Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Cremation: Is it Biblical?

“For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime. But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth; Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting and trumpet sound. And I will cut off the judge from its midst, and slay all its princes with him,” says the LORD. (Amos 2:1-3)

It is my firm belief that cremation is not according to the will of God, but rather He wills that we use burial to dispose of the bodies of the dead:

1. Burial is the standard method of disposing of dead bodies throughout the Bible in example after example, either in the ground or in a burial chamber.

2. Cremation is only used to dispose of bodies to deliberately disgrace them,* e.g. in the case of Achan and after capital punishment in several cases in the Mosaic Law, or it is explicitly stated as contrary to the will of God. (See articles below for details.)

3. The will of God is often not stated in explicit statutes, but rather through the godly example of the saints’ practice. Therefore, it is sufficiently clear that it is God’s will that we bury bodies.

4. God’s people buried their dead, but pagans burned them. This practice was widespread in Greek and Roman society, but the early Christians took great care to only bury their dead, leading eventually to the virtual eradication of cremation.

5. Cremation, as a modern practice, was only resurrected in the late 19th century amongst liberals, agnostics and atheists who rejected the resurrection of the body, and who sought wisdom in pagan classical and eastern thought.

6. Cremation is therefore not only unbiblical, but also without support from the history of the Church.

7. Ultimately, man as a whole is made in the image of God. His body is part of that image and should be treated with dignity, not burned as we would rubbish. God has willed that the dignity of the body is retained through burial. It was a deep shame that the bones of the King of Edom should be burned; such a disgrace indeed, that God pronounced it as the great cause of Moab’s terrible punishment.

We may know, love and respect someone who has been cremated, or we may fear condemning others because it is a sensitive and emotional subject, but this should not stop us from obeying the clear teaching of the Bible and the universal testimony of the saints prior to the end of the 19th Century.

The following are useful discourses on the subject:

"Cremation or Burial?" on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
“Why Cremation Is Unscriptural” by Paul P. Maher
“Is Cremation a Christian Option?” by Jeff Black of Providence RPCUS in Wytheville, VA (formerly of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA)

* Except in the case of Saul, who may not have been cremated (see Mahler), esp. as the bones were still solid enough to bury. However, if he was cremated, he is the only example of cremation that was not done to shame the body. He was not a godly man and his associates may have been the same.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Upon a recent visit, my brother and sister-in-law spoke about how they wanted to be cremated and then their ashes shaken together. But, being new believers, they asked Timothy and me about the Christian view of cremation. One of the things that we mentioned about a Christian burial was that it was the last witnesses on earth of your faith in Jesus Christ, pointing to the hope in the Resurrection to come. It is one last witness of Christ we can share on earth until He comes back. My brother, shocked to hear the truth, seriously reconsidered cremation. So much so that they even more recently told my sister that they no longer wanted to be cremated.

Saturday, June 10, 2006 3:13:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The body should be treated with dignity, as awaiting the resurrection. That doesn’t have to mean a fancy box, or viewing the body, but still there should be some dignity in its burial.

Perhaps the place of burial is most important, thinking of biblical examples: in Genesis many examples are given of burial in family burial grounds or in a particular area or country. They seemed to really find significance in WHERE they were buried, not so much as the type of casket, although for nationally known figures (i.e. Jacob) there seemed to be more elaborate ceremonies.

I like the fact that coemeteria (cemeteries) means "sleeping places" – a name given by early Christians because they believed in the body's future resurrection!!

Saturday, June 10, 2006 9:46:00 am  
Blogger Allen R. Mickle, Jr. said...

Might I suggest some interesting lectures? They're done by Dr. Rod Decker of Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, PA. Whether you agree or not, interesting listening!

God bless!

Allen Mickle

Monday, June 19, 2006 4:19:00 am  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...


Thanks for the information. I see that Dr Decker comes to the same conclusion, although he may be more tentative when calling it sin. It is a useful resource.

My sister-in-law and her husband now live in the Detroit are, and I'm an ex-Nortel employee, so I have connections to both Detroit and Canada.

Are you one of the diaspora from the Highland clearances?

Monday, June 19, 2006 9:03:00 am  
Blogger Allen R. Mickle, Jr. said...


To be honest, I'm not sure what you mean by the Highland clearance?

Allen Mickle

Monday, June 19, 2006 3:35:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Do you know your ancestry?

A lot of Scottish Highlanders settled in Nova Scotia atter the Clearances. (They even have Gallic speakers there.) I was wondering if that is how your surname got there. But then again, you may not be from there as you're pastoring in that area.

Monday, June 19, 2006 5:31:00 pm  
Blogger Allen R. Mickle, Jr. said...


Ah... good question. William Mickle came over from Ayrshire to American before the War of Indpendence. He settled near Detroit and was actually the master carpenter on the HMS Detroit (a ship which was used in the War of 1812). He eventually moved to Amherstburg, Ontario (across the river from MI) and started the particular Mickle line in Essex County. I am originally from that area near Windsor, Ontario. We can trace the lineage back to William but not before he left Scotland.

So, nope. Our Mickles didn't originally come to "New Scotland" (Nova Scotia) but instead to the area of Michigan and then Ontario.


Monday, June 19, 2006 7:17:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

I confess that was early morning foggy-headedness.

Mickle is a very lowland term. You're not a "Mac", e.g. Macdonald, or Sutherland, or whatever.

So your blood originates in Ayrshire? Did you know that Crawford is from that neck of the woods?

Monday, June 19, 2006 9:47:00 pm  
Blogger Allen R. Mickle, Jr. said...


No, I didn't realize Crawford was from there. LOL. Well... he's much more from Ayrshire than I am since I have to go back a few hundred years before we were in Scotland!


Monday, June 19, 2006 10:27:00 pm  

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