Religious View On Cremation: Southern Baptist
What happens when we die? That all depends on your personal faith (if you have one), as different religions hold different ideas about the afterlife. There are those who believe in the afterlife and a promise of Heaven, such as those within the Christian faith, and there are others who believe in reincarnation of the body, such as those of the Buddhist persuasion.
Different religions also have opinions about what should happen to the body after death, and what should happen within a funeral service. There are those religions that will place precedence of a burial over a cremation service, including some fundamentalist Christian groups and those who follow Judaism. Then there are those religions that offer more flexibility, including those within the Hindu and Buddhist communities.
Most Baptist churches within the Christian faith will accept cremation as a choice when discussing options after death, and this is also true for many within the Southern Baptist church.
So, let's consider why somebody might consider cremation over burial, and let's take a closer look at what the Southern Baptists might have to say on the matter.
The Benefits Of Cremation Over Burial
Burial is certainly a popular choice for many people, be it for themselves or their loved ones, but in many countries, cremation is on the rise. This is the case in North America, with 53.5% of people opting for cremations, and there is an increase across European and Asian countries too.
So, why choose cremation?
Well, if there are no limitations placed on you by your faith, you might choose a cremation for cost reasons. A keepsake urn is cheaper than a burial casket, and you won't need to pay for a burial plot either.
With cremation, you can also do something meaningful within your memorial service. You could scatter the ashes in the favorite place of your loved one, or you could choose to have your ashes scattered at a place that is close to your heart. For some, this is preferable to choosing a burial plot surrounded by strangers.
And in the case of your loved one, you can also keep their ashes close by. An urn is an obvious choice, but you can also store ashes within cremation jewelry.
These are just some of the reasons why you might choose cremation over burial. Of course, the choice is yours, and it might depend on your own view of life after death.
If you're of the Baptist persuasion, you might want to know whether cremation is the right choice for you. There are those within the church who would favor burial, however, and as we can see below, there are a couple of reasons why.
Is Burial The Preferred Choice In The Baptist Church?
When it comes to burial or cremation, Southern Baptists (and anybody within the Baptist faith) have the right to choose. There is no ban on cremation, and it is unlikely that a church leader would refuse a person's right to choose this over a burial.
However, that isn't to say burial isn't the favored choice, as there are reasons why many people within the Christian faith, including those within the Southern Baptist Church, would opt for a burial service.
These are two of the reasons why.
The history of the church
Baptist theologians look towards the history of the Christian church when deciding what should and shouldn't be permitted within their churches. For this, they turn to the Bible for answers. While cremation isn't forbidden with the Bible, there are a number of New Testament authors who make specific reference to burial customs within the church. This includes the verse in John 19:40 which states:
"Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs."
In accordance with the death of Jesus then, some Baptists might take the view that burial is the proper way forward.
There is also the verse in John 5: 28 which specifically refers to the entombed bodies of the dead. It states:
"Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice."
Those within all sectors of the Christian faith believe there will be a resurrection of the dead, and many believe it will be their own body that is resurrected. This is why they might dismiss cremation, in the fear that they will have no body for the resurrection. Of course, few Baptists would argue that God couldn't recreate a person's body from their ashes, but in hope of the physical resurrection of the body, they might still favor burial over cremation.
The sanctity of the body
Baptists consider the body to be sacred, and there are many verses that support this. One such is 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20.
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price."
Because of the Christian belief that God created us in His own image, there are some within the church who would suggest the defiling of the body through cremation is a sinful choice. As fire is also a symbol of God's wrath and judgment, some believe that the destruction of the body through cremation is an unusual option for a Christian to consider. The Elmwood Baptist Church explores this further, and they give very definite views on why Christians should not practice cremation.
So Is Cremation Wrong?
We have looked at two of the reasons why burial might be seen as the preferred choice for Southern Baptists, but what if they opt for cremation instead? Could it be considered a sin? Will cremation prevent entry into Heaven?
