I always struggle in a weekly thought like this one where I want to introduce a topic that I will be preaching on, and yet not give all the information that will be in the sermon. How do I share some helpful thoughts and yet encourage you to come Sunday evening to hear God’s message to you on the topic of cremation? I guess I simply try and do that.
This Sunday evening we will be looking at the topic of why Christians reject cremation and prefer burial. As we have been studying what happens after death and the resurrection to come this is a topic that should be of interest to believers in Christ who hope in a bodily resurrection. Does the Bible say anything about this? What about Church history? Those are things we will attempt to look at Sunday night.
I do want to suggest to you a couple of resources that I have found helpful on the topic of cremation. The first is a booklet entitled, Cremation, Is It Christian?By James W. Fraser.
A second resource is the book How Christianity Changed the Worldby Alvin J. Schmidt. Schmidt writes, “To the early Christians the sanctity of life and the human body did not come to an end when a person died. Believing Christ’s promise that he would raise them and all the dead on Judgment Day, they buried their deceased rather than cremate them as the Romans commonly did. The Christians strongly opposed cremation.”
Third, I found a sermon several months back by David Landow. David is the Associate Pastor at the OPC Church in Wilmington, DE. The message is titled: Cremation vs Burial. I enjoyed how Pastor Landow stressed that if we know of others who have been cremated in the past or if for some reason a person cannot be buried, cremation is not a sin. But there are many good reasons why we should prefer and seek a Christian burial by burying a body rather than to burn it.
Finally, it is telling to me to read about the history of cremation from the Cremation Association of North America. An organization that promotes cremation recognizes that Christianity, historically has been against the practice.
“By the time of the Roman Empire — 27 B.C. to 395 A.D. — it was widely practiced, and cremated remains were generally stored in elaborate urns, often within columbarium-like buildings. Prevalent though the practice was among the Romans, cremation was rare with the early Christians who considered it pagan and in the Jewish culture where traditional sepulcher entombment was preferred. However, by 400 A.D., as a result of Constantine’s Christianization of the Empire, earth burial had completely replaced cremation except for rare instances of plague or war, and for the next 1,500 years remained the accepted mode of disposition throughout Europe. Modern cremation, as we know it, actually began only a little over a century ago, after years of experimentation into the development of a dependable chamber. When Professor Brunetti of Italy finally perfected his model and displayed it at the 1873 Vienna Exposition, the cremation movement started almost simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic.” https://www.cremationassociation.org/page/HistoryOfCremation
I hope you enjoy some of these resources and the message on Sunday evening from John 5.