Respect for the Dead

The Sanctity of Life and the Resurrection - Seventh in a Series

To a Christian, respect for the dead means that the living ought to hold the dead in loving or at least charitable memory; to see that they are given a decent burial; to “pay respects” by visiting or writing the family or attending a funeral or church service; and by supporting widows and orphans. In Old Testament Israel, it included marrying the widow of the man who died without inheritors to his brother or a close family member who could raise up seed for him, to honor his memory.

Some of those traditions continue now, but according to a report by the National Funeral Directors Association, cremations accounted for 50.2 percent of funerals in 2016, up from 48.5 percent in 2015, and 43.5 percent of Americans opted for a burial, down from 45.4 percent in 2015. The report predicts that by 2035 cremation will reach 78.8 percent for the USA. Cremation costs less than burial and is viewed as environmentally friendly, and people are not as religious as in former decades and centuries.

A Christian ought to feel a pang of guilt if he deprecates the memory of the dead —who cannot defend himself against slander etc.— or fails to weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15) or support family as needed (1 Tim 5:4). Or, if our duty is to oversee the handling of the body, we ought to feel wrong about organ sharing or cremation.

We have looked at reasons why organ sharing is against the Bible, but what about cremation? Or, what about medical donation for training or research purposes? In the Flesh & Bone & The Protestant Conscience (FBPC) e-book, these are discussed.

I noted that donating a body to help medical students learn or to assist in research that is not offensive to God, seems fine, provided there is an agreement to treat the body with respect. Eventually I will re-add the FBPC book to this blog if any would like to read more on that and cannot access it on Amazon.

Here is an excerpt from FBPC that addresses the objection that we may not be in control of life’s end, so when we are, why be so concerned?

Simply because some do burn up, have body parts cut off, or drown in the ocean, there is no reason to imitate the catastrophic in end-of-life matters. War and other circumstances beyond our control are not meant to furnish examples to us for the proper handing of body preparation at death and burial.

An early biblical account of burial is told when Abraham sought to bury Sarah and would not accept a gift of land but insisted upon purchasing her grave, a cave and a field (Gen 23:9-20). That was the first real estate owned in the Promised Land, serving to mark the nation’s claim. From our standpoint, this Bible account testifies that burial is a serious matter and an investment that proves our love for the deceased and our belief in the resurrection. As well, this assisted Abraham to grieve. Can cremation help anyone to grieve? Grieving is essential to the healing of the brokenhearted.

Abraham, the father of all the faithful, (Rom 4:11) believed in the resurrection by faith:

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
(Heb 11:17-19)

We often read of a king’s end in the Old Testament, that he “slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers.” (1 Ki 14:31, et al) Burial or interment was the method of handling a body after death, a practice which looked forward to Christ’s resurrection, though the nation was not aware of this aspect of their witness to the world.

Burial reminds those who grieve to focus instead on the Resurrection of the Lord and his victory over death, and that “in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:22) As we bury our loved ones, we show we believe the Bible and look forward to the Resurrection of the saints. When we bury them whole, without missing body parts that were not lost in life’s trials, we testify that the body, too, is the person: A dead body has relation to its soul and in some marvelous, unknowable manner, will know it again at the last day.

If we deny the importance of the person as an unique individual whose body is due respect whether alive or dead, do we not also disrespect the doctrine of the Resurrection— an essential doctrine of the Christian faith?

How do we show our acceptance of and belief in the doctrines of our faith? We show our faith by our actions. Cremation does not show respect for the dead. Here is an article that explains how burial can cost the same as cremation.

Christian Transhumanism?

Sixth in the PE Series, Reviewing Chapter Five

Respect for life shines in many deeds and the lack of it is in plain view as well. An example of the latter: Brains Of 40 Dead Children Removed, Kept In Jars In UK Hospitals. Needless to say, their parents were not aware of this.

If you have not recently lost a loved one, you may not be prepared for the interviews and calls you will receive when that time comes. Start thinking now if you are willing to have the body dissected for bone, skin, organs; and get ready to sign on the dotted line. "Desecration" will pass from the dictionary. What could it mean in the context of doing good by sharing body parts?

Those reflections came to mind as I thought of how to present a review of Chapter Five of Pandemonium's Engine, "Christian Transhumanism: Pandemonium's Latest Ploy," by Cris D. Putnam. He gives direct advice to Christians to oppose the Transhumanist movement. As Christians, "we believe all humans have intrinsic worth separate from abilities…" (p 193)

The "Christian" Transhumanists berate those who impede scientific progress. The Genesis story is myth to them, and humans are viewed as "God's co-creators." (p 200) Desecreation is archaic. Not to desecrate is inhumane.

Putnam wrote, "In truth, we have what the secular world does not have: infallible and timeless principles revealed from the very author of life… Humans are God's highest creation on earth and are commanded to be good stewards of the earth and its resources. Thus, we have a mandate to engage in some of the technologies discussed, but …" (p 199). BUT, study and discernment are needed. Christian, are you prepared to draw lines and determine what technologies you will approve and why?

I enjoyed viewing a video created by Putnam on YouTube, ‪The Attributes of God & the Borderlines of Reality‬ . The video post offered a website link, needgod.com. Great site!

I also visited Putnam's blog, http://www.logosapologia.org/ which is still online though he passed away at age 51 on March 1, 2017.

On his blog he has a post on his chapter in Pandemonium's Engine. I have included below some of his comments.

The term “pandemonium” has an interesting origin. It is the capital city of Hell in Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. I run a little theme throughout my chapter using quotes from the 17th century Christian classic throughout my critique of transhumanism and the theology and philosophies which under gird it.

In Paradise Lost, Satan and the fallen angels have been relegated to Hell and seek to mount a new offensive. In Pandæmonium, the capital city, Satan employs his beguiling oratorical skills to incite his forces. Aided by his lieutenants Mammon, Beëlzebub, Belial and Moloch they plot to overthrow God’s forces. The final strategy is decided when Satan volunteers to poison the newly created Earth and God’s new and most favored creation, Mankind. This is where an intriguing parallel with transhumanism comes into play as it has the potential to do just that. Not only could we create a posthuman species, germline genetic therapies could pass it down to the next generation permanently altering the human genome. The potential for a horrific outcome is real.

The American philosopher, political economist, and author, Francis Fukuyama, agrees, contending that “the most significant threat posed by contemporary biotechnology is the possibility that it will alter human nature and thereby move us into a posthuman stage of history.” The potential threat is real and the decisions made over the next decade will have a deciding influence on the outcome. The theological and ethical issues are critically important for Christian thinkers to consider. This book is just one ripple in the pond of our culture. I pray it inspires many of you to think critically about the spiritual implications of the bio-technology revolution.

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...and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind ... the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind ...the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. -Genesis 1

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A SistersSite eBook

Flesh and Bone and The Protestant Conscience is an e-book on Amazon.com. It is 99¢ and in the Amazon lending library as well. The book description follows.

Would you let your conscience be your guide?

Does God care if the skin and bone of the dead are passed along to the living for medical uses? Is organ donation OK with God? Should you sign a Living Will?

Did you know that dead organ donors are often anesthetized before their organs are removed? Do you know the current definition of death? The conscience cannot function without facts.

As we ponder the ethics of in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and man-made chimeras, our thoughts trail off. How then should we live? (Ez 33:10)

How should a Christian think about euthanasia by starvation when doctors and the state attorney general all agree it is time to withhold feeding from a brain injured patient? Some things are family matters, but someday it may be our family.

Here is a small book to help you think about whether you want to sign your driver's license, donate a kidney, cremate your loved one, and many other practical questions that may arise in the course of your healthcare decisions or watch over others.

It offers a special focus on the doctrine of the Resurrection that is related to such decisions. Sunday School classes and Bible Study groups could use this book to facilitate discussion about the issues covered.