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Is it wrong to opt for cremation?

Weekly Q&A

Is it wrong to opt for cremation?
Posted on March 9, 2021  - By Dr. Scott Shiffer

These days, cremation is a very popular choice for people, especially considering that there is a dire shortage of burial plots/lands in many places today.

My question is: would it be wrong, according to the Bible, to opt for cremation in such a case? My parents feel very strongly against the practice, quoting Bible verses about the resurrection of the body. But the body turns to dust anyway. So, does it really matter?

This is a very interesting question, because it gets to the heart of the Christian hope for the resurrection. 

One of the first Christian writers to tackle this issue was Athenagoras. He believed that God was so great that all he needed to recreate the body was a single bone. However, there have been instances in history where not even a single bone was left after major catastrophes, natural disasters, and even the gradual decomposition of matter over time in a grave. 

I would propose that God does not need any part of you to recreate your body, because He is the Lord of all creation. While it is true that Jesus’ resurrected body was somehow connected to the one placed in the tomb, it had been made completely new.

In 1 Corinthians 15:23, Paul states that Jesus is a first fruit of what is to become of all the saints. This carries with it the hope that just as Christ received a new body, so too will all believers receive new bodies at the time of the resurrection. 

Ecclesiastes 3:20 reminds us that while humanity was made from the earth, our bodies will return to the earth when we die. Whether our physical body remains intact or whether there is none of it left, God will re-fashion it anew for us when the Lord returns.

Traditionally, Christians have opted to bury the body in a tomb. This is not always possible and in no way thwarts God’s plans

A matter of choice

There is no biblical reason to condemn the practice of cremation, neither is there a biblical mandate to follow it or any other specific practice. I think it is a matter of personal choice and community norms. Traditionally, Christians have opted to bury the body in a tomb. This is not always possible and in no way thwarts God’s plans. 

That being said, the Bible also calls us to honour our parents. I would not recommend that you or anyone else do something that would dishonor them as long as their request is not in contradiction with the moral laws of God. If your parents are against cremation, I would not recommend disregarding their wishes. If you wish to be cremated, it would likely only be proper if you outlive them, so that they are not forced to do something with your remains that go against their beliefs.

In summary, cremation and natural burial are both acceptable and neither would prevent the Lord from resurrecting someone, but we should also seek to respect our parents in the decisions we make — even with regards to our own mortality.

Dr. Scott Shiffer

About Dr. Scott Shiffer

Dr. Scott Shiffer has a Ph.D. in Christian Theology from the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute and has been teaching religion classes since 2006. He leads Faith and Culture Now, an organization to help believers think biblically about culture in America. Scott has given numerous presentations, including one at Oxford. He has spoken at church retreats, youth retreats, conferences, and has taught discipleship classes for many years. Scott is married and has four children. He has a heart for helping believers draw closer to God and for aiding them as they are faced with new challenges every day.



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