Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you Zach, that was a good position paper. It has definitely changed my thinking. Some highlights to me:The Reformed Church in the United States (the old German Reformed Church) did an outstanding job of dealing with the question of creamation and how bodies should be disposed of in a synod report they released some years ago. Here is a link:
- 1 Cor 6:19b-20: "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
- "Our Lord Himself, too, though He was to rise again the third day, applauds, and commends to our applause, the good work of the religious woman who poured precious ointment over His limbs, and did it against His burial. And the Gospel speaks with commendation of those who were careful to take down His body from the cross, and wrap it lovingly in costly cerements, and see to its burial. These instances certainly do not prove that corpses have any feeling; but they show that God’s providence extends even to the bodies of the dead, and that such pious offices are pleasing to Him, as cherishing faith in the resurrection." Augustine, "The City of God", Book I, Chapter 13
- "For to what end was the rite of burial, as we have already seen, unless to teach that new life was prepared for the bodies thus deposited?" John Calvin, "Institutes", Vol. III, Chapter 25, p. 622
- Destroying the body by burning is wholly inconsistent with the illustration of hope set forth in Christian burial. Note that it is the depiction of hope, not hope itself, that is obscured in cremation. (Emphasis in the original)
- Laying the bodies of the faithful to rest in the earth is a triumphal statement of our faith and hope in God, that the believer's death (an apparent loss) will indeed be swallowed up in victory at the return of Christ from heaven.
- In observing this practice, we self-consciously follow Christ, whose mortal body was buried and whose glorified body was raised. We follow Jesus in death (burial of our bodies) as we do in life (suffering of our bodies), in hope that we will also be raised from the dead when He returns (glorification of our bodies).
- The practice of burning corpses is common to these religions because in the Eastern way of thinking, the physical body is little more than a temporary vessel to carry the soul. It has no lasting significance, and therefore Eastern religions see no reason to cherish or preserve the body after death.
- "To reject symbolism is to say the thing it symbolizes is not important. An attack on the symbol of burial and the anticipated resurrection of the body is an attack on important Christian doctrines." Geisler, Norman L., and Douglas E. Potter. "From Ashes to Ashes: Is Burial the Only Christian Option?." Christian Research Journal 20 (1998): 28-35.
- "There is an important difference between what God can do and what we should do." ibid.
- Since mutilating and burning our bodies is not a God-honoring thing for us to do in life, then we ought not do such things after death.
- Every Christian has the opportunity to witness this gospel comfort to his family and friends when his body is buried, communicating hope in the bodily resurrection (1 Cor 15:42-49) at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Th 4:13-18).