Does it matter whether we're cremated or buried?
Not ultimately, but I don't ever counsel towards cremation.
An old couple had me over a few weeks ago. He's pushing ninety, and she's close behind. And the son was there, and the son said that the reason he wanted me to come was to tell his dad what I think about cremation and burial. (He had heard me talk about it.) So that's a real situation. The couple is just years away from this, months maybe, who knows.
The son wants to bury his dad, while the dad is thinking that cremation is quick, efficient and cheap. Well, it may not be cheaper. Anyways, here's the essence of what I said: The biblical pattern is that burning your children is pagan and burying your loved ones is a sign that you believe in the resurrection.
I'm going to encourage people towards burial because of what it says about the body.
The body is precious, and it is going to be raised from the dead. I know it decomposes. I know it's no more there in a hundred years than if you had burned it. We're talking about the symbolic significance of a body stretched out in a coffin, looked at, and lovingly kissed and buried, rather than what is to me the horrible prospect of my wife or child or dad being burned, incinerated.
I would have to do a major mental escape in order to keep from feeling like that's so out of sync with what the body means to God. He created it. He's going to resurrect it. There's going to be continuity between what you were and what you are so that we can recognize each other.
You don't want to symbolically destroy it. You want to symbolically put it to rest, because that's the language of the Bible: you're sleeping. Right? "He will waken those who sleep." "Whether we sleep or wake, we belong to the Lord."
So the picture of the New Testament is that the dead are asleep. They're going to be raised from the dead. And they are alive to God.
So I've probably overstated my case now and made all the people who have ever cremated feel terribly guilty. I'll go back and end where I began: it is not ultimately an issue that matters. It doesn't matter ultimately. It's just not a custom I think the New Testament would naturally lead us to.