Notable Bible teacher and DesiringGod.org founder John Piper argued that cremation can sometimes be an acceptable practice.
In an episode of “Ask Pastor John” posted to Desiring God on Monday, a listener inquired about the practice of cremation in relation to donating one’s body to science.
In the past, Piper has stated that while he is critical of cremation, he does support donating one’s organs to science after death.
A listener specifically asked the Bible teacher his opinion on whether cremation was an acceptable practice after a person had given their organs to science.
“I’m a nurse at the local university medical center, and I’m considering donating my body to them when I die. After they harvest organs and tissues, the rest of the body is cremated,” inquired the person.
“I’m seeking your wisdom on this situation. (1) Is it virtuous for Christians to donate their organs and tissues for medical use? (2) Is cremation less of a concern in such a situation?”
Piper answered “yes to both of those questions” provided that “the heart is humble and trusting God’s mercy rather than proud and seeking to score points with God and man.”
“You can donate your body and be an arrogant person trying to earn God’s favor, but I’m assuming that’s not at all the case here,” said Piper.
“If we act from faith, it can be a beautiful act of love for Christians to donate their organs and tissues for medical use. Yes, cremation, while not ideal, may carry new meaning under those circumstances.”
Piper commented that he believed “there are other values that might override the ordinary way Christians show honor to the body in burial.”
“One of those would be the conviction that offering our bodies to medical science may serve the discovery of some disease-healing drug or may provide an organ transplant that could save a person who’s about to die on dialysis or something like that,” noted Piper.
“The value of loving others in this way may override the value of burying the body (in its entirety at least).”
Historically, Christians have opposed cremation under the belief that since the body was made in the image of God, it deserves the respect of burial.
Nevertheless, there is no explicit condemnation of cremation in Scripture and the practice has seen a rise in popularity in the United States in recent years.
Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, weighed in on the issue in a Gospel Coalition video released in February.
In the video, Moore stated that the question of burial or cremation should center on “What do we, as the people of God, intend to communicate when we are dealing with our dead?”
“The body isn’t just a disposable container of the person,” said Moore, who noted that he did not want to judge those who opted to cremate a loved one.
“When we care for the body and when we honor the body, we communicate that the body matters and that a day of resurrection is coming.”