Q&A: Cremation

Cremation

Question

Should christians be cremated or buried when they die? Is it wrong to cremate?

Answer

Both cremation and burial are acceptable according to biblical example -- though there are certainly more recorded instances of burial (Gen. 35:8,19,29; et al.) than of cremation (1 Sam. 31:12).

Generally this question arises in reference to the resurrection of believers on the last day, or in reference to the dignity of the body.

Some believe that Christians ought not be cremated because then God will not be able to resurrect them. The Bible, however, says nothing like this, and provides absolutely no foundation for speculation in this direction. On the contrary, it provides the example of Saul as a respectable cremation. Further, Paul's statement that giving his body to be burned would profit him nothing if he did not have love (1 Cor. 13:3) indicates that giving one's body to be burned is a good thing to do in certain circumstances. It indicates that this is something for which one should expect to be rewarded (this was also the view of the early Christians, many of whom were executed for their faith by being burned).

The question of the dignity of the body is rather more interesting. It is true that we are body and soul beings, and that our bodies are important parts of us. Moreover, it is good to treat the remains of deceased believers with dignity (Gen. 50:24-26; Exod. 13:19; 2 Kings 23:17-18). Still, Saul's cremation seems to have been motivated by respect for him, and to have been an honorable way of treating his remains (1 Sam. 31:11-13).

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.