Burial, Cremation, and Christianity
The Truth About Cremation
Cremation And The Christian Faith
This material is a collection of information on this subject from a dear Christian brother with decades of experience as a mortician. He has researched cremation for several decades. We are agreed that many, many Christians have had no idea about the origin and those who promote it and why. Actually, cremation is a Satanic defiance of the resurrection to imply that once the body has turned to ashes God cannot recall it into judgment. Naive professing Christians and whole church movements are swinging over to cremation for cost reasons not giving any thought as to the origin of this practice and why the Bible practices burial only. The facts below explain many things about cremation that should be taken into consideration if you are a Christian. It has now become common for morticians to offer cremation as an alternative to burial. There are many good reasons why Christians should never consider cremation.
OUR MORTAL BODIES WERE:
1. Created by God in His own Image. Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7.
2. Because of disobedience, God commanded that at death the body (not the incinerated ashes) should be RETURNED TO THE EARTH from which it was formed. Genesis 3:19.
3. God advised Abram that he would be BURIED at a good old age. Genesis 15:15. This amounts to a divine endorsement as to the method of disposing of the human body. God was being specific as to methods and we should take note of that.
4. God personally BURIED the mortal body of His beloved Moses. Deuteronomy 34:4-6. Not only did God endorse burial as the proper and respectful way to dispose of the human body but also did this Himself.
5. King Josiah removed the remains of the ungodly and cremated them. 2 Kings 23:15-16. Cremation was used to make an everlasting impression of disgust and disdain for the wicked but never practiced as something good by good people.
6. The remains of the man of God WERE NOT DISTURBED by orders of the king. 2 Kings 23:17,18. We use the term, laid to rest, which could only apply to those buried and surely not to those burned to ashes and scattered on land or sea.
7. The Psalmist David reaffirms, after the spirit leaves, the body it returns to the DUST. Psalm 18:29. Please note the difference between dust and ashes. Dust is what the body becomes when buried remains decompose. Ashes are what they scoop out of the incinerator when your body is burned in a furnace.
8. Sinful Achan was executed and his body cremated. Joshua 7:25. Again we see that cremation was used to signify the death of an evil man. He was not to be shown any respect even in his death.
9. The Psalmist laments the lack of burial for the bodies of the Godly ones. Psalm 79:2-4.
10. Jesus specifies BURIAL for his mortal body. Matthew 26:12.
11. Jesus states a time is coming when everybody IN THE TOMBS will hear His voice and come forth. John 5:28-29.
12. Lazarus was buried in a tomb. John 9:1-44.
13. God equates cremation, social injustices with war and its associated atrocities. Amos 2:1.
14. Cremation is the stance of anti-resurrection activists through the ages. It is a protest against belief in the resurrection as God’s Word promises for the righteous. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55. Note: Oh, grave where is thy victory, and not Oh, crematory oven, or, fire, where is thy victory.
15. In the book of Jude, V’s 7-9, the Devil is attempting to locate the body of Moses but to no avail. Why?
16. History records a body that was being buried accidentally touched another previously buried body of the godly prophet. Immediately the body being lowered in the grave came to life. 2 Kings 13:20-21. There was apparently still virtue in the remains of the godly man.
17. The Hebrew word aron is a container for a very sacred object.
a. The ark of the covenant was called an Aron.
b. The container for human remains was also an Aron.
c. There were specific orders to carry the ark of the covenant on the shoulders.
Today we still see caskets with human remains being shouldered.
18. In A.D. 156 pagans and Jews directed their hostilities against Christians – specifically the 86 year old Bishop Polycarp, who was killed with a sword and then his body was cremated by the pagans. Before dying he reaffirmed his belief in the resurrection of eternal life, both of the soul and the body through the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ.
a. John Laux, Church History, N.Y., Benziger Bros. 1938 pp 54-57.
b. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, New York, Harper Brothers 1953 pp 251.
c. The Nicean Council was held in 325 A.D. They note the ungodly reject a resurrection of the body because of their wickedness. It was also associated with heathenism. Ante Nicean Fathers Vol. VII pp 462-464 (Erdmans)
d. The “Octavius” of a Roman Lawyer; Marcus Minucius Felix explains how pagans charged Christians for teaching and proclaiming a resurrection of the body and for criticizing their (pagan) method of burning (cremating) human bodies. The Christians held no fear of pagan cremation but when unmolested would always bury their dead. Ante Nicean Fathers Vol. IV pp 178-179, 194.
