Against Cremation

Cremation is an increasingly popular option but it is neither a Christian nor an agrarian option. That more and more Christians opt to incinerate themselves does not necessarily make that option Christian. A Christian who defends cremation more than likely appeals to utility or to what the poet Scott Cairns calls “gnostic bullshit.” As if upon death we are done with our bodies.  Christianity has a long tradition regarding the dead, and cremation has no part in it.  Cremation is a sign of our time, and it is ultimately a sign of our culture of death—the post-Christian regress of western civilization.

We no longer kill for our suppers, know where are food comes from, tend to our elderly, or bury our kin. Catherine Pickstock notes how the modern polis is designed accordingly: “this evasion of the dead and dying is manifest in the extradition of the dead to a position at the margins of the city during the Industrial era, the removal of the dying to the functional space of hospitals, in the discreet elimination of corpses, and in the domestication and beautification of death”[4]. The dexterity with which Pickstock in one fell sentence accounts for several different cultural phenomena—the preference of more Americans to die, or have their family members die, in hospitals rather than at home, the rise and popularity of nursing “homes,” the default expectation of embalming in the funeral “home” industry, as well as the design, marketing, placement, and procedures of abortion clinics. “The discreet elimination of corpses,” moreover, particularly and aptly describes the modern practice of cremation.

It is the ultimate mystery of our redemption that He will call us back from the grave. Burial, therefore, is the final way in which we can live into our baptism. It completes the typological imagery in our own mystical Passover. It is the culmination of our faith. By sowing this seed of a natural body into the soil we will bear fruit in fields of glory. By commending this image of God to the earth we will be raised up in heaven. This is the sacrament of death and burial.

In case I have not made my point bluntly enough: cremation in terms of the advancement of Christian truth is a step backwards. A desecration. A form of apostasy. I do not think that Christians today who are considering cremation choose it as the fiery means to release the immortal soul from the body as ancient pagans saw it. Nor on the other hand is cremation preferred in the light of any precisely Christian theology or tradition. Rather they are motivated by a heterodox view of the body or of death, a kind of latent Gnosticism that assumes the immortal soul will have no more to do this body. Such heterodoxy is more in line with our Progressive Age’s own heady mix of necrophobia, necrophilia, and the myth of an end of suffering through advancement of medical science. But the cult of this life is precisely what our Lord chastises as the path of nihilism: he who seeks his life shall lose it, and he who loses it for my sake shall find it. Rather if we are to reject this culture of death and the cult of this life, we must cultivate life, an abundant life that transcends the fear of our own mortality. One way to celebrate this proper culture of life, counter-intuitively, is to cultivate our bodies in death.

Andrew J. Harvey teaches English at Grove City College.


[1] By 2025 cremations are projected to account for almost half of the deaths in the United States; up from only six per cent in 1975. See  http://www.cremationinfo.com/cremationinfo/PDF/crem-data-predict.pdf

[2] Cremation Association of North America, “1996/7 Cremation Container, Disposition and Service Survey” found also at the website above.

[3] Thomas Long, review of Stephen Prothero’s Purified by Fire: A History of Cremation in America in Christian Century, Jan.30, 2002.

[4] Ibid, p. 102. The beautification of death no doubt includes  modern embalming techniques—whose skill no doubt would make a pharaoh roll over in his grave with envy, but Pickstock also goes on to mention wax museums.

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138 comments on this post.
  1. Jeff Schultz:

    Mr. Harvey asserts, based on one conversation, that Christians who cremate “are motivated by a heterodox view of the body or of death, a kind of latent Gnosticism that assumes the immortal soul will have no more to do this body.”

    Christians are cremated only because they hold weak views of the body and death, and have no strong hope in the Resurrection? This is uncharitable, uninformed, and outright foolish. Mr. Harvey appears to be an intelligent fellow. I’m sure that with a better effort at understanding those who disagree with him he can avoid this false dichotomy.

  2. Daniel Archer:

    Other than pure sentiment, I fail to see any difference between interring a body to be eaten by worms and cremating a body. One process takes a few decades; the other takes a few minutes. Both culminate in dust returning to dust. An urn can be interred with the same holy reverence as a coffin.

    Any argument based on a final, corporeal resurrection must recognize that after a couple generations go by, the dead in Christ must be raised in a truly fantastic and miraculous way. Isn’t the whole point that the redeemed get new bodies – not literally reconstituted old bodies?

  3. Stewart Kahn Lundy:

    This article is right for the wrong reasons.

    Cremation may be bad by increasing emissions and refusing to return our bodies to the earth, but embalming is infinitely worse. A natural burial is pragmatic, charitable, and should be “most” Christian.

    The ignorance of the term “gnosticism” makes an easy foil without saying anything constructive.

    If anything here is “gnostic” it’s the uncharitable attitude of this piece that (somehow) right knowledge without charity is enough

  4. Rob G:

    “Christians are cremated only because they hold weak views of the body and death, and have no strong hope in the Resurrection?”

    No, they may also just be ignorant of the history and theology of the thing, and how it is a thoroughly pagan practice.

  5. Daniel Archer:

    What are the grounds for making anything stronger than a “tradition” out of something not even mentioned in Scripture? It is at best disingenuous to refer to it as a theology. If you want to make an argument based on the history of the practice, call it a tradition or a practice – helpful but not binding to the conscience.

  6. Jeff Schultz:

    Again, I would ask that others try a little harder to understand others’ positions — and relate them charitably — before simply dismissing them or resorting to ad hominems (like “they’re just ignorant”).

  7. Jeff Schultz:

    Again, I would ask that others try a little harder to understand others’ positions — and relate them charitably — before simply dismissing them or resorting to ad hominems (like “they’re just ignorant”).

  8. Cc:

    I never wanted to be cremated until the first time I went to a viewing before a funeral (not the first time I’d seen a dead body but the first time I’d seen a body embalmed and made up for public display). I remember being shocked and disturbed by the way her body looked so fake and unnatural, so unlike I remembered her. I decided then that if that was burial, I would rather choose to be returned to ashes immediately and buried in the ground in a simple manner without the gaudy mockery of the life that had obviously left the body.

  9. Rob G:

    Sorry, but burial is the universal norm for Christianity in both time and place. Acceptance of cremation by Christians is quite recent and results from either ignorance of or disregard of the historic Christian understanding of the subject. Dispensing with universal Christian witness on an issue is problematic, whether that witness is mentioned explicitly in Holy Scripture or not.

    As an aside, it does rather change St. Paul’s teaching that the body is in some sense the “seed” of the Resurrection. We bury seeds, not burn them.

  10. Rob G:

    I didn’t mean “ignorant” in a pejorative sense, but in a literal one.

  11. Jordan Smith:

    Yes, too true. The word “gnosticism” is often used on FPR as a blunt tool to bash home a square peg in a round hole.

  12. Jeff Schultz:

    Your argument still rests on the assumption that Christians who approve of cremation can only do so because they are uninformed. That is both presumptuous (“I know what others think”) and arrogant (“If only they knew what I know, they would think as I think”).

    Constructive and honest debate depends on understanding and presenting others’ positions fairly. If your opponent cannot hear what he actually believes in your restatement of his position, you need to try again.

    In this case, dismissing support of cremation as based only on ignorance or heterodoxy is uncharitable and lazy.

  13. Abbey:

    For the record – in some species fire is actually a precursor to germination.

    http://depts.washington.edu/propplnt/2003guidelines/group1/Smoke%20Infusion.htm

  14. Rob G:

    The universal Christian witness up until about the 1960s supports burial and condemns cremation. There’s no need to accept my ipse dixit here; all you need to do is the necessary research. If you don’t accept this witness, it must be either because you are unfamiliar with it (ignorance) or familiar with it and still choose to disregard it (heterodoxy). It can’t get much simpler than that.

  15. Jordan Smith:

    As a Christian I can say that most of this article is nonsense, and a fine example of how too often Christians get their own cultural peccadillos and superstitions confused with dictates from God. Sadly, it seems, the spirit of Christian legalism has descended and desecrated the Porch.

    If Mr. Harvey had simply argued that we should bury our dead so that we had a way to visit their graves and remember where we came from, this would have made sense. But to suggest that burial is a potential precondition to qualifying for the resurrection of our bodies is so ridiculous I can hardly believe I read it on FPR. What about Moses? His bones were presumably picked clean on the mountaintop and yet he seems to have escaped the divine wrath and reappeared in the Transfiguration. (I can’t believe I am arguing like this.) And will the Omnipotent one have difficulty reassembling my atomic structure if I am cast to the four winds?

    Please. There are far more pressing issues for Christians to tackle than cremation.

  16. Abbey:

    Apostasy? Haven’t there been Christian martyrs burned at the stake? I hope they are not excluded from the resurrection for their lack of foresight on the matter. This seems to be a case of focusing too much on the letter of the law (though I was unaware there was an actual Christian law). I wish this article had focused more on the spirit of the thing, which is significant: our culture’s “necrophilia” and disregard for history and place. Plus, there are plenty of pagan ways to embrace burial – as a return to mother nature, organic fertilizer, etc.

    Either way this reminded me of the poem Thanatopsis by William Cullen Bryant:

    Earth, that nourish’d thee, shall claim
    Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
    And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
    Thine individual being, shalt thou go
    To mix for ever with the elements,
    To be a brother to the insensible rock,
    And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
    Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
    Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.
    ….
    So live, that when thy summons comes to join
    The innumerable caravan which moves
    To that mysterious realm where each shall take
    His chamber in the silent halls of death,
    Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
    Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain’d and soothed
    By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
    Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
    About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

  17. Jordan Smith:

    Is this kind of like the Christian tradition to vote Republican and call charity “socialism”? Or is this like “The Rapture”, a “tradition” that popped up out of someone’s arse?

  18. Jordan Smith:

    Amen.

  19. Rob G:

    Liberals said the same thing about contraception — “far more pressing issues.” Look where that got us. Beginning of life, end of life, it’s all part of the culture of death.

