Shall We Bury or Burn?

UrnShould Christians bury their dead or burn them? Does it make any difference? Or is it about as important as the decision to take home your groceries in paper or plastic?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter whether a body decomposes over weeks and months (via burial) or minutes (via cremation). God is more than able to put all the pieces back together at the Resurrection. The jigsaw puzzle He’ll need to reassemble from hither and yon defies the imagination. Whether he retrieves me from a pile of ash or from a worm’s belly (with apologies to the squeamish) makes very little difference to me—or to Him, as I see it. Of course, many disagree. Some see cremation as a moral issue and preach against it as sin. For my part, well, I don’t see it.

MacArthur recently expressed my thoughts on the topic with brevity and clarity. Here’s the gist of his position:

“Obviously any buried body will eventually decompose (Eccles. 12:7). So cremation isn’t a strange or wrong practice — it merely accelerates the natural process of oxidation. The believer will one day receive a new body (1 Cor. 15:42-49; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Job 19:25-26), thus the state of what remains of the old body is unimportant.”

Give his whole article a quick read. After you do, feel free to chime in here.

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11 Responses

  1. It’s a matter of preference not doctrinal clarity.

    (My preference is burial)

  2. Chris,

    I gather from this that you prefer burial as opposed to cremation; however, your tension is with condemning cremation as a sin. Is this correct?

    Have you read Dr. Rod Decker’s lecture for the 2006 Rice lecture series at DBTS: ““Is It Better to Bury or to Burn? A Biblical Perspective on Cremation and Christianity in Western Culture” (http://www.dbts.edu/pdf/rls/Decker-Cremation.pdf)?

  3. FYI, here’s a paper on this subject:

    http://www.dbts.edu/pdf/rls/Decker-Cremation.pdf

  4. For a much more thorough biblical analysis, I would recommend the lectures given by Dr. Rodney Decker at DBTS on this topic. Perhaps you have already considered them, but if not, you can find them here – http://www.dbts.edu/pdf/rls/Decker-Cremation.pdf

  5. “Or is it about as important as the decision to take home your groceries in paper or plastic?”

    Well now, I guess it’s all in the material makeup of the casket or urn, I suppose. “Paper or plastic?” That’s choice, Chris.

  6. I knew that Dr. Decker had addressed the issue at DBTS a while back. I will give his paper a read. Thanks for the link—all three of you.

  7. I’m with you, fwiw.

  8. I really don’t have an ax to grind on this issue, but I didn’t find most of Dr. Decker’s reasoning to be particularly compelling. I will probably offer an informal review of his article when I have some spare time.

  9. Thanks for the link, Greg. Interesting.

  10. Both a matter of preference and conviction. Ultimately, it matters not as everyone’s body will return to the elements in some method.

    My personal preference is cremation.

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