The cremation of a body after death can be an acceptable practice for Christians so long as it is done with respect, according to a theology professor.
Michael J. Svigel, chair of the Department of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, talked about the issue of Christian burial on an episode of “The Table” podcast posted to YouTube on Monday.
Professor Svigel said that while he understood why some might consider cremation disrespectful toward the body, he countered that the same end result ensues with the body, be it traditional burial or cremation.
“In the end, if you were to practice a classic burial of a body in a grave, after about 10, 20 years, the body is reduced to bones, and after about 50 to 75 years or so, those bones are reduced to the basic elements,” explained Svigel.
“Ultimately, the same process that occurs in a cremation, except the cremation oxidation process takes one to two hours. So in the end, what you have is roughly the same elements of the body.”
Svigel believed that the greater questions were not centered on whether a family decided to bury or cremate a loved one, but rather “what are the motives behind it” and “what are you going to do with these remains that you have left?”
He supported what he called “a robust theology of the body and a proper understanding of our future hope, being resurrection,” which includes maintaining the identity of the deceased.
“I course, if someone needs to be cremated for whatever reason or is cremated, chooses that, I keep the remains identified and then inter that person’s remains in a plot that is marked. That would be my preference if a person chooses cremation,” continued Svigel.
“It is an act of confession of faith retaining the identity … I would say it is probably best Christian practice to retain the identity of those remains, whether it’s cremation or burial.”
Svigel warned against treating the body as simply a disposable shell, noting that “we were not created as spirits that just happened to indwell a body for some practical reasons, but nor are we merely a body.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski