In April I flew to Iowa to meet my family and bury my great Aunt. She was an amazing woman who grew up on a farm during the depression, won a state basketball championship in high school, and was one of the most honest, spirited persons I have ever known. She loved the Lord, served her church faithfully, and upon her death was cremated. Since then several people in my family have talked of being cremated when they die. This includes my mother-in-law who asked me about this very subject last night. I have given it some thought but wanted to see where others stood on the issue. John Piper gives several reasons why he does not counsel people to be cremated:
1. Burning people was associated with pagan religions in Scripture. “The biblical pattern is that burning your children is pagan and burying your loved ones is a sign that you believe in the resurrection.”
2. Scripture speaks of believers who die as though they are asleep. This is most symbolically represented by the placing of a body in a casket and then burial in the ground. You want to symbolically put it to rest, not destroy it.
3. The bible has such a high view of the body. It is God’s creation. God will redeem it upon his return. It is the temple of God while the believer lives on earth. All of these truths should lead every believer to treat the body with respect, and Piper does not feel that cremation necessarily does this.
4. Although the financial cost may be cheaper, the emotional cost on family members who don’t want to see this happen to a loved one may outweigh the material cost.
He makes good points here, but there are arguments on the others side as well.
1. The Bible never explicitly states that cremation of a deceased loved one is a sin. When Piper says that “burning your children is pagan,” he is referring to child sacrifice in the OT which was murder and an abomination. Those who speak of cremation are dealing with a person who is already gone, although a funeral is a religious ceremony as well.
2.If our desire was really to follow biblical patterns for burial, we should be placing bodies in catacombs wrapped in linen and spices.
3. In a hundred years it will be as though the body had been cremated when it returns to the dust of the ground. Furthermore, many people have died in various ways that have affected the body and this will not hinder God in creating a new-redeemed body for the believer.
So my question is whether or not this issue is more a matter of preference, or if there is clear biblical teaching and principles that should be followed?