19. Early believers believed that the abomination of human remains was associated with heathenism. Ante Nicean Fathers Vol.II pp 462-464.
20. Early Christian funerals consisted of five main highlights:
First: Bathing and clothing of body with probable prayers and scripture reading.
Second: Funeral or burial procession was conducted during daytime with singing, shouts of victory and carrying palms.
Third: A service of thanksgiving around the body with singing and scripture reading.
Fourth: The Eucharist was celebrated around the body, remembering the promise of Jesus – connecting the Eucharist with the resurrection. (The corpse was kissed.) The religious scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign. Jesus informed them there would be no sign but that of the prophet Jonah. Just as Jonah was delivered from the belly of the great fish, He (Jesus) would be delivered from the earth on the 3rd day. Matthew 12:38-40.
Fifth: The burial took place with the feet towards the east. There is an old burial hymn that says, Just Inside the Eastern Gate. Jesus stated, For shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Matt.24:27. Burial, a Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship Edited by J.G. Davies, The Macmillan Co. New York, N.Y. 1972 pp 96-97.
21. St. Augustine, in his day warned followers of Jesus not to discuss the resurrection of the body with the philosophers of that day because they rejected the dogma of the resurrection of the changed Immortal body. Eerdmans 1st Series, Vol.III, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers p.80.
These same philosophers of St. Augustine’s day also despised careful burial. St. Augustine’s City of God, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol.II, chapter 12, p.9. Wm. B. Eerdmans 1956.
22. Dr. Thomas Browne, born 1605 in London, England, was a member of the Church of England but had a low opinion of the body. He wrote Urn Burial (for cremation of ashes) in 1658. Tucker Brooke, The Renaissance (1500-1660) in a Literary History of England, Ed. Albert C. Baugh, New York, Appelton-Century-Crafts in 1948, pp. 615-619.
23. Dr. Browne admitted that Christians had no fear of execution by burning at the stake, but detested cremation as a means of disposal of the human remains. P.358 (a book of 17th century prose, ed. Tristram & Witherspoon, New York, Harcourt Brace & Co. 1929.)
Dr. Browne notes that the Jewish ban on cremation, assured that the body of Jesus would not be desecrated by burning. He conceded that the providence of God prevented the soldiers spear and the nails that passed the small bones, both in hands and feet, from breaking any bones so scripture could be fulfilled in that His body did not decompose in the grave. Dr. Browne made light of the ban God put on cremation by the prophet Amos in Chapter 2:1 (Ibid. pp.369-370)
24. Perhaps this is the appropriate time to share St. Augustine’s beliefs on burial of Human Remains. In a condensed modern paraphrase: The manner in which a body is buried is no aid to salvation, however, if correctly performed the ceremonies conferred on dead human remains, which is destined to be changed and rise again to live throughout eternity, may serve as a testimony to faith and hope in the resurrected body, in a changed and immortal form which endures through out eternity with our Lord Jesus Christ. “On Care of the Dead”, St. Augustine Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers Vol.III, pp. 541-550.
25. The fish symbol was used on burial sites of Early Christians. They accepted the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:38-40 that the deliverance of Jonah from the fish foretold His bodily Resurrection from the tomb.
26. Dr. Browne in the 1600′s explained the motives in the position the body is carried from the residence to the cemetery. The Muslims carried their dead bodies head first as a symbolic gesture that they would again return to their happy earthly life (and home) again.
On the other hand the Christians carried their bodies feet first as a symbolic gesture of farewell to this world they would never see again. Robert & Tristian & Alexander Witherspoon’s “A Book of 17th Century Prose. New York, Harcourt Brace & Co.1929, p.370.
27. In 1671, Rev. John Flavel, a Presbyterian clergyman, reported that in 1671, in England, it was not uncommon for Christians to bury a body on the third day following death – remembering that Christs body was in the tomb only for three days. John Flavel “This Fountain of Life” 1671, p.451, American Tract Society of New York City.
A Traditional Hymn:
‘COMFORT ONE ANOTHER WITH THESE WORDS’
1. All trials and all grief’s are past,
A blessed end has come at last.
Christ’s yoke was borne with ready will;
Who die-eth thus is living still.
2. The soul forev’r with God resides,
And freely in His grace abides;
Did through His Son redeem it here,
From every sin, from every fear.
3. For they who with Him suffered here,
Shall there be healed from woe and fear;
And when eternal bliss is won,
They’ll shine in glory like the sun.
4. This body in the grave we lay,
There to await that glorious Day,
When Christ shall bid it change and rise,
To mount triumphant to the skies.
5. And so to earth we now entrust,
What came from dust and turns to dust,
And from the dust shall rise that Day,
In glorious triumph o’er decay.
6. We have no cause to mourn or weep;
Securely shall this body sleep,
Till Christ Himself shall death destroy,
And raise the blessed dead to joy.
7. Then let us leave this place of rest
And home-ward turn, for we are blest
Who heed God’s warning and prepare
‘Cause death can’t take us unaware.
Although many religions believe in the immortality of the soul, this hymn clarifies the unique and additional Christian emphasis on faith in the resurrection of the body or its residue. This is the only inanimate object to be affected with a change at the return of Jesus of Nazareth.
Mark 5:21-24; 35-43
John 11:43-53, 12:9-11, 17-19
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
It was Rev. Charles Francis Potter (an ardent non-supernaturalist) who was mentor to Clarence Darrow at the famous Scopes Monkey trial in Dayton, Tennessee. Following the trial, Rev. and Mrs. Potter moved to the Antioch College Campus at Yellow Springs, Ohio. Dr. Arthur E. Morgan, a Hicksite (non-supernaturalist) Quaker was the college president.
At Antioch – Rev. Potter taught Comparative Religion, History of Religion and Psychology of Religion, leaving after approximately one year. During the month of October 1930, Rev. Potter conducted four lectures on the Humans attitudes towards: God, Jesus, Death and Life. Potter documents His anti-supernatural pilgrimage in His autobiography, The Preacher and I by Charles Frances Potter. Crown Publishers, New York, Library of Congress 51-12006.
On October 20, 1930, Dr. Potter condemned Funerals in part because he rejected the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the costs involved.
Then in 1933, three years after his blast against Judio-Christian funerals because of their supernatural overtones, Dr. Potter along with John Dewey and 32 others formulated and signed Humanist Manifesto I. The preface states that although Humanism has it’s roots from classical China, Greece and Rome, as well as with the Renaissance, or the age of Enlightenment.
The fifteen articles of HMI clarifies in article 1 — that Humanism is a Religion. The thesis of the articles focus on man and what man can do for man – devoid of supernaturalism. Forty years later Humanist Manifesto II was published consisting of seventeen Humanist articles of a faith devoid of supernaturalism. (Under the world community, it is interesting to note that although they deplore International violence with its carnage, they demand the individuals right to die by Abortion, Euthanasia and suicide. HMI, pp.18-19.
The Humanists view of christenings, weddings, and funerals is clarified. Literary Digest, Jan.23, 1937, p.27. “Unbelievers of Right and Left Wings.”
However the direct marketing of Corpseless Memorial services began in 1962. Ernest Morgan, son of Arthur E. Morgan, chairman of the Yellow Springs Friends Meeting Burial Committee which was founded by his father, published A Manual of Simple Burial, Celo Press, Burnsville, North Carolina. Mr. Morgan identifies with Mennonites on page 36. Who would question a helpful booklet on simple burials authorized by a member of the Friends assembly.
The red flag of cremation was raised in the 1962 Manual by giving cremation preference over burial almost 50 times. However the manual was so positive on what man could do for man, that the absence of supernaturalism and its symbols was completely ignored, with the smoke sirens of simplicity and economy.
THE LONG LOST FRIEND, an explicit book on Pow Wows Good for Man and Beast was published by John George Hohman in 1969 by Buzzards’ Nob Press in Dover, PA. The cover as well as page two and again on page 78 states WHOEVER CARRIES THIS BOOK WITH HIM CANNOT DIE WITHOUT THE HOLY CORPSE OF JESUS CHRIST … This blatant rejection of the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is pure blasphemy.
THEOSOPHY AND CREMATION IN USA
Baron de Palm was born May 10, 1809, in Augsburg, Bavaria as Joseph Henry Louis Charles. He became involved with the newly forming Theosophicial Society in the United States, organized by Madam H.V. Blavatsky, and Col. Henry Steel Alcott (president-founder of the Society). Baron de Palm was a Voltairean with a glass of spiritualism. The Baron died and his body was cremated Dec.6, 1876 at Washington, Penn., becoming the first body to be cremated in a crematory in the U.S.A. Dr. Julius Le Moyne constructed the first crematory in the United States.