    By the way, no one seems to be arguing that cremation precludes one’s resurrection. That’s a red herring and should be dropped.

    By the way, Sweden has a new method of body disposal via a chemical bath which dissolves the body into a liquid from which “useful components” can be recovered. I imagine that’s just peachy for Christians too, right?

  20. Jeff Schultz:

    You can accuse others of heteropraxis on that score, but certainly not heterodoxy — unless you are asserting that physical burial is part of the gospel? I think you can assert that burial is the least bad of all options — but not the only Christian one. “Christians have always done X” is an argument based on tradition, not theology.

    And you skated past the appeal to present others’ positions fairly. Is it the tradition of Christians everywhere to ignore clear commands to speak the truth in love, or to give an answer for your hope with gentleness and respect? You have created a false dichotomy, unfairly, dishonestly, and uncharitably misrepresenting those who disagree with you. That’s pretty simple, too — and more clearly un-scriptural than cremation.

  21. Rob G:

    We’re talking something that’s been there since day one, and has its roots in the thought and practice of our Jewish forbears. Do the history, dude, do the history.

  22. Rob G:

    Sorry, but I have little patience for people who seem anxious to dispense with universal Christian teaching and practice over not much more than a modernist whim.

    ~~”Christians have always done X” is an argument based on tradition, not theology.~~

    The two are unrelated?

  23. Jordan Smith:

    Well, gee, perhaps I shall acquire multiple wives or a concubine of two because that was often the thought and practice of our Jewish forbears.

    Give your head a shake.

  24. Jeff Schultz:

    This has become rather pointless. You are simply repeating the same arrogant and uncharitable assertions — people only support cremation on a “modernist whim.”

    I’d be glad to have a honest debate when you can make an effort to understand and interact fairly with an opposing viewpoint and not demonize others.

  25. Rob G:

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but last time I checked the Church didn’t carry over polygamy into its post-Hebraic life. You can’t argue against a continuity by appealing to a discontinuity.

  26. Mark P:

    We have a pretty good Trinitarian tradition going too.

  27. Mark P:

    Well, okay, present some arguments.

  28. Jeff Schultz:

    “Christians today who are considering cremation … are motivated by a heterodox view of the body or of death, a kind of latent Gnosticism that assumes the immortal soul will have no more to do this body.”

    Let me offer another possibility. Centuries ago, organ donation was not possible or foreseen. Today, Christians can express the charity and love of Christ in the face of death by allowing their organs to be used to give sight, health, and life to others. Organ donation is a radically selfless, Christian response to the inevitability of death, and an example of Christ’s own self-denial. Organ donation, however, often necessitates cremation.

    Faced with the options of traditional burial or organ donation + cremation, I would argue biblically that traditional burial is in fact the more selfish and less Christian choice. It can only be supported by blind adherence to tradition, a tradition which did not anticipate the potential of using our bodies to serve others in death.

    So now can we stop asserting that cremation can only be prompted by ignorance of tradition or modernist gnosticism?

  29. Rob G:

    Ok, what exactly ARE your reasons for supporting cremation?

  30. Zac:

    Speaking of presumptuousness (in reference to Mr. Schultz) – which Christian teachings/practices are the universal ones? What do you say to the billions of Christians worldwide that don’t accept the Catholic church as the universal authority on matters spiritual? I keep being surprised by Catholics on FPR who are so quick to champion localism and limits and liberty, but have no problem adhering to the edicts of the world’s largest, greatest, most placeless man-made hierarchy. The divine, of course, is not democratic. We can’t vote on truth. But isn’t there an inconsistency here? Could James Matthew Wilson clear this up for me?

    *(Not that you are a Catholic. That would be presumptuous of me.)

    Second- If we’re going to get biblical about this, why don’t we talk about not-so-biblical modern embalming, sprawling cemeteries, impenetrable caskets, laws against burial on private property, and the commercialization of funeral industry? It seems options for modern burial are not so front-porchy after all, and certainly not agrarian. Bury me in a burlap bag in my backyard, so my body can nourish the earth that once nourished me.

  31. Zac:

    Speaking of presumptuousness, which Christian teachings/practices are the universal ones? What do you say to the billions of Christians worldwide that don’t accept the Catholic church as the universal authority on matters spiritual? I keep being surprised by Catholics on FPR who are so quick to champion localism and limits and liberty, but have no problem adhering to the edicts of the world’s largest, greatest, most placeless man-made hierarchy. The divine, of course, is not democratic. We can’t vote on truth. But isn’t there an inconsistency here? Could James Matthew Wilson clear this up for me?

    *(Not that you are a Catholic. That would be presumptuous of me.)

    Second- If we’re going to get biblical about this, why don’t we talk about not-so-biblical modern embalming, sprawling cemeteries, impenetrable caskets, laws against burial on private property, and the commercialization of funeral industry? It seems options for modern burial are not so front-porchy after all, and certainly not agrarian. Bury me in a burlap bag in my backyard, so my body can nourish the earth that once nourished me.

  32. Rob G:

    I’m not aware that organ donation necessitates cremation, otherwise the Orthodox Church would not allow organ donation, which it does, provided the deceased’s remains are handled with respect and the body itself is still presented for burial.

    Still, the argument from “usefulness” is trumped by the universality of the Christian witness. One could make a similar argument about the “use” of tissue from aborted infants, Christianity is not a consequentialist faith, ethically speaking.

    I think that at the root of this debate is the difference between those who, finding Christian tradition and custom normative, believe it should be abandoned only for irrefutable and demonstrable reasons, and those who think that the burden of proof is on tradition as to declare why it should be maintained in the face of (supposedly) objective reason. The debate cuts deeper than the issue at hand.

  33. Rob G:

    “which Christian teachings/practices are the universal ones?”

    Uh, how about we just start with the ones that have been believed “everywhere, always, and by all”? Burial over against cremation is one of them.

    And btw, I do believe you are correct about modern burial and funeral practices; in a lot of instances they are neither Christian nor ‘porchy.’

  34. Jeff Schultz:

    Well, I guess I will trust the authority of those who work in organ donation over the assertion of someone in a comment thread on the internet, but if you prefer whole-body donation, then use that scenario. Or are you arguing that donating one’s body to medical research in order to help save others’ lives is also un-Christian?

    Tradition has little or nothing to say on this matter, because it’s an issue and possibility previous generations of Christians did not deal with. That you ignore the clear Scriptural support for doing good to others, even in the face of death, based only on tradition gives your appeal to tradition little moral suasion.

    One could make an argument about the use of tissue from aborted infants — if one were a dishonest debater who tried to draw false equivalencies. Since the two categories of “my body after death” and “the body of a murdered infant” are in no way related, “consequentialism” is a red herring.

    Do you have anything to offer other than tradition and baseless assertions of consequentialism, or an answer to the Scriptural appeal to use our bodies to do good to others when no obvious moral wrong is involved?

  35. Alethea:

    “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day” (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). Precondition, probably not. Aligned with the order of the universe, more likely. Many of these issues are not questions of salvation versus damnation, but of how intimately we will understand and follow God’s big pattern. I have thought that cremation would be better than the whole embalming rigamarole, but burial in the pre-WWI method would be fine too.

  36. Cstohs:

    This excerpt has to do with the resurrection of the body and the renewal of all creation starting as a result of Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection. I think that it is very relevant.

    From pages 36 and 37 of this pdf of Together with all Creatures:

    http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/CTCR/TWAC-Expanded%20Version.pdf

    To renew His creation, the Creator becomes a part of the very creation
    that He had made. The Son of God became a human creature. By becoming
    a human creature, He shared in the creatureliness of the entire creation. To
    put it in contemporary terms, He shared the DNA of His mother, a DNA
    that traces itself all the way back to Adam and Eve, back to the soil itself.
    As a creature, He depended upon creation for life. He ate the food of the
    earth, drank the wine of the earth, breathed the air of the earth, and walked
    the roads of the earth.To be sure, Christ’s work of redemption centered on
    His human creatures in order to undo the curse and to restore them to the
    Father’s favor. But in doing so, His work of redemption embraced the wider
    creation itself.

    Unlike the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, the Gospel of Mark
    opens with Jesus going out into the wilderness in order to be with the wild
    beasts, which did Him no harm, weak as He was from fasting for forty days
    (Mk 1:13).195 This recalls the imagery of isaiah’s prophecy in isaiah 11. Jesus
    lived in peace with the beasts in the wilderness. Elsewhere, Jesus calmed the
    violent storm on the waters. One can see in this miracle an echo of Genesis
    in which the chaotic waters covered the earth. By means of His creaturely
    body, a body inextricably linked to the wider creation, Jesus accomplished
    the restoration of creation. in His creaturely body He absorbed the judgment
    of God and the undoing of creation. By means of His resurrected body He
    brings about our transformation along with that of all creation (Romans 8).
    We need to remember that the resurrected body of Christ was not a new
    body that had been fashioned out of nothing. it was the same body that He
    had from His mother’s womb, but it was now transformed and glorified (1
    Corinthians 15). What God has done in Jesus Christ and in His resurrection,
    “is what he intends to do for the whole world—meaning, by world, the
    entire cosmos with all its history.”196 His resurrected body provides the para-
    digm for our bodies as well—and by extension the wider creation. Similarly,
    we will be raised with our bodies, but our bodies will be transformed and
    glorified. The current physical creation longs for liberation from corruption
    that it might come forth transformed in the wake of our resurrection. in this
    connection, we might also say that the first creation even participates in the
    renewal of creation. God now uses creaturely means not for judgment, but
    to bring about creation’s renewal. He uses water, bread, and wine to make
    us new creatures and to transform our bodies in anticipation of the renewed
    creation.

