Is Cremation a Pagan Practice Which Christians Should Avoid?

Oh, you're going to cremate your deceased loved one? Did you know that's how the pagans do it? Christians bury their dead.

How's that for some good old-fashioned moralizing judgment? It comes from an op-ed by Christian Post contributor Eric Metaxas. He writes:

This suspicion [of the cremation practice] goes back to the early Church. It was pagans who burned their dead, a practice that the early Church saw as consistent with "the pagan denial of Christian beliefs about the afterlife, especially the belief in the resurrection of the dead."

"In contrast," Chuck [Colson] told [BreakPoint] listeners, "Christians buried their dead. Christian teaching about Jesus' incarnation and resurrection led them to treat the human body with respect."

It's why the vast majority of the artwork in the catacombs depicted Christ's resurrection or Old Testament types, especially Jonah and the great fish.

The word Christians used for the place where they buried their dead was koimeterion, the Greek word for "bedroom" and "resting place," from which we get "cemetery." Thus even our language reflects Christian ideas about death and burial.

The ongoing discussion within the church, attempting to define and clarify the Christian worldview, is a healthy one. Sometimes, however, it goes off the rails. This view of cremation presents an example.