Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Gnostic Sea

If you want to know why people have themselves cremated after they die, it's because of Gnosticism.
If you want to know why people fry their brains on mind altering drugs, it's because of Gnosticism.

If you want to know why kids in middle school become sexually active, why the push for gay marriage keeps getting stronger and why a woman who legally changed her name to Chaz Bono is being called a man on Dancing With the Stars, it's because of Gnosticism.

If you're not familiar with the term, Gnosticism is a philosophy/theology that can be easily summarized in four words: flesh bad; spirit good.  All things that are material, in the eyes of the Gnostic, are bad.  They are broken, fallen.  And all things having to do with the spirit are good, as God is, according to the Gnostic, only spirit.  Therefore, anything with physical dimensions, especially our flesh, clouds us from accessing the pure spirit-thing that is God.  And so, if one desires to attain communion with this transcendent being, one must first liberate his pure soul from the prison that is his fallen body.  Flesh bad; spirit good.

Of course, Gnosticism is  not a new problem.  Five seconds after the Apostles first began taking the Gospel to the Gentiles, the Gnostics began trying to overtake the Christian faith by denying that God would ever lower himself to take on human flesh and by rejecting the teaching that the physical blood of a man could somehow bring mankind into communion with God.  The influence of the Gnostics was already wide-spread enough at the time that John wrote his Gospel for him to address their teachings rather directly.  The Apostle's words "and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us," aren't simply meant to be pretty poetry describing the Incarnation.  Those words are an aggressive assault against those who deny that a man is fully God and that God is fully man in Jesus Christ.  They are meant to shove Divine Flesh in the Gnostic's face and force him to smell the armpits of God.  John is sort of awesome that way.

But despite the Scripture's clear condemnation of Gnosticism, like Sugar Ray being played on pop radio stations, it just won't go away.  Although, unlike Sugar Ray being played on pop radio stations, there's a rather good reason for it.

You see, when Gnosticism tells you that flesh is bad and spirit is good, it therefore tells you that your body doesn't matter and that you can do whatever you want with it without harming your soul, just as you can throw away a Ding Dong wrapper without harming the essence of that which is Ding Dong.  As long as your spirit is pure, as long as your heart is golden, that's all that matters.

So, when it comes to burial, Christianity says that your flesh is a gift from God, a wonderful part of His creation that was made in perfection, that was redeemed through the blood of His Son, and that will be lifted up out of the grave in glory by the power of the Holy Spirit on the Last Day, therefore you should treat your body with care and reverence.  Gnosticism says that your flesh is a piece of trash that has no part in your eternal communion with God, so go ahead and burn it.  So when people have grown up in Christian churches, when they've been surrounded by the Incarnate Word that knits their bodies and souls into one redeemed and restored package, and when they nonetheless decide to have their bodies burned into a pile of rubble after they die, to whom are they listening?  To Christ or to the Gnostic?

Likewise, when it comes the truth of God, Christianity says that God's Word is a tangible, touchable thing found in physical letters and earthly words.  It says that God can be known and accessed through the writings of men.  Gnosticism says that God can only be found outside the confines of our fleshly limitations.  So when people have seen God revealed to them in the words of the Bible, and yet they fill their brains with all sort of drugs and chemicals in the hope of releasing themselves from this fleshly prison and discovering the hidden knowledge of the Divine, to whom are they listening?  To Christ or to the Gnostic?

And once again, when it comes to sexuality and the body, Christianity says that God made male and female, that He made woman for man, and that He made sex for the purpose of procreation and for loving the one whom He has given to be your one flesh and that sex is only blessed in His eyes when it remains within the realm that He made for it.  Gnosticism says that there is no such thing as male or female, that the only part of sex that really matters is the spiritual connection between two (or more) people and that a person's purity of soul cannot be challenged by what he or she does with her or her genitals.

So, when 14 year old kids who aren't married to each other and don't want babies engage in the act that God made in order for married people to make babies, and when they say that this is fine because they share a common love of each other and Glee, to whom are they listening?

When two men say that their sexual union, which creates not life, but death through the spread of disease, is identical to the union between a man and a woman, to whom are they listening?

And when a lady says she is really a man because that's how she feels in her spirit, despite her flesh sporting two ovaries, some more lady parts and a pair of X chromosomes, is she listening to Christ or is she listening to the Gnostic?

Gnosticism is an overwhelming, pervasive thing.  It's everywhere, affecting people of every age, class, race, education level, you name it.  Gnosticism is seeping into the funeral plans of old Christian women, spreading into the laws of our nation, and boiling over in the line-ups of our reality TV programs.  It's everywhere, both a flesh-eating virus and a flesh-denying cancer that shows no sign of slowing down, no trace of remorse.