    We should not assume that God will simply annihilate this present
    physical creation, remove our “souls” from of our bodies, and then start all
    over from scratch.197 Such a view implies nearly a total discontinuity with
    the original creation. This is not to deny that there will be significant differ-
    ences between the creation we see today and the creation that we will see
    when Christ returns. The New Testament states that heaven and earth will
    pass away (Mt 5:18; Mt 24:35; Mk13:31; Lk 21:33; Gal 1:4; 1 Pet 4:7; 1 Jn 2:17;
    Rev 20:11; Rev 21:1). it also says that the current creation will undergo fire
    (2 Pet 3:7, 10–13), and be removed (is 34:4; Rev 6:14; Zeph 1:18). But a read-
    ing that interprets these in terms of the “extinction of the creation itself in
    its materiality and physicality”198 provides a very different story that could
    imply escape from creation.199 instead, God will bring forth the renewed not
    out of nothing (ex nihilo) but from the old creation (ex vetere), or as theolo-
    gian N. T. Wright has put it, the new creation is “born from the womb of the
    old.”200

    It is perhaps better to say that the present form of the world is passing
    away. The renewed creation will shed the old creation like shedding a tat-
    tered, moldy, old garment (Heb 1:10–12; Ps 102:26–28). To borrow from
    the world of nature, we might say that the renewed creation emerges like
    a butterfly from a chrysalis. it is the same creature, a caterpillar, but it has
    now become a butterfly. So it is not creation itself, but the present “form” of
    this creation that passes away (1 Cor 7:31).201 God will set creation free from
    its bondage to decay (Rom 8:21) that came with the curse. God will purify
    creation from corruption. “But the same continuity that makes the body of
    the future one with our present body connects the new unsullied world of
    God with the world we know, the world whose frustrated beauty makes us
    marvel still, whose futile workings still can testify to Him who once said,
    ‘very good’ and will again say ‘very good!’ to all His hands have made.”202

  37. Jeff Schultz:

    See my post above.

  38. Cstohs:

    The introductory remark should read: …and the renewal of all creation as a result…. That is, without the word “starting.”

  39. Cstohs:

    The introductory remark should read: …and the renewal of all creation as a result…. That is, without the word “starting.”

  40. Cstohs:

    The introductory remark should read: …and the renewal of all creation as a result…. That is, without the word “starting.”

  41. Jordan Smith:

    Yes, but the tradition seemingly disappears for no apparent reason, not because God decreed it must no longer be followed. Thus “traditions” should not always be considered “of God” and immutable.

  42. Jordan Smith:

    Yes, but the tradition seemingly disappears for no apparent reason, not because God decreed it must no longer be followed. Thus “traditions” should not always be considered “of God” and immutable.

  43. Jon Cook:

    Wonderful essay. Please forgive my Protestant brothers for their misunderstandings. It is really not their fault, it is the way we are taught in our churches. We did our protesting and now we don’t know how to submit to, or even recognize, authority. We decried tradition (some rightly), and now don’t know how to connect truth and practice. We have been trained to shout “legalism” anytime someone suggests that there should be boundaries in our lives (and statistics show we don’t hold any). And yes, to my Protestant brothers who will be tempted to once again “protest”, I am a solid Baptist in good standing, but I’m not so blind as to not see the planks in our own eyes. We are desperately in need of a Magisterium. And if I don’t die in an atom bomb or some other conflagration, please bury me.

  44. Jon Cook:

    Wonderful essay. Please forgive my Protestant brothers for their misunderstandings. It is really not their fault, it is the way we are taught in our churches. We did our protesting and now we don’t know how to submit to, or even recognize, authority. We decried tradition (some rightly), and now don’t know how to connect truth and practice. We have been trained to shout “legalism” anytime someone suggests that there should be boundaries in our lives (and statistics show we don’t hold any). And yes, to my Protestant brothers who will be tempted to once again “protest”, I am a solid Baptist in good standing, but I’m not so blind as to not see the planks in our own eyes. We are desperately in need of a Magisterium. And if I don’t die in an atom bomb or some other conflagration, please bury me.

  45. Mark P:

    Does the Mayo Clinic work as an authority? http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organ-donation/FL00077

  46. Jordan Smith:

    Fair enough, I forgot about that part. Although I find passages like this suggest more about how we write history to support our beliefs than provide any reliable record of historical facts.

  47. Jordan Smith:

    Yes, the Trinity is another tradition. But just that. A useful way to understand the mystery that is God in a way and with symbols that we humans can mostly grasp. But it is highly likely that God is not perfectly described in Trinitarian theology. Who knows, some future theologian might come up with a better way of expressing the varied and uncontainable nature of God, and the idea of the Trinity will go the way of polygamy or burial. Who knows.

  48. Jeff Schultz:

    As I said, I am going on what I’ve been told by those who work in organ donation. It is possible that procedures and outcomes can vary, no?

    But even granting that in all cases burial is possible with organ donation, then use the case of whole-body donation. Is it illegitimate for Christians to donate their bodies for life-saving medical research?

  49. Samuel:

    It’s very convenient to view anything you want with this sort of post-modern skepticism, but what does it aid, aside from your liberation from the conviction to believe your tradition is rooted in anything besides “the way it’s always been done”? I’ve read enough of your posts to know that you’re wiser than this — too wise to so misunderstand what tradition is. We’re beyond the days when anthropologists sit around and describe peoples beliefs this way. There is a credence to the narrative traditions are founded in, and anyone who honestly “buys into a tradition”, as you may put it, believes it finds its foundings in inalienable truths. If you want to cast off all Church traditions that call themselves “theology” which are not founded in scripture, then you’ve gonna have to cast out scripture too.

  50. Samuel:

    But where does the anomic power of your reasoning draw a line? You may very well be right, but this wan approach at interpretation leaves us better off without even trying. You can find passages like this however you want, but the point here is that it is a sign of affirmation, a positive piece of evidence, nonetheless.

    That said, I agree with you, that Christian legalism is nothing to be desired, but one is mistaken to conflate all strict traditions and dogmas with “legalism”. These aren’t rote laws, they are based on conscious and legitimate principles. It seems to me that you are simply skeptical about the whole idea of God: sure, this article would be sufficient if it poised the argument around the idea that burial gives us a common meeting place to honor the dead — and it does say this — however, it is just as important to draw the lines to their transcendent origins (and yes, these can be articulated in Church tradition). You may disagree, but I find your disgust at the practice to be puerile at best.

  51. Dan:

    This site used to have a lot of promise. Can we please get back to basics? This was once a place for personal perspectives on place and limits from lovable curmudgeons, not a think-tank for overly-intellectual preachers. Was not the goal to unite people of different perspectives under the banner of localism and self-determination and liberty and so forth? Things have gotten out of hand.

    It’s hard to find a post anymore that isn’t saturated in heavy-handed Christian self-righteousness or smug literary elitism. So much for accessibility! So much for finding common ground! It’s a fine way to do away with a good movement. Perhaps those of us who aren’t religious or lack the proper intelligence will have to find like-minded lovers of place elsewhere, where we won’t be condescended to by preachers and professors more concerned with showing off their moral superiority than welcoming outsiders into the debate. FOR SHAME!

    Somewhere out there there’s a community for localists who don’t see cremation as a threat to place… or salvation. If anyone knows where I can find it, please let me know.

  52. Samuel:

    Dan, if what you demand is a common place for different perspectives on questions of “place, limits, liberty”, then you are naturally going to come across, from time to time — some times more than others — perspectives with which you disagree. It seems to me you are calling for a contradictory presence here: varied approaches to a shared principle, but yet, you seethe anathema when those other perspectives — very much concerned with the question of place — present themselves.

    Sure, any place like this will go through phases. Certain ideas, as they raise questions and incite disagreement and debate, will for a time shape the course of discussion, and will themselves wane as discussion moves onward. The virtue demanded here is dedication, not disquiet.

    I feel the sudden rise of “Oh! How Front Porch has changed!” type laments are the rather thoughtless products of certain PoMoCon’s insistence on turning this into an “us or them” relationship — being as unable as you seem to be with truly tolerating the articulation of differing opinions, and being impatient with the phases through which such communities move.

    It’s too typical for supposed “lovers of place” to do this after a short while: decide the place is not working to their desired pace, not now-and-always being exactly what they will it to be, and threaten to move on to “the next place”. Love of place find no home in such attitudes.

  53. James Kabala:

    On the contrary, this is one of the best posts ever on this site, and actually much more practical than a condemnation (however justified) of automobiles or TV.

  54. Reader John:

    “As if upon death we are done with our bodies. Christianity has a long tradition regarding the dead, and cremation has no part in it.”
    Those two sentences are enough for me. The second flows from the truth of which the first sentence of a sarcastic affirmation.
    But I opted for burial implicitly when I decided 13 years ago to believe and obey the Church instead of rolling my own rules.
    I’m not at all convinced, either, that this topic is tangential to the concerns of The Porch.

  55. Anonymous:

    Indeed. I have no doubts about the Resurrection of the dead, but I am fairly sure it will not resemble the early scenes of Night Of The Living Dead.

    In obedience on my church’s teaching I will not be cremated, but I do not have a problem with it in general. My step-mother was cremated, however we buried her ashes at her parents grave (urns can be interred above a burial vault) and have placed her name on the headstone– in short a burial (complete with prayers and a gathering of friends and family) that was in every way a reflection of family bonds and a return to her childhood hometown that folks on this website ought appreciate.

  56. Anonymous:

    Spending vast sums on a funeral, embalming, and having gaudy tomb monuments was also a very pagan practice. Frankly, is there a burial practice that was not done by pagans too?

  57. Anonymous:

    I think you ignoring a key point: the practice is untraditional, but there is really no necessary theological (or economical) point in the matter. This is a little like the old argument over red wine vs white wine in the Communion, or leavened bread vs unleavened. I will stick with my church’s tradition there too, as I believe tradition ought be respected unless there is a compelling reason to change, but that does not mean I must cry “Heretic!” at those churches that use white wine and unleavened bread instead as many partisans did in the 800s, bringing venom and contention where they ought have been charity and fraternity.

  58. Crwiley62:

    Excellent post.

