Sunday, January 14, 2007

Christian Incineration?

It's not often that you come across the question of cremation and its appropriateness for the Christian. Thanks to a recent broadcast of the Albert Mohler Program hosted by Dr. Moore, a caller posed a question about cremation during an "Ask Anything Wednesday" program (click here to find more information about that broadcast as well as download options). Thankfully, because of this question, Dr. Moore decided to post a link on The Henry Institute website to an article entitled "Grave Signs," written for Touchstone Magazine.

I can still remember hearing a defense of cremation during a rehearsal of the Shorter College chorale. Our director said that he wanted to have his body cremated so that money can be saved and the rest of his monetary wealth given to the poor. The body is not the real "person," so to speak, so why waste the money on a burial? It made sense to me, and I remember telling my parents and others that I would like to be cremated when I die.

Shortly thereafter, I learned and thought more about the significance of such an event for the believer. Ultimately, through my reading, I came to the conclusion that Dr. Moore came to in his article, and his article has simply fortified my understanding of Christian burial.

Dr. Moore makes several strong points. He points to the reality that "the body is not a shell, a husk tossed aside by the 'real' person, the soul within. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, but the body that remains still belongs to someone, someone we love, someone who will reclaim it one day." The body must be treated with respect. To present a body to the ground implies the safekeeping of rest and a deposit that will be redeemed at the resurrection of the saints.

Another strong point of the article is Dr. Moore's reminder to us of the imagery of sleep in the Bible. Sleep is a common metaphor for death. Truly, death is not the end for the believer. The satin pillows we see in caskets accompanied by sighs of "he looks so peaceful" are not the trite pleasantries of an awkward sadness. They point to the Christian's rest. Cremation points to finality and futility.

The act of burial is an important one, and I would commend it as the option that Christians should consider. Cremation is by no means sinful, for God can and will resurrect many ashes of believers throughout the ages. However, Dr. Moore reminds us that a Christian burial says a lot, probably more than many Christians and unbelievers usually consider when deciding upon their last wishes:

"Christians at a burial site remind themselves and the watching world, by committing a seemingly 'sleeping' body to the ground, that one day this same northern Galilean accent will ring from the Eastern skies--and 'they that hear shall live' (John 5:25)."

I cannot help but think of my own grandfather, James Ralph Wells, resting in the ground in Chatsworth, GA, waiting to be awakened by the same voice that once called Lazarus forth. My grandmother no longer utters, "Shhh! Don't wake up your grandpa." That's the task of the Lord of Lords now, and that Galilean accent will awaken Papaw most gloriously!

1 comment:

-mike- said...

it's actually not as uncommon as you might think... it's a topic of frequent discussion for the roman catholic faithful, at least in my area.