Cremation or Burial – The Christian Way

From time to time I am asked whether it is ok for someone to be cremated when they die. In our day, the cost of burial is often exorbitant, and many families choose cremation to offset some of the cost of burying.The Bible does not speak about cremation directly.

In the Old Testament several verses address the burning bodies in negative ways (1 Kings 16:18-19, 2 Kings 21:6, 2 Kings 23:16-20, 1 Cor. 13:3), but this is not the same as cremation. The Bible is primarily concerned with the desecration or disrespect of a body, rather than the method of burial.

For example, a foreign army would come in and defeat the enemy and burn all their bodies. This would be an example of disrespecting the dead. A foreign nation, of course, would not care about the dead of their enemies. For Christians, the desecration of a body, even the body of an enemy, is not fitting. Christians historically showed respect even of their enemies.

Fire is often a means of judgment (Jer. 21:12, Ezek. 16:41, Rev. 18:8). The fire of judgment, however, does not apply to the issue of cremation. Christians respect the body and the memory of the dead. This is the principle that matters.

Some object to cremation because burial is the normal method in the Bible to deal with a dead body. It is true, going all the way back to Abraham, that the bodies of loved ones were buried. Furthermore, the burial and resurrection of Jesus from the dead symbolizes death and the new life a person receives upon believing in Jesus (cf. Rom. 6:4). None of this, however, prohibits cremation nor commands burial, though it should be a consideration.

Some object to cremation because of the resurrection, as if cremating a body would make it harder to resurrect. Of course, God will resurrect everyone, and how they were killed or what happened to their bodies is of no consequence to Him.

The primary concern, biblically speaking, is the respect of the body of the dead. I personally don’t think cremation is wrong, but there are many who feel differently about it. Each family can freely decide how to handle the bodies of their loved ones when they pass.

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