    As a Presbyterian pastor I’m continually surprised (as in I am surprised again and again) by the fact that many of my most faithful parishioners are planning to be cremated. When I tell them that this is an aborration from Christian practice and a bad witness, they’re shocked. Why? Because they don’t really believe in the resurrection of the body — most evangelical preaching in the US for the last 200 years has promoted a gnostic “soul salvation”. Deep down most of these people would have been fine with a ghost of Jesus on the first Easter Sunday. They think Easter is about “life after death”, not the new creation.

    I wonder why these folks — so many of whom wore the WWJD jewelry just a few years ago, fail to ask the question, “What would Jesus do with his body after death?”

  59. Bill:

    As I read this post I kept waiting for some indication that it is satire. I’m a bit surprised to see that apparently the author is entirely serious.

    Personally, I’ve been considering asking that my remains be put in the compost pile. But I wonder if that would be “unchristian.” It seems I may have to consult a Pharisee.

  60. Bill:

    Pastor:

    Are you saying that a cremated believer will not be resurrected? What of the Christian matyrs who were burned at the stake?

    Do you believe our bodies will be resurrected in whatever condition they are in at the time of the resurrection? Buried bodies decompose, of course.

    I admit to being surprised that there are folks who think we have a religious duty to be buried. Does it really matter how or where our bodies decompose?

    genuinely interested…

  61. William B. Turner:

    Even before I became a Buddhist, I found the tendency of Christians to fetishize (a word I use advisedly) dead bodies macabre, bizarre, and distinctly psychopathological. But, to my mind, those terms accurately characterize all of Christianity, which, to my mind, has visited untolled, hideous, profoundly unjustifiable, unredeemable violence on the world beyond Europe since the beginning of European exploration in the 15th century. In fact, for Buddhists, especially of the Tibetan variety, cremation is far from “cold and godless.” It is a rich cultural practice from a spiritual tradition that, historically, significantly predates the advent of Christianity. Tibetan Buddhists prefer, if possible, to leave dead bodies untouched for three days after death, because they take quite literally the idea of mind separating from a given body gradually, and therefore wish to avoid disrupting the process.

    One of the great ironies of our vastly improved technologies of transportation and communication is that a peripatetic Okie can admire and hope to adopt the cultural practices of Tibetans.

  62. Crwiley62:

    I only wish we really did obsess over the body as much you you think we do, Mr. Turner. I’m afraid many of us are Tibetans — you’re just willing to admit it.

  63. Crwiley62:

    Hi Bill,

    I certainly do believe that all the elect will be raised. In the natural order of things our bodies decompose and nourish the soil. Those who have been burned as martyrs — even those believers who have wrongly chosen cremation will be raised. (I can’t tell you the number of sins worse than cremation I am guilty of and I still look forward in faith to being raised. The reason I can’t tell you the number of sins is because I have committed so many and still continue to commit them. My hope is based on my faith in Christ not faith in my obedience.)

    I also think organ donation is a good thing. My driver’s license states that I am an organ donor.

    The act of Christian burial is a sign to the world that we believe the body has a future. Tibetans, like my interlocutor above, and gnostics despair for the body. It has no future in their eyes. They can burn it without a qualm because they think it is garbage — like a banana peel. We treat the body reverently, like those who took the body of Jesus off the cross and went to great expense to prepare it for a resurrection.

  64. John Médaille:

    It would help Christians just a little bit if burial weren’t such a Big Business with hundreds of “health regulations” that drive up costs and made it absurdly expensive, just at a time when many people have lost their main source of income. When burial was in the churchyard, it was a communal act, not an expensive show. When people owned a little land, they could own a little burial plot. Now these are both luxury items.

  65. Rusty:

    I was always told that cremation wasn’t Christian, but my grandmother was cremated. Granted she hadn’t been practicing traditional Roman Catholicism for a while so that might have been part of it, but I don’t think she’ll be damned for it. In the same vein of thought, I don’t think that the people who had no choice in the manner of their deaths can be considered “less Christian” than those who have been buried intact. Cremation, though, seems a little bit strange; like it’s more a matter of convenience than anything else. I suppose it’s cheaper and the little box that your ashes are stored in takes up less room in the cemetary.
    However, maybe open-casket viewings before burial are just as bad as cremation. The whole process of a modern funeral is overpriced and overblown. Dressing up a human corpse and putting makeup on it like it’s a doll is sickening. There’s no point to it.
    I liked this essay, Dr. Harvey, but you should have mentioned something about Philip Sherrard. Doesn’t he mention something about the body and the soul being connected?

  66. Ryan Munn:

    Is the author prepared to say that notable Christian martyrs such as Jan Hus, Joan of Arc, John Frith, William Tyndale, and Thomas Cranmer cannot fully participate in resurrection life? Did the faithful who courageously met their end illuminating Nero’s garden not complete their life of baptism? Until the author is willing to grapple with these eschatological and anthropological questions, he would be wise to refrain from his largely political commentary regarding the ‘Christian’ tradition of burial and it’s theological priority.

  67. Mark P:

    The way we deal with dying is about the most universal, democratic, down-to-earth (literally) topic you can possibly address. I don’t see how you can get any more basic.

    “Was not the goal to unite people of different perspectives under the banner of localism and self-determination and liberty and so forth?”

    And yet you are the one looking for a non-religious, intelligence-lacking, pro-cremation lovers of place community, because you don’t want to have anything to do with religious, intellectual, anti-cremation lovers of place?

    So… Who is excluding whom? Who is failing to unite? Who is failing to welcome outsiders?

  68. Mark P:

    To be frankly honest, I’m not sure I’m opposed to cremation, but I am astonished that someone is seen as just CRAZY for, you know, advocating what the vast majority of Christians have always believed in all places up until the past fifty or sixty years. I’m not saying you have to agree, as I’m not sure I do, but it takes a lot of stones or ignorance to dismiss it out of hand.

  69. Mark P:

    I think the critical point is not that cremation somehow impedes the resurrection. It’s that it reflects, as Mr. crwiley# states below, a tendency to think about bodies as extraneous packaging.

    If you’re not a Christian this is irrelevant (although if you are a lover of place you should have other reasons to want to be buried in the ground which nourished you). But if you are, this idea that after death bodies are just garbage to be disposed of is 100% anti-Scriptural. It’s critical that we realize that we are not finished with our bodies, that though they are lifeless they will not always be so, and that corporeal resurrection is absolutely central to the Christian faith. Jesus didn’t, you know, leave his discarded life-suit rotting in a tomb like so much refuse.

  70. Mark P:

    I enjoy your posts Jordan, and you’re take on things. I feel like I haven’t noticed you posting as much lately? In any case, I’m glad to see you here.

    That said, my eyes are rolling out of my head right now.

    “But it is highly likely that God is not perfectly described in Trinitarian theology.”

    I would be fine just changing that: “It is highly likely that God is not perfectly described.” It’s not a question of whether it perfectly describes God. It’s a question of whether discarding of twenty centuries of unified Christian practice and witness is prudent–both with the Trinity and burial.

  71. Crwiley62:

    Just a couple of parting thoughts. I’m surprised at how many raise martyrdom by burning as an objection to the Christian practice of burying the dead. The martyrs had burning pressed upon them and most would have chosen (if given a choice) long lives with Christian burials at the end of them.

    Second, just as the body has a future for the soul to inhabit the created order has a future for the body to inhabit. This is about the new creation in total. (Perhaps this were all who are committed to place and localism can regard the Christian faith with respect — even if they wish to live in Tibet.)

  72. Librmmh:

    What precisely are the Christian arguments against cremation? In practice, tradition is indeed a compelling argument, and I agree that the burden of proof should be on Christians wanting to move from burial to cremation. But aside from the valid and even profound, but more practical, arguments that Mark P. has just given below, it’s not really clear to me why cremation should be unacceptable in principle. I do not see the necessary connection between belief in the Resurrection and burial-vs.-cremation. After all, cremation could be done in a way that was respectful. Can anyone comment?
    On a personal note, I was very pleased that my father was buried, not cremated. And I was happy that the Orthodox Church required an open casket. I agree with commenters who have mentioned the abomination of the made-up and embalmed body, but for my father we stipulated we wanted the legal minimum, no embalming, and to see him laid out in his all wood casket—we wanted something that would decompose—at peace after much suffering, and kingly (“lord of thyself, I crown and mitre thee”–Virgil to Dante at the end of the Purgatorio), was in a sense a joy to his family. Also, I find that visiting his gravesite is somehow to be close to him in a way that looking at his photo near the chair where he used to read, is not. My experience supports burial, but I would still like arguments from principle.

  73. Rob G:

    There is not a connection between cremation and the Resurrection of the body in a rational sense. The repeated attempt here by proponents of cremation to link the two in such a way is wrongheaded. NO ONE is arguing that burned bodies, bodies consumed by animals, bodies dissoluted by exposure, etc., will not be resurrected. Christ died in the body for all men, rose in the body for all men, therefore all men will rise bodily. Such is the Christian teaching.

    One argument against cremation, besides its thoroughly pagan patrimony, is the fact that it is a method of body disposal. Christians do not “dispose” of their bodies. Christian anthropology does not teach that a human is a soul in a body, like a ghost in a container. That is Platonic and/or gnostic, not Christian. Christianity teaches that humans are, to use theologian Alexander Schmemann’s term, “psycho-somatic unities.” The separation of the soul from the body at death is in all cases temporary. The psyche and the soma will in every single instance be reunited. Therefore, the body of a deceased person is to be treated with respect, the Christian even moreso, as his/her body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

    To accept cremation, even for supposed “good” reasons, is to turn the imagery of death and resurrection in both the Bible and the Tradition on its head. The buried body is seen as “resting” while awaiting the Resurrection, hence the phrase “requiescat in pace.” St. Paul views the body as in some sense a “seed” of the Resurrection. As I said above, we “bury” seeds, we don’t throw them into a fire. In the Catholic and Orthodox Churches the body is censed before the casket is closed. This is perfectly natural, as it is sanctified, holy things which are censed.