The funeral services in New York were under the direction of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott who preached the doctrine of Karma, pure and simple. p.156. Later the Barons ashes were placed in a Hindu urn and later scattered over the New York Harbor by Colonel Olcott. The Colonel declared, and thus it came about that the Theosophoical Society not only introduced Hindu Philosophical ideas into the U.S. but also the Hindu mode of sepulture. p.183, Old Diary Leaves, by Henry Steel Olcott, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1898, New York & London.
In 1877 Appelton’s Annual Cyclopedia with Register of important events for 1876 – included a brief history of cremation, culminating with details of the first crematory erected in the United States in Washington, Pa., where the body of Baron de Palm was reduced to ashes and placed in a Hindu urn. It [cremation] is opposed by ministers of most of the religious denominations, a large number of whom believe it to indicate a belief inconsistent with the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. The clergy had a clear insight of the psychological damage cremation presented to the dogma of the resurrection of the body of believers at the return of Jesus.
DRUIDS AND CREMATION IN WALES
Cremation was introduced in West Britain during January of 1884. A Druid Medical Doctor in long white robes chanted softly as he proceeded to cremate the body of his infant son named Jesus Christ. Tolling litigation – the court judge declared it was no legal crime to cremate human remains. In Britain, Vol.34, June 1979, p.31.
The Druids were exempt from military service, were known as the very wise, learned ones, astronomers, philosophers and reincarnationalists. In both lands, Ireland and Gaul, they appear as magicians, diviners, physicians and teachers, and not as the representatives of a certain religion.
THE OCCULT AND CREMATION
The psychological importance between cremation and reincarnation has been compiled from the Writings of Alice A. Bailey and The Tibetan Master, Djwhal Khul. It is published by the Lucis Publishing Co., 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 566-7 New York, N.Y. Note specifically pp 26,40-41, 69, 88-89, 111,112,113,128-131. No doubt remains in the psychological relationship between cremation and reincarnation.
CREMATION AND EARLY CHURCH FATHERS
TERTULLIAN called cremation a symbol of hell.
CYPRIAN regarded it as an act equivalent to apostasy.
LACTANTIUS proclaimed, We will return the image and workmanship of God to the earth from where it had its origin.
Cremation is a rebellious act from within the nature of the depraved man thinking he can defy God and foil the resurrection that will bring him forth to stand before God in judgment. But all men will be raised from dead and be judged. Is there some inner attitude among unbelievers that makes them think perhaps that they will avoid judgment and falling into the hands of God in that great day when all both small and great shall stand before the great white throne judgment and receive from God their just reward. Do they think cremation will cancel this final judgment? It is only to undersestimate the omniscience of God to think such a thing and commit the anitchristian act of cremation.
SPRINGBOARD FOR DISCUSSION: Dr. John H. Bratt c. 1970 Baner Book House Co. Standard book #8010-0510-8.
THE WITNESS OF THE DEAD
With the passing of the years I have had the experience of witnessing several methods of disposing of the dead body after the cold hand of death has taken the life.
In India the Hindu custom of disposing of the corpse is cremation. I have witnessed many times the sorrowful scene of the grieving Hindu family gathered by the river side. After the Hindu priest performs the Hindu burial rites, the eldest son lights the funeral pyre and the corpse is burned to ashes in full view of the family and friends. The death wail and scenes of uncontrolled grief often accompany this sad practice.
Soon after coming to India, we witnessed another method of disposing of the dead which we shall never forget. A young man had brought his wife to the mission dispensary for treatment. When the young wife suddenly fell very ill and died right at the dispensary, the husband was at a loss in knowing what to do.
He had no money to buy wood for the funeral pyre, and he had no means of carrying her dead body the long way back home. The only solution he knew of was to have her laid out in the open field to allow the jackals, dogs, and hyenas dispose of her body. We found out this practice is common among the extreme poor who cannot pay for the expenses of the funeral pyre.
While traveling back to India by ship this last time, we were asked to take part in a burial service in which the ashes of a seaman (previously cremated) were to be committed to the sea. I accepted this invitation as it gave me an opportunity to bring the message of the resurrected Christ to the full crew of godless seamen on our freighter.
Many times I have been called to conduct the funeral service of some Indian Christian who has died in the Lord. What a difference from the other type of funeral services witnessed! Yes, there is sadness, and a shedding of tears. But the death wail is absent and the sense of “forever lostness of a loved one is not there. For the Christian the sense of utter despair is replaced by hope, the glorious hope of the resurrection. The Christian has the wondrous hope of meeting in heaven his loved ones who have “fallen asleep in Christ.”
