production line’ character of cremation, resulting from the crematorium timetable, demands hurried funeral services (typically, 20–30 minutes maximum), leaving little opportunity to pause and reflect on the life of the deceased. Mr Freer refers to cremation as an industrial process of incineration, and points out that it seems a distressingly rough way to deal with the mortal remains of a beloved relative or friend.

The question is, of course, does this really matter? For the deceased Christian, he or she is already absent from the body and present with the Lord. Nevertheless, the body is still united to Christ and destined to be raised in glory when he returns. Should it not be treated with considerable respect at its disposal, in the light of its future purpose and hope? Abraham’s careful purchase of a burial plot for Sarah seems to imply as much. In addition, the character of the funeral has potential either to comfort or distress the bereaved.

There are many issues to address, especially in view of the popularity that cremation has gained. The book cites statistics showing that cremation accounts for about 74 per cent of funerals in the UK today.

Mr Freer has sought to address the main questions and, in my opinion, does so graciously yet firmly. He also recommends that Christians leave definite instructions about how their bodies are to be dealt with after death. While the subject may not be the most important issue of our day, it is one that Christians should ponder.

Stephen Ford

Snailbeach, Shropshire

Stephen Ford is pastor of Lordshill Baptist Church, Snailbeach, Shropshire.
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