    I could go on, but I don’t have time right now. Suffice it to say that tradition, when universal, needs no theory to back it up. The theory is there, however, and was fairly common knowledge to all Christians in some form or another a mere 30 or 40 years ago. I grew up in the 60s first as an American “Northern” Baptist, then later as a Pentecostal. I had many Christian friends of various denominations; the consensus among all was that “Christians don’t cremate, they bury.” The move towards cremation was, like so many other negative things in the wider church, due to the infection of mainstream Christianity by progressivism/liberalism in the 60s. End of story. The fact that so many conservative Christians have accepted it is due largely to their being unaware of its antecedents and ramifications, or uncritical due to their own co-option by heterodox thought.

  74. Just Ken:

    Cremation may be a reaction to the de-Christianiziation of America as the author seems to claim but just a importantly it could also be a reaction against the excessive cost of funeral services these days. As someone who has buried one grandmother and two parents over the past decade I can tell you, it wasn’t cheap. Just a “basic” funeral package (body removal & prep,casket, showing, service, site preparation, hearse, flowers, & etc.) costs $10k. A simple body removal and cremation about $1000 complete.

  75. James Kabala:

    I really don’t understand the pro-cremation fanaticism in several of the comments below. If you want to be cremated to save money, I understand and I agree that the funeral industry is overburdened with costly regulations that can make burial a financially undesirable choice, but that doesn’t seem to me to explain the level of vitriol this column has caused.

  76. Andrew:

    Wow, thanks for the passionate responses which in toto go along way toward providing the sense, theology, moral suasion, biblical exegesis, and charity (did I get them all?) that my original post seemed to lack for some of you. Right now, in the spirit of the season, I wish to bring some peace and mercy.
    Cremation is a vexed issue and truly gray. If we haven’t been involved in making this decision already, most of us have loved ones who prefer cremation and think of it in positive terms (my own mother!). Whether it’s this site’s trenchant agrarian tendencies or some sacramental thinking (is there a difference?) it’s clear that a consensus has emerged here that a plain burial without embalming is ideal. But it gets messy. Cremation can be not only (as I asserted) a desecration, a heresy, and an act of apostasy, but it might also be a lawful requirement, a financial necessity, and not even a sin. Neither your cremated kinfolks nor you who paid for their cremations are going to hell over this one. Certainly, none of you are going to be burnt at the stake by any Inquisition on the True Doctrine of Burial. So have mercy on yourself and fear not. Even in the Orthodox Church (the most conservative on this issue within Christianity) one can be cremated and then buried with the full rites and blessings of the Church. But not voluntarily, and that’s the rub. You don’t get to choose to cremate. It’s allowed and accommodated by the Church in those lands, e.g. Great Britain and Japan, where cremation is the law. But for those of us with a choice, the only truly Christian one is burial.
    For those of you itching for a scripture v. tradition fight and suspect that I’m elevating a Christian “tradition” to that of “dogma,” know that the early Church did not invent its antipathy toward cremation. I spend a lot of time on this in my longer essay, but here’s one little bit that the colleague to whom I referred in my post says has him “almost convinced” against cremation:
    [referring to I Cor. 15: 42-9] The “seed” that is sown here is not just this body of corruption but the image of God too. The organic metaphor governs the logic here. One should no more wonder, can God raise me up from ashes, any more than can God raise up wheat from burnt seeds? Of course He could. But that is not how He has ordained things. And it is certainly no way to grow a wheat crop. The question should be: why desecrate the image of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit itself by destroying it with fire? Cremation is not what the body is for, nor is it what fire is for, and it ignores what the earth is for.

    Here are some links: This from the Gray Lady earlier this week on the revival of Jewish burial practices http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/13/nyregion/13burial.html?src=me&ref=general
    “Two books, he added, are considered among the revival’s seminal influences: “The American Way of Death,” Jessica Mitford’s 1963 exposé about the funeral industry, and “A Plain Pine Box,” a 1981 work in which Rabbi Arnold M. Goodman describes a Minneapolis synagogue’s return to traditional burial practices.”
    –I quoted “Gnostic bullshit” from Cairns’ “Mysterion” http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/reportmessage.cfm?comment_id=13435&entry_id=2957

    –much obliged, Andrew

  77. Jordan Smith:

    I can assure you I am the least skeptical human being I know about the idea of God. He is more real to me than any human I interact with. I am known to my Christian friends as a bit “touched” when it comes to the intensity of my relationship with God. The closer I get to him and the more I study Scripture, the more I am convinced that God and his ways are so beyond my understanding as to make me ridiculous.

    So my vehemence is always against Christians who are smugly certain about things that they take for “gospel”. How many times are we Christians proved wildly wrong about who God is? The Jews certainly had a tough time accepting Jesus because he was so far outside of their “traditions” as to who God was, and that his birth, death and resurrection pushed too far beyond the safe confines of their religion.

    I don’t want to make that mistake. I don’t want to ossify and take a wrong-headed stance. I don’t want to find myself on the wrong side of history. So I live in fear of God and my own hubris, live as holy a life as I am able, and try not to judge things that are beyond my comprehension.

    I would get into my whole theory that Christians have a flawed understanding of truth that you can largely blame on Aristotle and Aquinas, but then we would be here all day. So I will just say that history demonstrates over and over that God isn’t interested in us figuring him out and putting him in a box. He is interested in relationship. Our humility. And if we get arrogant? He’ll bust us up.

  78. Jordan Smith:

    Who said I had discarded twenty centuries of unified Christian practice? I accept the idea of the Trinity, but I still wrestle with its reality in my daily life. I just want to be ready to let go of twenty centuries of understanding (if needs be) the way the Jews had to let go of twenty centuries of understanding when Jesus came.

    Why is this so hard to understand? Why can we not understand truth as being relative in time… or more precisely that our understanding of “truth” is relative to the living Truth, Christ Jesus?

  79. Jordan Smith:

    And no one has yet brought up the example of David eating the consecrated bread. Can you imagine if David showed up on FPR to defend his actions? He would get roasted!!

  80. Jordan Smith:

    The level of vitriol is measurable in a direct relationship with the level of dogmatic certainty.

  81. Jordan Smith:

    (And I think it is useful to notice that we have arrived at another 20 century checkpoint. Perhaps we should be expecting another massive shift in our conscious understanding? I believe we should and that a fresh revelation of Jesus is on the way. God’s done it before.)

  82. Jordan Smith:

    Nope. I don’t cast out Scripture. In fact I think the Gospels prove my belief in a need to have our understanding and “traditions” upended every now and again. After all, that’s what Jesus did when he came. Upended twenty centuries of traditions. And if we look anew at what Jesus meant when he said I am the Way, the Truth and the Life you will note that he didn’t say “Your Scriptures, theologies and pet doctrines are the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. He is… There are no inalienable truths that are not subordinate to and extensions of the Truth, the living Christ Jesus. He is the bedrock of my faith.

    So I believe the narrative, and buy into traditions, but many of the stones the modern Church is built on are flawed, as were the stones the Temple Jesus tore down and rebuilt in three days. To date I have found no modern Church I can worship in without a great compromise of conscience. I hope and believe I have been called to build a new Church out of the mess too many dismiss as heretical post-modernism. I believe the generation that others criticize (read Peters’ latest rant) is a new generation inoculated against the failings of modernism, with a fresh hunger for true, living, transformative relationship with a living Jesus. That hunger is just waiting to be tapped.

    In the meantime the connection with our old forms has been broken, this generation can see that the Temple is already broken. That’s why they text their lives away in disinterest. We must, as T.S. Eliot admonished, rebuild the Temple. But we must wait for the Rock to come and show us how.

    Oh, and come on, who is going to brand me as a Gnostic? I know someone is itching to level that charge.

  83. Mark P:

    Never said you did discard it. I’m mostly reacting against the “just a tradition” statement, as if we should be willing to change it the way we change a haircut. “So what if you get cremated? Burial is just a tradition. So what if you deny Christ’s divinity? The Trinity is just a tradition.”

    I’m mostly just astonished by all these people who think opposing cremation is loony… as if twenty centuries of Christian practice shouldn’t give us serious pause before changing our ways.

    I do think your Jewish example is apt, though.

  84. Mark P:

    Nothing wrong with dogma.

    Though burial is definitely not dogma.

  85. Samuel:

    Jordan, I won’t argue with you on these numerous points. Not in this way, anyhow. I disagree with a lot of what you’ve said here, but I also know exactly where it comes from (and I won’t argue for a minute that many of the stones we stand upon are not flawed). That is to say, it’s obvious enough to me that we’re struggling with the same questions and struggling toward a similar end. The difference, I suppose, is that from where I presently stand (disclaimer: I’m a young, ignorant, wayfaring fool), I find myself reaching more into the past for the good examples than holding with too much faith in the present state of skepticism toward everything told, and ennui with everything ‘old’, nor likewise do I have much faith that we are going to suddenly formulate any brand new solutions. The way I understand all this may well change tomorrow, and for all I know, we’ll be hummin’ the same tune.

  86. Samuel:

    And since Eliot has been brought up, it’s worth paraphrasing him here, since this line well sums up for me our present situation (and lines like “only a flicker over the strained time-ridden faces” and “this twittering world” seem to take on far more significance now than they ever had the day he wrote them):

    “Here is a place of disaffection, In a dim light: neither daylight, investing form with lucid stillness, nor darkness to purify the soul, emptying the sensual with deprivation, cleansing affection from the temporal. Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker over the strained time-ridden faces, distracted from distraction by distraction, filled with fancies and empty of meaning. Tumid apathy with no concentration. Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills; not here in the darkness, in this twittering world.”

  87. Jordan Smith:

    This passage also reminds me of the passage in East Coker from the Four Quartets where we find “ourselves” waiting without hope and any understanding of what we are waiting for. I believe Caleb Stegall posted it some time ago as a comment in another article.

  88. Jordan Smith:

    Samuel, I do not hold any faith in the present. I look to the future with an eye to the past–because the past is our future. I come to FPR because it understands that globalism is doomed and localism is our future.

    As to the past giants I cited… Aristotle, Aquinas etc… even though I take issue with some of what they understood, much of what they wrote was brilliant. There is much to reach back and partake of. However, I still believe there is a fundamental flaw in Western Christendom’s understanding of “Truth”… we always seem to lose our focus on Jesus and pay too much attention to our rules.

    And you are right. There are no brand new solutions. The answer is still Jesus. Too bad most Christians don’t actually know him.

  89. Jordan Smith:

    You will continue to be astonished as long as you don’t accept that there is a serious fracture (modern/post-modern) in the way the Western consciousness understands truth. The arguments here are a prime example of this understanding of “truth” I am on about. One camp believes “truth” can objective, the other camp does not.

    Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the finest analysis of the problem we face (and where it stems from). It also, I think, best explains that “truth” or “revelation from God” (in my experience) is something that precludes any notions of objectivity or subjectivity. It also fits with Einstein’s theory of General Relativity… truth being relative in space and in time. It’s built into the very fabric of the universe.

    If we could all let go of our static (read “dead”) notions of God, and actually try to listen and follow him everyday, imagine how quick the world might change. We might actually untie his hands and release his power.

    I can hear the voice of Jesus echoing from the Gospel of John: I only do what I see the Father doing…

  90. Jordan Smith:

    You will continue to be astonished as long as you don’t accept that there is a serious fracture (modern/post-modern) in the way the Western consciousness understands truth. The arguments here are a prime example of this understanding of “truth” I am on about. One camp believes “truth” can objective, the other camp does not.

    Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the finest analysis of the problem we face (and where it stems from). It also, I think, best explains that “truth” or “revelation from God” (in my experience) is something that precludes any notions of objectivity or subjectivity. It also fits with Einstein’s theory of General Relativity… truth being relative in space and in time. It’s built into the very fabric of the universe.

    If we could all let go of our static (read “dead”) notions of God, and actually try to listen and follow him everyday, imagine how quick the world might change. We might actually untie his hands and release his power.

    I can hear the voice of Jesus echoing from the Gospel of John: I only do what I see the Father doing…

  91. Jordan Smith:

    1 Corinthians 15:42-49? How do these verses support burial? The material is pretty open to interpretation. Not to mention that it suggests burial is dishonourable. (“The body that is sown is perishable… it is sown in dishonour”…)

  92. Jordan Smith:

    1 Corinthians 15:42-49? How do these verses support burial? The material is pretty open to interpretation. Not to mention that it suggests burial is dishonourable. (“The body that is sown is perishable… it is sown in dishonour”…)

  93. Jordan Smith:

    Certainty regarding “gray” areas, however, is not such a healthy thing.

  94. Tony:

    Jordan, could you explain further what you meant when you wrote “I hope and believe I have been called to build a new Church out of the mess too many dismiss as heretical post-modernism.” ? Do you mean a la Joseph Smith, or in some other sense?

  95. Jordan Smith:

    Yes, I cringed when I re-read that sentence. Makes me sound loony.

    Definitely not a la Joseph Smith. In fact, I shouldn’t have written “build a Church” at all, but kids say the darndest things when they get carried away. Most importantly I did not mean a new denomination or sect. All I meant was “build a Church” a la T.S. Eliot in Choruses from the Rock. A better phrase would have been “rebuild” it.

    Mostly I am concerned with this fatal perversion of “truth” that is weakening and destroying the Church. It becomes an easy substitute for the hard work and sacrifice of relationship with Jesus. And I believe “post-modernism” is the result of God’s grace deserting “modern” culture. A return to and defense of modernism is not the answer. God has already left the building. Repentance, and a return the Truth is the answer… not this endless squabble over “truths”. I think some of my other posts on this thread expand on those themes.

    Beyond that, I don’t know what where God is leading me. Inevitably it will be back into a church, but which church, and where and when I don’t know. And what will it look like? I don’t know, but I hope it smells like Jesus.

  96. Jordan Smith:

    In addition, it is anything but “convenient” to live or view things this way. I can not just defer to some “accepted truth”, but in every moment of my day I must submit my thoughts, decisions and actions to God. It requires more commitment and sacrifice. The freedom Jesus purchased brings this responsibility. Following rules can be done while asleep at the wheel.

  97. Mark P:

    If you’re looking for a defender of objectivity and objective notions of truth, you’re looking at the wrong guy. Also, I’m not sure how you can possibly lump “tradition” into the “objective” camp, considering the notion of objectivity is an invention of the modern age–which tradition slightly predates.

    I think the more apt division might be between people who believe in Progress–and thus think that this generation, this era is smarter, wiser, more virtuous, and more likely to get Christianity right for the first time ever (or in 1900 years anyway)…. versus those of us who think that we’re just as flawed and apt to heresy and foolishness as every generation before, who don’t believe in Progress, and who further find some value, some wisdom in the collective witness of the Church over the centuries.

  98. Mark P:

    True.

  99. Anonymous:

    God’s grace is for people, not cultures. OK, I suppose we could argue the point about whether animals and other created beings and things may also receive grace; but my point is that “culture” is nothing more than an abstraction of the human language. It is not a being in its own right that can receive grace as you or I can. And when you say that modern cultures have been deserted by grace are you really saying grace is no longer present in the Sacraments and no one can be saved nowadays? I think that’s a pretty dangerous road to go down.

  100. Anonymous:

    Polygamy was always rare, the exception not the rule (there simply isn’t enough of a sexual imbalance to allow most men to have plural wives). As a matter of history the Greeks* and Romans did not allow for multiple simultaneous wives and that “tradtion” became normative in Christianity simply by cultural osmosis in the early Church. But also it’s easy to see early Christians looking on the few cases of polygamy that still existed in their world, and noting that it was a form of avarice not much different than that of rich men arrogating treasures to themselves.

    * One exception: the Macedonian kings were permitted plural wives, and this carried over into the Hellenistic monarchies. Of coyrse it;s also true that Greek and Roman men of property and status often had concubines– mistresses– on the side, but those women never had legal status, and the practice of course persisted in the Christian era almost down to our own day.

  101. Jordan Smith:

    I would strongly disagree, God’s grace is definitely for cultures (or nations) as well as individuals. If I followed your logic, there would be no point in praying for the nations. Nations are definitely not abstractions of the human language, they are living organisms. Languages play a significant role in DNA of cultures… but do not come anywhere close to being a summation of a culture.

    When God’s broadcast grace is withdrawn from a nation it’s institutions are vulnerable to attack and begin to fail. (We are exceptionally ignorant to the degree that God’s grace and invisible interventions hold our fragile constructions together.) But even when he withdraws his Grace from our corporate structures, God’s grace continues to be extended to individuals and through the Sacraments.

    It’s a very Biblical concept. I suppose one could argue that the coming of Jesus and the Kingdom transfers this idea of “grace” from the nation state of Israel to any individual that believes, but I don’t think most Christians would subscribe to this viewpoint.

  102. Jordan Smith:

    The notion of “objectivity” may be an invention of the modern age, but that didn’t prevent people of earlier ages from believing in “objective” truth. “Traditions” are usually fiercely defended by those who believe in this way.

    Perhaps your division is more apt. But both of the camps you describe still make the same mistake… believing in a static notion of Christianity, and not a dynamic and living Christ. One says we are going to get it right, the other says we have it right.

  103. Mark P:

    Absolute and objective truth aren’t the same, and people did not think in the latter terms before the 17th- and 18th-centuries.

    You may be right about the two camps. I don’t think we have it right, and I think we’ll never have it right, but I do think we’re generally safer in the old mistakes, whose limitations and weaknesses and ill effects we can account for, versus innovating new mistakes whose consequences we cannot foresee, cannot predict, cannot measure, cannot reduce.

  104. Samuel:

    “Following rules can be done while asleep at the wheel.”

    Certainly this statement is at times true (though I don’t advise any literal attempts at verifying it). Following “rules” need not be a thoughtless act, though, nor can it always be conflated with rote legalism. I follow many laws of the land because I understand where they fall in the order of things, and more to the point, how they contribute to that order. Indeed, these laws may likely be interpreted and enacted with great variation while continuing to work well, but so long as they remain thoughtfully observed, they reach toward shared truths.

    I like what you say to a commenter above, that truth transcends concepts of ‘objectivity’ and ‘subjectivity’, in that foundering into a debate over the question when speaking about Christian truth tends to get conversation stuck in a very inadequate dialectic. At the same time, David Hart’s insistence in ‘Beauty of the Infinite’ that we should not regret that the Christian story rests in the particular, the recalcitrant peculiarities, and in that sense, a post-modern recognition of the apparent subjectivity, or placedness, of its truths, is not a retreat. If Christianity’s claims are to be victorious, they will be so through the beauty of the stories they tell — and in this way, I do not agree with your unwillingness to embrace the traditions of the Church. Not because I think that what the Church does is right, but because I believe that amidst all of its human inadequacies, it still manages to tell the most beautiful story with the greatest promise of peace.

    Having said that, I should say also that I’m not unwilling to disagree with the Church, but I do have a strong amount of faith in its conclusions and establishments. Primarily, and hopefully to draw myself closer to what you are saying, because I do believe that the Spirit is at work in the world’s institutions, and that, against the resilient force of human restlessness and rebellion, is guiding the congregation of the faithful toward its eschatalogical fulfillment. Beyond that, I can only admit that yes, I do submit to the Church’s lingua super scriptura on such theological ideas. Call me a drone if you will. I do it because I believe in the same power of Christ that you do.

  105. Samuel:

    “Following rules can be done while asleep at the wheel.”

    Certainly this statement is at times true (though I don’t advise any literal attempts at verifying it). Following “rules” need not be a thoughtless act, though, nor can it always be conflated with rote legalism. I follow many laws of the land because I understand where they fall in the order of things, and more to the point, how they contribute to that order. Indeed, these laws may likely be interpreted and enacted with great variation while continuing to work well, but so long as they remain thoughtfully observed, they reach toward shared truths.

    I like what you say to a commenter above, that truth transcends concepts of ‘objectivity’ and ‘subjectivity’, in that foundering into a debate over the question when speaking about Christian truth tends to get conversation stuck in a very inadequate dialectic. At the same time, David Hart’s insistence in ‘Beauty of the Infinite’ that we should not regret that the Christian story rests in the particular, the recalcitrant peculiarities, and in that sense, a post-modern recognition of the apparent subjectivity, or placedness, of its truths, is not a retreat. If Christianity’s claims are to be victorious, they will be so through the beauty of the stories they tell — and in this way, I do not agree with your unwillingness to embrace the traditions of the Church. Not because I think that what the Church does is right, but because I believe that amidst all of its human inadequacies, it still manages to tell the most beautiful story with the greatest promise of peace.

    Having said that, I should say also that I’m not unwilling to disagree with the Church, but I do have a strong amount of faith in its conclusions and establishments. Primarily, and hopefully to draw myself closer to what you are saying, because I do believe that the Spirit is at work in the world’s institutions, and that, against the resilient force of human restlessness and rebellion, is guiding the congregation of the faithful toward its eschatalogical fulfillment. Beyond that, I can only admit that yes, I do submit to the Church’s lingua super scriptura on such theological ideas. Call me a drone if you will. I do it because I believe in the same power of Christ that you do.

  106. Jordan Smith:

    I am out of my depth when arguing the differences between absolute and objective truth. Maybe you can help me out.

    And as to your second paragraph, fair enough. Just as long as we don’t miss any big shifts. And I think we are living in the midst of one.

  107. Anonymous:

    When we pray for a nation we are simply praying for the people in and of that nation, without whom no nation can exist. There being no Etruscans or Babylonias for eample, so there is no longer an Eturia or Babylonia.
    And again, God’s saving grace can only be for individual men and women because only individual men and women can be saved. It’s nonense to say that Russia or France or the United States will be saved– what do you even mean by that? That every last Russia or Frenchman or American will be saved? No, that is ridiculous. In fact it is more than nonsense: it is heresy, known by the name of philatelism.
    So no, I do not accept that God is any respecter of nationality, and the OT example of Irsael as the Chosen People is one limited to the Old Testament era for the necessary purpose of preparing an ancestry for Christ, and soil in which the seed of the Gospel would be planted. But even in ancient Israel some men were saved and some were lost– no one would argue that even the wicked, even Judas and Caiaphas were saved by virtue of their ancestry, nor that Moses and Elijah and Jeremiah were damned on the same ground. And yes, I do believe the ancient tradition that the Church supplants Israel as the Chosen People in this regard– though that is no comment on God’s relationship with today’s Jews.
    Finally, God may make his grace available through any means He chooses, but the normal conduit of grace are indeed the Sacraments, and these are administered to individuals not to groups.
    I’m sorry, but your thinking in this area strikes me as wrong on all counts.

  108. Jordan Smith:

    Nah, I wouldn’t call you a drone. Your comments prove otherwise.

    And my difficulty in embracing the traditions of the Church is because they have badly failed me. And to date I either haven’t been willing to make the significant compromises required to return to it, or God has not yet finished with me in the desert and I am not ready to return.

  109. Jordan Smith:

    Nah, I wouldn’t call you a drone. Your comments prove otherwise.

    And my difficulty in embracing the traditions of the Church is because they have badly failed me. And to date I either haven’t been willing to make the significant compromises required to return to it, or God has not yet finished with me in the desert and I am not ready to return.

  110. Samuel:

    There is no humanness without ‘culture’, a compromised term at any rate. Culture is the act of humans being human. It is the fecundity, the expression of our growth. No man is saved ‘alone’. In scripture, God worked through nations, spoke to nations, punished nations. There is little Christian about arguing for individual salvation. At the very least, there is nothing helpful with thinking in such terms. Christ suffered and died for the sins of Israel, into which all men were invited.

  111. Rob G:

    Historian Diarmid MacCullough, in the last chapter of his recent and monumental history of Christianity, establishes, in the words of Russell Moore, “that the unanimous voice of the church, in every sector, was for burial over against cremation, and concludes the traditionalist case (that cremation is a pagan practice inconsistent with historic Christianity) is ‘unanswerable.’” The fact that MacCullough is not a conservative or traditionalist makes his conclusion all the more weighty.

  112. Anonymous:

    We are going way off topic and should probably desist. But yes, I agree that we are not saved “alone”; but the community in and through which we are saved is the Church (give that what meaning seems right to you; I am not arguing in favor of one institutional church here). And the Church is avowedly and profoundly multicultural, multilingual and multinational.
    I agree with your notion that all who claim Christ have become children of Israel: a German, a Japanese, an Aborgine, a Zulu, a Berber, an Aymara Indian, a Canadian, etc– all who know Christ are also children of Israel by adoption. And to such extent as their worldly and temporal cultures particpate in that Israel it is due to the individuals among them that so participate.
    I guess that’s my complaint here: I see hints that some people think you can save a culture without saving its people, one soul at a time. But only by bringing the Gospel to men and women as individuals is any salvation to be had, and grace increased in the world of time and space. There are no short cuts in the process.

  113. Jordan Smith:

    Perhaps I was mistaken using the word “Grace”. Do you believe that God “judges” nations as well as “individuals”? If you don’t then I guess we will have to agree to disagree. (Because I believe that God judges both nations and individuals. And I do believe this idea extends beyond the Old Testament.) I do understand where you are coming from and respect it… perhaps my understanding is just a “tradition” that better allows me to understand God’s interactions with nations, and at some future date I will see things as you do. For the present, not so much.

  114. EuroCentric:

    Traditionally, cremation is occidental and inhumation is Middle Eastern.

    As a man of the West, I choose the former.

  115. Bill:

    I find y’all’s discussion of this fascinating, and I hope y’all won’t mind if I chime in with an observation.

    In considering how God views “nations” (and particularly whether the “judges” them, as such) I think we need to be careful not to let our thinking be too influenced by our contemporary worldview. “Nations” as we understand them are a very modern concept. Nation-states as we know them today didn’t exist before a few hundred years ago.

    When the English word “nation” or “nations” appears in Scripture, it is typically not referring to some man-made political subdivision of humanity, but rather to what we would now call “ethnicity.” The Hebrew word most commonly translated as “nations” in the OT is a variant of “goyim.” It might just as well (particularly in light of the modern use of the word “nation”) be translated “Gentiles.” In the New Testament the Greek word that is translated into English as “nations” is generally “ethne” (from which comes, of course, our word “ethnicity.”)

    Now maybe there are folks who are completely comfortable with the notion that God would collectively judge and punish entire ethnicities, based upon the conduct of some people of that ethnicty. Most of us would, I suspect, be uncomfortable with that.

    It seems to me that Christ obliterated the notion that God favors one ethnicity over another. As Paul put it, “There is neither Jew nor Greek…for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    So, for what its worth, I reject the notion that God judges or punishes us based on ethnicity.

    And if the argument is that he judges and punishes us collectively (regardless of our individual righteousness) not based upon ethnicity, but rather upon how we are politically defined ourselves, I would question not only the theology, but also whether there is any Scriptural foundation for it–superceded by Christ or not.

    Anyway, just my two cents worth.

    peace

  116. Andrew:

    I didn’t quite read all of the comments, so someone may have already covered this, but I wanted to post two things that don’t seem to have been mentioned in our discussion, but I think are important aspects.

    The first is burial as a community activity. Many of the comments have still been looking at the burial issue from a very individualistic lens. I come to FPR to try to get rid of that lens in my own life. So, instead of looking at what do I want done with my body, what if we instead ask what will be the best way for my family to grieve for me once I’m gone? It was asserted in a previous FPR post (I searched but couldn’t find the article) that the old tradition of a person dying in their home, then the family members washing and preparing the body for burial created a healthy attitude towards death that our culture has clearly lost. The possibility of a home burial is now all but out of the question, but we can still keep some remnants of it by having funerals with an actual body to view. It’s hard to relate to an urn of carbon, but with a body, it’s much easier to have actual closure.

    The second point is quite tangential, and the Protestants here won’t care for it, but relics, even of the martyrs who were burnt at the stake, are an important part of the Church, especially the early church. It’s pretty hard to get a relic from a pile of ash.

  117. Andrew:

    I didn’t quite read all of the comments, so someone may have already covered this, but I wanted to post two things that don’t seem to have been mentioned in our discussion, but I think are important aspects.

    The first is burial as a community activity. Many of the comments have still been looking at the burial issue from a very individualistic lens. I come to FPR to try to get rid of that lens in my own life. So, instead of looking at what do I want done with my body, what if we instead ask what will be the best way for my family to grieve for me once I’m gone? It was asserted in a previous FPR post (I searched but couldn’t find the article) that the old tradition of a person dying in their home, then the family members washing and preparing the body for burial created a healthy attitude towards death that our culture has clearly lost. The possibility of a home burial is now all but out of the question, but we can still keep some remnants of it by having funerals with an actual body to view. It’s hard to relate to an urn of carbon, but with a body, it’s much easier to have actual closure.

    The second point is quite tangential, and the Protestants here won’t care for it, but relics, even of the martyrs who were burnt at the stake, are an important part of the Church, especially the early church. It’s pretty hard to get a relic from a pile of ash.

  118. Bill:

    Well, my friend, I wasn’t calling anyone CRAZY, as you put it. I was just expressing my sincere surprise that their were Christians who considered burial a matter of orthodoxy. Crwiley responded very graciously and helped me understand where he was coming from. I’ve found this post and the comments fascinating, because I was unaware that there were people who believed that what happens to our bodies after death is somehow relevant to our faith.

