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 Vol. 4, No. 11 

November, 2002


~ Page 8 ~

Cremation Considerations

By Charles Aebi

[West Virginia Christian, Volume 8, No. 6, June 2001]

"Dear Aebi: "How should a Christian feel about cremation? Will cremation affect the soul? Also, is it proper for a Christian to leave his body to science, or parts of his body to anyone else?"

First of all, it is important to understand that the body without the spirit or soul is dead (James 2:26). When the spirit returns to God who gave it, the body returns to dust or earth (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The body is composed of dust and decays and returns to dust (Genesis 3:19). Scientifically, there is little difference between slow decomposition (decay) and rapid decomposition (cremation or fire). The end result is the same -- dust.

When a Christian dies, his soul or spirit -- his real being -- is commended into the hands of God (Luke 23:46) and enters into the presence of Christ (Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:1-9). This being the case, whatever happens to the body after death has no effect on the soul, which has already departed from the body. Whether the body returns to dust by way of slow decay in the grave or rapid decomposition by cremation, explosion or other catastrophe is irrelevant to the status of the soul. And if the body is given to science, it ultimately arrives at the same end -- decomposition, one way or another. If parts of the body are given to others who can use them as tissue or organ transplants, when the recipients themselves die, the tissues or organs decompose in whatever way the recipients' bodies are allowed to return to dust -- to the basic elements of which they consist.

Paul explains to us in 1 Corinthians 15:35-53 that the body which is resurrected is indeed a body that will be our own particular possession, but he also emphasizes the fact that the body which went into the tomb will not be the same one which comes out or is resurrected. The new body, while it becomes the same person, will be vastly different. It will be spiritual instead of physical, immortal rather than mortal, heavenly in the place of earthly. The new body will not be flesh and blood, but will be incorruptible -- not capable of decay. Therefore, what happens to the flesh and blood elements of our present physical bodies will not affect the resurrection bodies which we receive, for they are not composed of the same stuff. When a person perishes in the sea and is eaten by sharks, or when one falls into a ladle of molten steel or is vaporized in an explosion, his physical remains are not to be found, but that has no effect on his eternal existence.

So far as I know, the only problem the Christian faces in the case of cremation or donation of one's body to science or to other persons might be the emotional impact on loved ones. If their spiritual understanding of God's plan for us after death is not sufficient to overcome their natural aversion to any destruction of the deceased body, they may have emotional problems. If giving one's body to science or for cremation would cause the family undue grief, one might show compassion by willing burial as usual. If cremation or donation of the body is chosen, it may be wise to have a significant memorial service (which may or may not include viewing the body before it is given or cremated) to help the family achieve closure and come to grips with the reality of the person's death. Choices made relative to the disposition of the body at death may depend on available finances and wise stewardship of finances, but they should also include a consideration of the effect of these choices on others.Image

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