Author Greg Koukl
Published on 10/29/2018

Are There Moral Implications to Cremation vs. Burial?

As Christians, should we be concerned with what happens to our bodies after we die?


When somebody dies, can they be cremated, or do they have to be buried?

I’ll give you my thoughts.

When a person dies, what’s the right thing to do with the body? Classically, Christians have buried the body and given the body a so-called “Christian burial.” A lot of people are looking towards cremation nowadays as kind of an easier way out, more economical, whatever.

And let me give you my point of view on this since the Bible does not weigh in one way or another directly, okay? When a body is consumed after it dies, it’s a process called oxidation. I’m chuckling because in either case you have oxidation. You can bury the body, and it’s slow oxidation, you can burn the body, and it’s fast oxidation. But it amounts to the same thing. Over time, pretty much everything disappears, okay?

So, the question is, morally, does it matter? And I don’t think it really does. But I want to toss in another thought. There’s a reason why traditionally, Christians have given a particular kind of burial. And the reason they’ve been given that kind of burial is because they understand that a human being is made of two different things: an immaterial self and a material self.

A soul and a body.

And this soul bears the image of God, not the body, and that soul was united with a body for the lifetime, the natural lifetime, of that individual. And when that person dies, they go away, but the body is still, in a certain sense, ennobled by that which inhabited it.

And so by way of showing respect for the body, which will eventually be reunited in its more natural state with the soul at the resurrection, Christians have had a ceremony and a burial that they thought brought dignity to the notion that the soul and the body, the tent so-to-speak, and the spiritual man would be united for a significant period of time. And I think there’s something to be said for that.

Maybe it’s just aesthetic and not strictly-speaking moral. But I used to think it doesn’t matter what you do with the body. Burn it or bury it. Now, I’m thinking a little differently, and I haven’t totally settled my mind up. But I think it’s clear to say that both options are morally acceptable, but with a so-called Christian burial, we make a different kind of statement, and the statement itself maybe valuable.

Anyway, that’s my point of view on this one for what it’s worth.