    For what it’s worth, and notwithstanding my joke below, I prefer burial. But not because I believe Jesus commanded it, or it will facilitate my resurrection. I prefer it simply because my people are buried. And I’d like to be planted in the soil of our farm, as some of them are. It has nothing to do with “Christianity.”

    Having said that, my wife wants her cremated body to be deposited into the Gulf of Mexico. She doesn’t have the same attachment to our place (not having grown up here).

    Now if I am buried (though I am strongly leaning towards going with cremation instead) I’d like to have the kind of burial Burley Coulter got. No embalming. No fancy casket. Just burial.

    Just buried my grandfather a couple of weeks ago. It was a huge expense. And his embalmed body was surrounded by an impenetrable coffin and coffin cover. Why? Maybe he’ll be better off than me post-resurrection. But I very very highly doubt that.

    I’ve buried lots of animals and I can say that it’s dignified and appropriate. If I’m buried (and I’m lately leaning toward cremation), I favor the Burley Coulter burial. No coffin (or simple pine).

    Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the discussion. Sorry if I offended anyone.

  119. Bill:

    By the way, my post illustrates what happens when you start a post, then move to something else, then come back to finish it later, then post it without proofreading it. Or when you’re semi-literate.

  120. Rob G:

    It is certainly possible to believe in absolute, objective truth without accepting the notion that all truth is propositional, i,e., communicable in syllogisms. It is the latter which is an error of the Enlightenment, not the believe in objective truth per se. And one need not look either to post-modernism nor the Far East to be convinced of this. Just read the Early Church Fathers, who were undoubtedly “pre-modern,” yet believed fully in absolute truth. For an excellent introduction to this line of thought see Andrew Louth’s book “Discerning the Mystery.”

  121. Jordan Smith:

    Well, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that God punishes anyone because of their ethnicity, but rather because a particular ethnicity has become sinful or wayward to the point where God can no longer ignore a group’s conduct. (But I think that is what you were meaning to say.)

    And yes, there is a compelling argument for Christ obliterating this notion… but in my experience it isn’t the case.

    I think God “judges” all sorts of corporate entities. Churches, organizations, institutions, provinces, states, countries. There is no body he is not LORD over. And I am not sure God needs any Scriptural foundation to legitimize his sovereignty.

    He’s your daddy.

  122. Anonymous:

    I’m on it Zac. Indeed, that is the essay I have been waiting to write since FPR began. But for me, really wanting to write something makes it much harder to begin. Thanks for the prompt. Stay tuned.

  123. Anonymous:

    I’m so glad I decided to skim through the glut of comments. Your observation is my own, Samuel. Why do people complain when an FPR writer goes “off message”? If FPR has a message, or at least a set of principles that we would like to build into a platform, I’m sure it also will never cease to be a place for exploration of whatever possible questions seem significant to those who would live good lives in real communities.

    On that note, I find it hard to believe this question has not come up more frequently. Was not one of the great indictments of modern American placeless mass culture that book of decades back, “The American Way of Death”?

    In response to much of the strange energy this post has provoked in the comments, one might recommend the following:

    Whether you call yourself a Buddhist, or pretend not to be a gnostic, take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and remind yourself: “I have a soul, and it is ordered to a particular body. I am not fully me unless I am both at once. I am not living well, therefore, unless I respect the demands, the limits, and the dignity of both.”

    That also, by the way, may serve as helpful advice when sitting around the Christmas feast.

  124. richard:

    Andrew wrote..”The possibility of a home burial is now all but out of the question”

    Actually, home burial upon private property is still legal in Pennsylvania (unless prevented by local ordinance). The body must be below normal plowline, but not necessarily 6 feet.
    Embalming is not required in Pa. Most non family cemeteries require a vault, but no casket.
    Big problem can be getting death certificates without a cooperative mortician.
    Richard Grossman

  125. richard:

    Really sorry for the double post, but
    WOW! 124 comments………. Death or sex really gets peoples’ attention!

    I have my own opinion on cremation that is much less important than seeing Grove City, PA in the tagline at FPR,…….nice!

  126. Jody Howard:

    Very interesting piece. I think you’re right to touch on a latent Gnosticism (Gnosticism is very influential in all quarters of American popular Christianity, I think) as a possible factor in the increase of cremation. At the same time, I do not think the practice fundamentally unChristian or heterodox. The greater reason (in addition to a detachment from place) is, I think, a sort of frugality. Perhaps this is partly justified by a view that rejects the importance of the body, but it doesn’t have to be.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, and I think this is tied up in a broader cultural shift. If I could ask a simple question of the commenters here at the Front Porch: how many new churches are you aware of that plan space for a cemetery when they form or are planted?

  127. Wef:

    Wank

  128. Christian Burial | Front Porch Republic:

    [...] My previous essay, therefore, is an attempt to understand how this tradition has been lost. For most of us, whatever flavor of Christianity we prefer, cremation is largely of function of negligence, ignorance, or forgetfulness. Hence the word “apostasy” – we have simply fallen away from tried and true Christian practice. But more insidious than lack of memory is the introduction of innovation by appealing to erroneous ideas such as the body-is-disposable approach. This is actual “heresy.” Historic Christianity insists that Christ’s incarnation was real and forever and that his risen body adumbrates the destiny for the rest of His body, the Church, i.e. every believer body-and-soul. And since St. Paul calls the body itself the “temple of the Holy Ghost” I also used the word “desecration” to describe cremation. None of the comments to my original post, moreover, ever succeeded in suggesting a Christian rationale for cremation. More importantly no such rationale is possible because there’s no getting around the reality of the risen Jesus’ body for traditional Christians. [...]

  129. Alexandria Wolf:

    I have two questions. 1. Why should the dead take up so much space? Inevitably there will be more of them than us living folks. If EVERYONE opts for a cemetery plot this is going to cause some serious space issues eventually. 2. What about all those poor early Christians from over a thousand years ago whose bodies have been completely destroyed due to the mere vagaries of time? If your pitiful bones have been scattered far and wide how’s that whole resurrection thing supposed to pan out for you? Or are they just out of luck? Hardly seems fair.

  130. Anonymous:

    May I just say- skubalicious, man. The limits that you place on God’s ability to resurrect are fairly extreme. The traditions of burial pre-date even the Hebrew practice, and is equally pagan, but it must have been sanctified and presented as a precondition for salvation somewhere along the way.

    I’d love to see your proof texting of this.

    In the actual world of trying to live and manifest the Kingdom under authority, the concept of sola scriptura disallows this line of teaching as authority. The scripture does not make this claim. You do not claim scripture mandates bodily burial. The Pope has spoken ex cathedra that cremation is acceptable. If you are R.C., you can’t make this claim, as any authority you have is trumped by Paul VI. The Russian Orthodox church allows cremation.

    And, as someone pointed out above, Hundreds of martyrs have been burned and/or left unburied. To claim that their resurrection is somehow not going to be accomplished or their salvation is in question is unreflective, at best.

    This whole line reminds me of the joke when the preacher asked the good ‘ol boy if he believed in infant baptism. “Believe in it? Heck, I seen it done!” Can you have a Christian Cremation? Of course, it happens all the time.

  131. Anonymous:

    What is the point of God judging something that has no soul? Groups do not have souls nor minds (unless perhaps we are talking about some social insects like ants and bees, where there may well be a promitive communal mind shared by many inidividuals) Groups of humans do not have consciousness or volition; only the individuals who comprise them do. And to go straight to the extreme example here, the Nazis did great evil for which God has no doubt held those who died unrepetent to severe judgment; however would God judge those Righteous Gentiles (those who withstood the Nazis’ evils) among the Germans to the same judgment because of their ethnic connections? I simply cannot conceive of that and maintain that God is just.

  132. Anonymous:

    Jordan, how is it even possible for God to judge a nation and still hold that God judges individual too? What if an individual is pious and virtuous while his group as a whole is not? Is the individual to be saved or damned? He cannot be both simultaneously. Eternity shall not leaves us in two opposite quantum states like Schroedinger’s poor cat.
    Are you really trying to claim that God saves people or leaves them to damnation on account of group membership?
    I do not see that idea as orthodox in any flavor of Christianity you care to name. Even if you look at the Old Testament Hebrews, some were saved and some damned by their own actions, not because they were members of the Chosen People, or the Chosen People Fallen.

  133. Anonymous:

    Do you believe in universal salvation then? My Church admits the possibility of universal salvation, but also proclaims any insistence on it to be heretical.

    There are but three possibilities here (asssuming that quantum superposition logic is rejected):
    1. All men are damned
    2. All men are saved
    3. Some men are saved and some are not.

    If you choose to affirm #3 then is it the case that God saves or damns based on membership in a group, or because individuals (in whom alone consciousness and volition inhere) have joined themselves to the community of the saved (the Church), or chosen to stand outside it?

  134. John Bayer:

    Mr. Harvey,
    You so eloquently stated here what we tried desperately to articulate to our family upon the recent death of a loved one. Thank you!

  135. John Bayer:

    You validate the entire point of the article.

  136. a forever grieving wife:

    I hope you are not saying that God cannot resurrect us if we are cremated? I think being drained and embalmed and placed in a satin lined box is hideous!! We donated my husband’s body to the tissue bank and he saved and helped a lot of people through his bones and veins and eyes. Will God not find all of us at a time of His choosing? I believe He takes our souls to a room in His house for safekeeping in an afterlife of joy as He promised. Our bodies He will breathe the life back into when it suits His purpose. I have no doubt He has the power — you, however, should not judge what you cannot know and cause others harm by causing doubt.

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  138. Grannybecs:

    A VERY narrow opinion, not especially thought through.
    I am opposed to cremation personally, but you forget the many christians burned at the stake or eaten by lions.I suppose there is a theological “get out of jail free” card that covers those whom had no choice in the disposition of their remains?
    Sorry, your premise just doesn’t fly me.

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