This is a subject on which very little is written today. Cremation
seems to have become the normal way of disposing of the dead. Mr Howard,
a retired Anglican minister in Australia, points to the teaching of Scripture.
He examines the biblical references: the burials of Abraham, Joseph, Moses,
and particularly that of the Saviour. He comments: "The stress on burial
in the death of Jesus was to ensure that His followers would accept the twin
truths of His physical death and bodily resurrection".
Cremation has been common among heathen peoples for thousands
of years. Only in the 1870s did it reappear in Europe - in Italy. And only
in 1902 was it legalised in the UK. Its increasing prevalence throughout
the twentieth century has parallelled the decreasing respect for the authority
of Scripture and, consequently, belief in the future resurrection. The author
highlights the violence of the process of cremation: "Incinerators in crematoria
. . . destroy the body at temperatures between 800 and 1000 degrees Centigrade.
Bones are then broken down in what is effectively a tumble drier with large
steel balls." This clearly is not consistent with the respect which should
be shown to the dead.
Mr Howard comments suitably on the inappropriateness of expensive
funerals, but we do not agree that flowers are at all appropriate on such
an occasion. It is a pity also that Scripture quotations are not from the
The issue burial or cremation does matter, and it
is good that it should be highlighted as it is in this booklet. It would
be good if the booklet was a means of restraining people from using this
pagan way of disposing of the dead. It gives clear scriptural authority
for the practice of burial.
The Authority of Scripture, John P Thackway,
published by the James Begg Society, booklet, 20 pages, £1.50, obtainable
from the F P Bookroom.
contains an address on 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 by a minister in Wales
who is the editor of The
Bible League Quarterly. By using the term, Authority of Scripture,
the author explains, "we assign to the Bible the right to mould the way
we think, prescribe what we believe and govern how we live". He asks, "What
gives Scripture its authority?" And he gives his answer under three headings:
(1) Its unique origin, (2) Its divine inspiration (3) Its providential
preservation. The second main section is entitled: "What is the extent
of Scripture's authority?" Among the points made are the fact that this
authority includes geology, morality and matrimony. Also, apparent discrepancies
reveal a problem "with our finite minds, not with God's perfect Word".
A section of "lessons" completes the booklet, which is useful in reminding
us of the fundamental nature of the issues which are at stake.