Well, as there is no condemnation of cremation in the Bible, there isn't a strong enough case to suggest cremation is an invalid choice for the Southern Baptist. While there are those who would still argue for burial for the reasons that have been suggested, there are also those who are more lenient on the matter. This is certainly the case for one Southern Baptist leader who weighed in on the burial vs. cremation debate in the video below.
In the video, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore talks about the fear Christians have about being 'unresurrectable' if they have been cremated. To counter this fear, he says:
"That’s obviously not the case. Even in the case of burial, the body decomposes and so at the shout of the archangel and the peal of the trumpet, the coming of the Lord Jesus is able to, by the power of God, reassemble the body at resurrection regardless of what has happened to that person. The sea will give up its dead, the Scripture tells us. People who have been eaten by lions and ripped into pieces will be resurrected at the last day."
Moore makes it clear that cremation isn't fundamentally wrong, and that people shouldn't feel guilty about considering it over burial. However, despite his words of comfort to those considering cremation, he does encourage believers to consider burial, as a means to both honor the body and to communicate the belief of a bodily resurrection.
Of course, as in any debate that is open to discussion, there are conflicting viewpoints. In an article at The Christian Post, a pastor at Life.Church had this to say:
"If you were buried in a box, you’re going to become dust. If you’re cremated, you’re going to become dust, it’s just going to be faster. My guess is that if Jesus can put you back together, cremation is probably OK."
In the same article, a former pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota had this to say about the importance of burial over cremation:
"Christianity has always viewed the body as essential to full humanity so that the life to come has primarily been seen as the resurrection of the body in glorious eternal life...Christians also have seen burial as the laying to rest of the body as though it is sleeping, waiting for the waking of the resurrection."
So, is cremation wrong in the Southern Baptist church? No, as Christan scripture doesn't deem it inappropriate. There are those leaders who argue strongly for burial over cremation, but as Southern Baptist Russell Moore suggested, God does have the power to reassemble any body, no matter what has happened to it.
Christians also believe that the soul lives on after the body has perished, and that in the resurrection process, God will give us a new body. In Philippians 3: 21, the verse says:
"By the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."
So, to suggest that cremation is wrong is a moot point, because most within the church believe that the soul will live on after the old body has died away, and that the body will be transformed. Still, this will long be a point that is argued about by theologians, and if you're part of the Southern Baptist church yourself, your leader might have his own views on the subject. Talk to them, gain knowledge from their wisdom, and then try to come to your own understanding.
What Happens At A Baptist Funeral Service?
Regardless of a burial or a cremation, Baptist funeral services are usually autonomous, meaning that each church will have its own customs in place. A funeral will also be focussed around the wishes of the bereaved and the departed, so it might joyful and uplifting in celebration of the lost life, or it might be a more somber affair.
In most circumstances, songs will be sung, and scriptures will be read, and quite often the Bible verses used within the service will be based around the resurrection of the person into God's Kingdom.
For cremation services, some people place personal items within the coffin as a means of personalizing the ceremony. The ashes are later given to the family, and these can be scattered at places of their choosing, usually within areas that were personal to the deceased.
Burial Or Cremation: What Is Right For You?
There is no easy answer here, as it depends on your personal faith, and on the practicalities of both.
Cremation certainly has its advantages, as it is cheaper, more eco-friendly, and you have the option of storing your loved one's ashes in a keepsake. You can also scatter the ashes where you wish and you can request that your own ashes be scattered in a place personal to you.
If you do have a faith, you might have strong views on what is right anyway. If you are part of the Baptist church, or indeed any other church within the Christian faith, you might hold views that are specific to the religious leaders that we quoted earlier.
And when it comes to your loved ones, you should take their wishes into account. This is both an adherence to the Bible text that suggests you should 'honor your mother and father' (if you're part of the Christian church), and general respect for their wishes.
Ultimately, of course, it comes down to your personal choice. If you are part of a church, speak to your leaders, and refer to the texts that are part of your religion. If you are a Southern Baptist, this will obviously include the Bible, as well as any other books that have been written by trusted Christian writers.
Should you decide that cremation is the right thing for yourself or members of your own family, get in touch with us and talk to us about the cremation keepsakes that we can offer you and your loved ones.