Cremation refers to the disposition of human bodies by way of burning them to ashes. There are cultures around the world that practice cremation as a funeral rite and it usually serves as an alternative to rites such as burial. There are ancient traditions that practiced cremation on open-air pyres. The practice has since been overtaken by time. In the modern world, cremation furnaces are designed in a manner that the cremation is conducted in a closed oven.
Of great interest is how other traditions and religions view the practice of disposing dead bodies by way of cremation. This article focuses on the Christian view of cremation and some of their religious teachings that exist in regard to cremation. This is amidst a growing trend across the globe of bodies being cremated for various reasons such as scarcity of land for burial and the alternative use of land which is a trend being embraced in almost all parts of the world.
Christianity is a religion that has for long been known to prefer burial as a final rite that is exercised upon the death of the members. The practice dates back to the old days of the traditions upon which the religion is founded. It is important to mention that Christianity harbors a belief in life after death and resurrection. It is not clear whether this could be one of the reasons that promotes the idea of burial over the other ways of handling the bodies of the dead. However, there is also, no clear information as to whether Christianity forbids cremation.
It is, however, notable that the churches across the globe still give preference to burial which is the traditional interment method. There are areas across the globe where there is the permission of cremation considering that the interment method is not intended to be used as a way of refuting the claims of resurrection. The biblical book of Luke 24:1-9 talks about the resurrection of Jesus Christ who is the foundation of Christianity. According to the gospel, Jesus died and was buried after which, he resurrected after three days in the tomb. This teaching cements the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body.
Catholics and Cremation
Catholicism is the oldest denomination in Christianity. Catholics around the world follow the same doctrinal teachings which also apply in the events where holy mass is conducted for a departed soul. Catholic priests live in seminaries and convents and are usually buried in a common cemetery. The burial is usually symbolic to the burial of Jesus Christ. Cremation was regarded as paganism given that the practice was seen as opposing the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body. The Pope lifted the ban that had been put on cremation by the church in the year 1963, consequently allowing the priests to preside over interment ceremonies that included cremation.
Environmental Impacts of Cremation and Burial
There have been debates as to whether cremation is better for the environment as compared to burial. This topic remains debatable but for some reasons, cremations has always been regarded as being environmentally friendly as opposed to burial. Some of the reasons to this view include the fact that burial usually entails the use of coffins which are in most cases, carved out of wood.
This translates to the cutting down of trees which usually leads to environmental degradation. It is also arguable that there are other methods of burial that may not necessarily have to involve the use of coffins. It may also be argued that the decomposing bodies are likely to enhance the nutritional value of the soil. Cremation may also be seen as contributing to air pollution and by extension, global warming by way of increased carbon emissions.
The Biblical Teachings on Cremation
The resurrection of the body in the bible does not specify on the types of bodies that are likely to resurrect. It is clear that all dead bodies have to undergo decomposition and they eventually disappear just the same way a cremated body would. This means that if the bible talks of the resurrection of the body, then all are likely to resurrect regardless of the way they were interred.
Christianity teaches that human beings were made out of the soil of the earth and that upon their death, they will go back to the earth. This is a clear message that the dead should be buried in the earth to allow the bodies to decompose back into the earth. Christians also strive to live the way Jesus lived and this includes how their bodies are handled upon their deaths. These are some of the reasons that explain the reasons why Christianity is likely to be against cremation.
Cremation and the Soul
According to Christianity, humans have both the physical bodies and the souls. The human soul lives on after the death of an individual. The soul can neither be touched nor felt. The actions of an individual in his/her lifetime determines where the soul goes after death. In death, the individual loses control of the body and how the other individuals handle that body may not affect the soul.
Cremation in the Bible
In the book of 1 Samuel 31:11-13, Saul, an Israelite army commander, had led his troops into war against the Philistines. His three sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malki-Shua were part of his army. Saul and his three sons fell in the battle and the Philistines cut off his head and displayed it alongside his armor as a way of shaming the Israelites. When some of his people heard the news, they sought the bodies of Saul and his sons, burned their flesh, and buried the bones to save them from the shame.
Cremation in Modern Christianity
Modern Christianity has a cocktail of different experiences that are either learned in formal education settings or simply acquired. This means that different people have different views towards cremation and given the idea of a free will, they can choose how they would like their bodies or those of their loved ones interred.
Bible Verses on Death and Cremation
Some of the bible verses that talk about cremation incidences include 1 Corinthians 15:35-55, Genesis 3:19, 1 Corinthians 13:3, 1 Samuel 31: 11-13, Joshua 7:25, and 2 Kings 23:15-20.