Recently I was called upon to conduct the burial service of the little daughter of a Christian teacher friend. This little girl had suddenly taken ill and died within one night. Yes, sadness was there, but we also felt a wondrous sense of the presence of the Lord with His abiding peace.
After helping to make the casket from a wooden crate and then line it with white cloth, we laid away this little one to await the sound of the trumpet on the resurrection morn. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
The cemetery in which this little girl was laid was different from any other cemetery I have ever visited. It was owned by the government railway and was divided into three separate sections. One section was for Hindus, another for the Muslims, and the third for the Christians.
Immediately upon arriving at the cemetery I noticed the great contrast between the Christian section and the other two areas. The Hindu and Muslim sections were barren and poorly kept. The Hindu section had no graves, since their dead are disposed of on the funeral pyre. The Muslim burial ground showed signs of burials only by spasmodic mounds of earth raised above the normal terrain of ground.
The Christian section, however, had well kept graves with cemented markings, and laid out in systematic rows. The Christian section suggested hope, yes, the hope of the resurrection. It was a witness to the belief, and persuasion of the believer in Christ, that he will again be raised up by Christ on the resurrection day. The other two sections suggested despair – loved ones lost and forsaken!
I suddenly realized with new force that the Christian method of the burial of the dead has real meaning and purpose. Here in the midst of darkness and superstition was a shining witness to the difference of one who believes in the risen Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Carefully laying away the body in the earth is a testimony to our belief that Christ will return again to effect the resurrection of the dead. It gives testimony that the Christian has the hope beyond death and the grave.
Cremation and the funeral pyre speak to me of annihilation, the absolute end of hope. But the Christian burial bears witness of the shining hope of all true Christendom that Christ shall return, and He shall cause the dead in Christ to rise to be forever with Him in Glory!!
Having been reminded afresh of this glorious truth, many we press forward with new zeal and fervor in proclaiming the message of reconciliation to this lost and dying world. May we seek to give every lost soul at least one opportunity to accept this provision of eternal life through Jesus our Lord, and have born within him the hope of the resurrection!
Dr. John Dewey did not believe there was a God.
He’s the father of the whole modern system of American education.
What he did not believe has seeped down into every one of our minds through public education and private education.
“It’s wonderful for a man to have at least a religious outlook”, he used to say, “because it causes him to look upward and to be a better man for having looked upward”.
But mark well what Dr. Dewey did when his beloved wife died.
He went to a minister in New York City, and unannounced. “Sir,I would like for you to bury my wife”, he said.
“Your name, sir”?
“Dr. John Dewey?”, the minister asked.
“Sir, you don’t understand the kind of funeral I would conduct”, said the minister. “I would talk about Jesus as the Son of God, having come from heaven, and having become flesh”.
“I know”, said Mr. Dewey.
“No, I don’t think you realize what I’m talking about, Dr. Dewey. You see, I never conduct a funeral without talking about both death and life. And Doctor, the reason you would not want me is I believe in the resurrection of the body by the power of Christ”.
“I know”, Dr. Dewey quietly replied.
“But you wouldn’t want me to conduct that kind of funeral for your wife”? the minister asked.
“Yes sir, that’s why I came to you.”
1972, (copyright) Ben Haden, speaker on CHANGED LIVES, National Weekly TV-Radio Program. Source: Doctoral Thesis of Dr. George Manford Gutzke, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York –
Some Implications for Education in Religion in John Dewey’s Conception of Intelligence.
John 12:4-7 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.
THE FIRST RECORDED NEW TESTAMENT FUNERAL REFORMER BASED HIS CONCERNS ON THE ECONOMIC FACTOR.
Yes, it is the spirit of Judas that says, It’s much cheaper to cremate, so let us pay no attention to such things as Biblical precedent and the resurrection and just burn the dead and turn them into ashes. On the other hand, Jesus had no qualms in this woman pouring costly fragrances on his feet in preparation for His death. Money is NOT a factor when we are doing the thing that is pleasing to the Lord.
I was amazed to note how LITTLE material there is on the internet on this subject. If you find some good Biblical material on cremation please send it on to us or mail it to SELAH, P. O. Box 90, Anderson, MO 64831.
CREMATION: Is It Christian? by James W. Frazer. Loizeaux
Brothers, Neptune, NJ.. 31 pages. It is in print and can be ordered from any local bookstore.
This article was authored by Bill Burkett and is available at:Actsion.com/CREMATE.htm
~ “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” – 1 John 2:29 ~
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