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Dust to Dust or Ashes to Ashes: A Biblical and Christian Examination of Cremation Paperback – April 1, 2005
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With an argument that runs counter to the culture in which we live Dr. Schmidt argues that cremation is a pagan custom that was discarded by early Christians who believed in a literal resurrection of the body (in a new glorified form). His argument is not about whether God is able to resurrect a cremated body, or whether the issue is a "heaven/hell" issue, but whether it presents a poor Christian witness. He seems to feel that as Christianity loses influence cremation gains in popularity.
After reading the book for my "Book of the Month Group" we had the privilege of inviting Dr. Schmidt to address our group and discuss his ideas. Most of us went into the meeting prepared to debate. My group is composed entirely of pastors and none of our denominations challenge the practice of cremation. I was impressed with his grasp of the subject and extensive research. We spent much of our time asking questions.
I was interested to discover that he did not set out to write this book, but stumbled upon items that caught his attention while doing research for another of his books. Once his interest was captured, he came back to work on this book.
I have not read other books on this subject, so I do not have anything to compare it with. However, it was a fun, easy read that left me thinking.
Pr. Todd Peperkorn
The book is short, and repetitive; perhaps the contents of this book could have been reduced to a series of journal articles without loosing much content. The material in the book is written for pastors and church leaders but accessible to any interested layperson. It is a quick and interesting read, free from confusing theological jargon.
Chapter 2 explains how historically only pagans burned their dead, page 15 says, "The pagan practice of cremation was invariably interwoven with certain religious beliefs regarding the deceased individual's soul. Many groups believe that incinerating the body freed or released the soul from the body in which it had been held captive during the person's life."
Chapter 3 covers the topics of cremation past and present. Some of the topics that are discussed are: The Decline of Cremation in Ancient Rome, Cremation's Reappearance in the West in the 1900's, The bodies reaction to cremation, and what constitutes for "ashes".
Chapter 4 is titled "The Ancient Israelite View of Cremation". This is an excellent chapter covering the Old Testament history of burials and usages of burning of the dead. Some of the interesting topics that are treated in this chapter are: the burials of Abraham and his descendants, Cremation as a punishment for the accursed and instrument of God's wrath, the burning of King Saul and his sons.
Chapter 6 is titled "Biblical Arguments Against Cremation". In my interest of the book this was the most important chapter, however I was disappointed because it was his weakest. Schmidt failed to give a clear Biblical mandate-opposing cremation yet he denies that the practice is adiaphron. His best argument is from the burial of Jesus Christ page 60 says, "...given that God willed Moses and Jesus Christ be buried, it is reasonable to conclude He wills that all people, past and present, be given earthly burial." One highlight of this chapter is his section on the phrase Dust to Dust and Ashes to Ashes.
I gave this book five stars because 1. there are few books on the topic 2. it is easy to read 3. it fits with conservative Christian and Historical Evangelical theology 4. it only has one major weakness, denying the practice as adiaphron without a clear biblical mandate.
Ross Edward Johnson
A Historically Evangelical Conservative Confessional Lutheran