Modesty Defeats Zeal

John Piper whose earnestness has been known to tighten jaws knocks it out of the park on cremation (via Challies):

The body is good:

First, biblical faith, unlike Greek religion, does not view the body as the prison of the soul. So the afterlife has never been viewed as the “immortality of the soul” finally liberated from its physical prison. Rather, Christianity has always viewed the body as essential to full humanity so that the life to come has primarily been seen as the resurrection of the body in glorious eternal life. Paul did not consider the intermediate bodiless state, between death and resurrection, as ideal (2 Corinthians 5:4).

Burning bodies is bad (anyone remember Germany?):

The use of fire to consume the human body on earth was seen as a sign of contempt. It was not a glorious treatment of the body but a contemptuous one. This is the meaning of Achan’s cremation. He had betrayed Israel and so was not only stoned with his family, but deprived of an ordinary burial by being burned.

Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. (Joshua 7:25)

Funerals are expensive (so are weddings so we should encourage “cake & punch” receptions):

I am encouraging churches to cultivate a Christian counter-culture where people expect simple, less expensive funerals and burials, and where we all pitch in so that a Christian burial is not a financial hardship on anyone. And because of the biblical pointers and the additional reasons above, I am arguing that God-centered, gospel-rooted burial is preferable to cremation. Preferable. Not commanded, but rich with Christian truth that will become a clearer and clearer witness as our society becomes less and less Christian.

Without the zeal, Mr. Piper does okay.

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25 thoughts on “Modesty Defeats Zeal

  1. Dear DG and CW, in zeal, taking the bait …
    Other post: in the image of God = having zeal !
    and we all have it; just for what?

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  2. Wouldn’t burials being expensive help make the case for cremation (which is cheaper)? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a burial guy in principle, and the point is admirable about cultivating more modest expectation, but the real world still clamors on and were I planning the day of my own demise I’d have a hard time leaving my family with the embalming bill to make a point about modesty.

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  3. A little bird informs me that Mark Jones’s new writerly home/brand is Desiring God. He can sort this out.

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  4. Don’t Waste Your Cremation! (my forthcoming book.) But with the money saved by cremation think of all the good you can do. Think of how many people living would profit from your choosing to cheaply cremate rather than expensively bury your carcass.

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  5. What does it say about the modern idea of draining all the floods out of the body and pumping in formaldehyde? To me, that can be seen as desecrating the body. Can we just go back to simple burials?

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  6. jnotestein, it might say that our communities aren’t as small and spread out as they used to be and everyone tossing mom and pops as-is in the ground becomes a sanitation issue. Besides, if we put provisional drugs in living bodies to improve health without calling it desecration then what’s wrong with temporary formaldehyde in dead ones?

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  7. “I am encouraging churches to cultivate a Christian counter-culture where people expect simple, less expensive funerals and burials, and where we all pitch in so that a Christian burial is not a financial hardship on anyone. And because of the biblical pointers and the additional reasons above, I am arguing that God-centered, gospel-rooted burial is preferable to cremation. Preferable. Not commanded, but rich with Christian truth that will become a clearer and clearer witness as our society becomes less and less Christian.”

    I think and I think this is a great idea:)
    I’m not okay with being cremated, unless it happens that I die in a fire.

    We could also do with less skin ink.

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  8. chortlesfweakly says:Ali, once more in English, please.

    Oh ok cw.
    in zeal, taking the bait … meaning DG’s posts are meant to provoke, which they always do in thought, some take the bait and respond in comment

    Other post: in the image of God = having zeal ! ….meaning I was saying that in reference to the other post as to how we are made in the image of God, one way is that He has made us to have zeal; so, then, all humans, having been made in His image, are zealous for something

    and we all have it; just for what? ….Meaning we get to choose what we are zealous about- in a summary way -choosing things God is zealous for or the opposite.

    Hope that was clearer, because I see you have a great zeal for grammar.

    Having a zeal for the word zeal, I looked it up in the Bible and there are actually four words for zeal – a word both good and bad, defined not only as fervor but also jealousy and anger.

    My favorite zeal verse: Isaiah 9:7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

    The most terrifying one: Hebrews 10:27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURYOF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.

    Another interesting one with zeal used twice: Job 5:2 For anger slays the foolish man and jealousy kills the simple.

    Anyway, I’m not sure zeal and modesty are opposites, but I think I get DG’s post provocation, and as well, have also considered what the Lord thinks about cremation. Not sure.

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  9. In which DG says there are things that ought not be done to the human body. If only this logic could be extended to the theatre as well.

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  10. Ali, zeal and modesty may not be opposites but zeal plus modesty equals the head covering and courting movements. Lame-o. Passion is like sex: good if you can get it but way over-rated. So why do American Christians (and those influenced by them) regard passion the way the culture regards sex?

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  11. Nate, so don’t yell “fire!” in a movie theater? But talking to Greg about film is like somebody did and helps make the point about passion run amok.

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  12. Bodies decompose and rot. What is the point of pretending otherwise? They are temporal in their present state. A cremation can be respectful. Suddenly we are all about symbolism, after several decades of “contemporary” worship. I don’t get it. Cancer patients who die with emaciated bodies… cremating them does not disrespect the body, but acknowledges that God will raise them up despite their bodies’ demise, also underscoring their bodies’ fate is a result of sin and the fall. A respectful and worshipful service testifies to the resurrection. Burial does as well, whether it is of the actual corpse or the ashes. To split hairs on that score seems odd to me.

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  13. Zrim says: Passion (for Jesus) is way over-rated.

    Zrim, you know I have to say, with zeal, “Sheesh”. Understandable, though, that you might say to hid passion for Him under a bushel, no?

    David: “For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.” Psalm 69:9 ……David always chased around, with intent to kill him.

    Jesus: “stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.” John 2: 16b -17… …Jesus crucified

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  14. I have to say that Piper makes some good points on the topic. I appreciate his reference to I Cor. 15 and burial being compared to planting a seed. That is something I wish he would have developed even more.

    We all have heard of folks scattering the ashes of their loved one in a place special to the deceased. But in recent years I’ve been kind of stunned to find Christians (nominal, evangelical, and even reformed) doing strange things with the ashes. One family I know keeps the urn of their deceased husband and father in the living room (so that he can still be with the family?). Another family put the urn of the deceased wife and mother in a closet unsure what to do with it. Someone else I know wears a small vial carrying ashes of the deceased as a necklace. I’m sure there are many other examples.

    While we can debate whether cremation is okay or not, it seems a slam-dunk to say that a graveside service with burial (of a body or ashes) is normative. This is faithful to the imagery of I Cor. 15 mentioned above. I guess I’m troubled that funeral homes are turning over ashes to families who, for whatever reason, choose not to bury those remains. This would seem to short-circuit the theology of the resurrection from the dead and life in the new heavens and earth involving people with souls and bodies. Perhaps the most powerful words I’ve spoken as a pastor are the words spoken at the graveside where the body of the deceased is committed to the Lord “in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.”

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