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by Randy White Ministries Sunday, May 26, 2024

Listener Guide: Cremation vs. Burial for Christians

Dr. Randy White


  • Decision on cremation or burial involves financial, personal, and religious considerations.

  • The debate touches on fundamental beliefs about life, death, and the afterlife.

  • No single "right" way; varies by individual beliefs and interpretations of religious teachings.


    Christian Burial Practices
  • Rooted in Jewish tradition, which favors burial.

  • Early Christians viewed cremation as pagan and inappropriate.

  • Roman persecutions sometimes included burning Christian martyrs, seen as an insult.

  • Medieval practice of burning "heretics" to destroy the soul; notable example: John Wycliffe.

  • Historically, burial has been the primary practice.


    Popular Myths

    1. Book of Common Prayer:
  • "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" references Genesis 18:27, emphasizing life's vanity, not cremation.

    2. "Ring Around the Rosie":
  • No historical evidence linking the nursery rhyme to the plague or cremation.

  • Phrase "ashes to ashes" likely whimsical, not related to cremation.


    History of Cremation
  • More common in non-Christian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism).

  • Islam mandates burial, sharing the Abrahamic faiths' respect for the body.

    Modern Revival in Europe
  • Began in the 1870s due to public health concerns and urbanization.

  • Secular individuals and organizations promoted it.

  • Early proponents like Sir Henry Thompson, who founded the Cremation Society of England.

    Cremation in the United States
  • Dr. Julius LeMoyne advocated and built the first US crematorium.

  • Baron de Palm was the first to be cremated in the US in 1876, promoting the practice.

  • Legal and legislative challenges delayed widespread adoption.

    Social Promotion
  • Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) and other fraternal organizations promoted cremation.

  • Their efforts made cremation more acceptable in society.


    Religious Objections
  • Belief in physical resurrection required an intact body.

  • Burial viewed as respectful; cremation seen as violent and destructive.

  • Burial practices often referenced Matthew 24:27, positioning bodies with feet to the east.


    What Should You Do?
  • Many Christians now see cremation as acceptable, trusting in God's omnipotence.

  • Decision should respect the body's inherent value and honor the deceased.

  • Personal choice, rooted in tradition, belief, and respect for loved ones.

    Personal Reflection
  • Preference for burial as a testament to Judeo-Christian values.

  • Respect for others' choices, recognizing shared commitment to faith regardless of method chosen.

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