In the many years that I have served in the Christian ministry as a pastor, I have never seen a
deceased member of our church cremated. I discovered that in modern society, there is a trend
of cremating bodies upon death. Since people have different views on cremation, I decided to
share my insights on this topic and answer the question, is cremation a sin?
In this article, I will discuss what the Bible and the Church say about cremation. Join me as we
delve into this topic and find out what the Roman Catholic Church teaches about cremation and
whether cremation renounces one’s belief in the resurrection of the body. Keep reading to get
answers to these questions and many others.
What does the Bible say about Cremation?
There is no clear implication of Cremation as a means of disposing of the dead in the Bible. The Bible does not also forbid it. However, a couple of instances hint at Cremation mentioned throughout the Bible. 1 Samuel 31: 11-12, “when the people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their valiant men marched through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the body of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them.” In this case, the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were cremated after the Philistines had mutilated them.
Cremation, as depicted in the Bible, speculates it was a form of punishment as most people who were cremated in the Bible had committed a sin or were cursed.
Does Genesis 3:19 support cremation? (For dust you are and dust you shall return)
Genesis 3:19 says, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust, you will return”
This verse has been used to defend Cremation though it does not explicitly say that it is only through burning that a body turns to dust. Burying a body in the ground also allows oxidation, which in turn leads to the disintegration of the body into dust. Cremation also turns the body to dust, but only a time difference is involved. Nevertheless, Cremation and burial lead to the same results, so Genesis 3:19, in the mentioned way, supports Cremation.
What does the Church say about Cremation?
The views of the Church differ with references to the Bible. Following the Bible, the Church does not forbid nor condone Cremation. The Church views and embraces burial as the most ideal method of disposing of dead bodies, as mentioned in verses like Genesis 23:19, Genesis 25:10, and Acts 2:29. However, this does not mean that Christians who have been cremated have different eternal destinies from those who have been buried.
One’s destiny is entirely determined by their relationship with God. The roman Catholic Church discourages Cremation with the belief that it constitutes a denial of the resurrection of the body. This does not, however, apply to all Christian churches, as some believe that the body destined for the resurrection is spiritual and is not affected through disposal, burial, or Cremation.
Why do some Christians believe Cremation is a sin?
Some Christians believe that Cremation makes the body ineligible for resurrection and therefore conclude that it is a sin. However, this is refuted because God is all-powerful and, therefore, can resurrect a body from ashes. Moreover, burying a body also turns it into dust; either way, it will still be resurrected.
Other Christians argue that it is not the physical body that will be resurrected but the spiritual body. According to 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, “so will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable; it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in power; it is sown in natural body; it is raised in spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” the Bible implies that the body to be resurrected is spiritual. Therefore Cremation does not make a body ineligible.
What does the Roman Catholic Church teach about Cremation?
The Roman Catholic Church discourages Cremation with the belief in the resurrection of the body after death, as implied in John 20:8 and Philippians 3:20, among other verses. Catholics observe the burial of the body beneath the ground, as is a tradition in the Bible. However, Catholics do not prohibit Cremation as long as it does not contradict Christian teachings. The Catholic Church teaches that Cremation, like burial, should be respectful, and the remains should be handled with respect.
Are there instances where Cremation is allowed in Catholic Church?
Though the Catholic Church recommends traditional burial as a means of disposing of dead bodies, there are instances when Cremation is allowed. They include;
- When there is a need to dispose of the dead bodies fast, like during natural disasters and plagues, without which there would be consequences
- When it is a requirement by law.
- When an individual dies far from home, transporting the body is not possible.
- When it was a request of the deceased before the death
What are the rules for Cremation in Catholic Church?
The Catholic Church views the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, as implied in 1 Corinthians 6:19. Catholics respectfully handle dead bodies. Therefore, the rules that apply to burial also apply to Cremation among Catholics. They include;
- Funeral rights are performed in the presence of the body before Cremation
- The remains after Cremation are to be entombed in a cemetery or mausoleum. Scattering the ashes or keeping them at home is not considered respectful.
- The remains should be handled with respect at all times
Does Cremation renounce one’s belief in the resurrection of the body?
Most Christians believe that a body can only be resurrected if buried. However, as suggested in Genesis 3:19, burying a body turns it into dust, just as cremating it does. Cremation, therefore, does not mean that one has abandoned the belief in the resurrection of the body. Instead, most Christians who embrace Cremation believe that resurrection is for the spiritual body and not the natural, as implicated in 1 Corinthians 15:44.
Are there instances of Cremation in the Bible?
There are mentioned instances of Cremation in the Bible, even though they do not clearly define it as a means of disposing of dead bodies.
1 Corinthians 13:3 if I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not to love, I gain nothing
1 Samuel 31:12 all their valiant men marched through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the body of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them
Joshua 7:25 And Joshua said, “Why do you bring trouble to us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stone. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.
These verses imply that dead bodies were burned during certain events in the Bible.
What does the Bible say about keeping ashes?
There is no biblical passage that dwells on Cremation as a means of disposing of dead bodies; therefore, there is no say from the Bible regarding keeping ashes. The roman Catholic Church, however, considers keeping ashes disrespectful since the burnt body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; 1 Corinthians 6:19, instead; they believe ashes should be entombed just like a body would.
Can a cremated body go to heaven?
Contrary to most Christian’s beliefs, being cremated does not mean the person cannot go to heaven. Cremated and buried bodies all turn to dust, and according to Mark 13:27, “And he will send his Angles and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” this implies that God’s chosen ones will be gathered unbiased of form.
How can Christians determine whether to choose burial or Cremation?
As suggested in many instances in the Bible, Mark 16:1, and John 11:38, the most acceptable and traditional way to dispose of dead bodies is through burial. Therefore this should be the first choice of any Christian, especially considering that cremation way commonly done as a form of punishment; Joshua 7:25. Cremation should be an option only under justifiable reasons.
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.