And yet, just as Gnosticism thrives in every generation, so the words of St. John kill it in every generation.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  Jesus is God in a human body.  And when that human body was broken for us, the God/Man forgave our sins and gave us the right to enjoy full and eternal communion with His Father.

So to my fellow Christians who are as prone to despair as I am, don't lose hope.  Don't lose faith.  Keep going back to those words of St. John.  Keep shoving that Divine Flesh in the face of the Gnostics.  Keep making them smell the armpits of God.  And as a parting gift for today's post, here's a poem I wrote on this subject:

The Gnostic Sea
By Hans W. Fiene

I woke this morning early.
The sound of splashing foam,
Had crashed into my head and led
Me from my resting home.

I rose in weary wonder
To see what this might be.
And from my stage, I saw the raging
Of the Gnostic Sea.

The Gnostic spanned horizons
From north to south, it stormed
And gnashed its jaw, and yet I saw
The Gnostic had no form

The Gnostic had no water.
The Gnostic had no blue.
That shapeless host was like a ghost.
It had no mass to strew

The Gnostic had no currents.
The Gnostic had no waves.
But from my shore, I saw its floor
Was tiled with countless graves.

It wore those tombs like trophies
Like busts upon a wall.
And from the deep, it vowed no sleep
Until it claimed us all.

Claimed all the sons of Water,
Of Water and the Word,
By hooking snares that pull us where
No Savior’s voice is heard.

And so the winds that weren’t
Began to howl sweet
To lure in with sav’ry sin
The ones with restless feet.


"Come here," the Gnostic beckoned.
"Come wade within my sea.
And in a flash, my formless splash
Will make you just like me.

"Dive in," it chanted sweetly.
"Dive deep, I'll make you fresh.
I'll fill your cup by splitting up
Your spirit and your flesh.

"I'll grab that sarkos carcass
And cleave it from your soul
So that no sin can enter in
when passion starts to roll.

"I'll keep you safe from conscience
When wrong sweats out your pores.
I'll call it love, your lust that just
gives birth to open sores.

"And if the Prophets shout out
The Word, don't fear its gist.
'Cause damning law can't get a claw
In loins that don't exist.

"So come and soothe your spirit
Come sanctify your fun
Come slice apart your fleshly heart
And burn it when you're done."

So this the Gnostic promised
And many wand'ring sheep,
They traded blood for formless flood
And leapt into the deep.

And peering in that chasm,
I looked at those below
And feared this Gnostic name would claim
Me in its undertow.

And so I fell down, weeping
Convinced I could not stand,
Until I felt the grain that dwelt
Beneath me wasn't sand.

This coarse and gritty substance
That kept me from the sea
Was specks and flecks of Flesh Divine
Was God's anatomy.

And as the Gnostic threatened
To drown me in the deep
The Flesh of God, that Holy Sod,
He swallowed me, His sheep,

Encased me in His Castle
Comprised of Holy Skin
and vowed my foe to overthrow.
He swore my war to win.

And so He rose a Fortress
Congealed from Righteous Blood.
And though the Gnostic stormed and swarmed
His walls it could not flood.

The Gnostic crashed with fury.
The Gnostic screamed and screeched.
But through the hours, the Godly Tow'rs
of Flesh could not be breached.

The Gnostic slapped with vapor.
The Savior struck with fists.
Its phantom pokes were met by chokes
from Hands with bloody wrists.

And when the Gnostic, gurgling,
spat out a mocking sound
to say the Heel, it wasn't real,
that crushed it on the ground

I heard the Fleshy Logos
Condemn the Gnostic Sea.
Then with His hand, He grabbed it and
Impaled it on a tree.

He trapped it in His fingers
And nailed it to the wood.
Then, with my eye, I saw it die
Right where the Savior stood.

He killed it with His body.
He slew it with His breath.
This thing that cursed His final thirst,
He dragged it into death.

Then as the Gnostic's raging
expired with my sin,
My heart rejoiced to hear the voice
of God call to my kin.

To those within the chasm,
To those within the graves,
To those who tasted death in wasted
life as Gnostic slaves.

"Come up," the Savior beckoned.
"Come up and touch my side.
And see that He who made your souls
Is wearing human hide.

"Come gaze on God your Brother
Who, from a virgin's womb,
was called to rid your skin of sin,
And break apart your tomb.

"So with those tombs in tatters,
Come live within the Flesh
Where those released can dwell in peace,
their souls and bodies mesh

"As one within my mercy,
As one within my grace,
Both purified and sanctified
By God's own bloody face.

"So leave that Gnostic sewer.
Depart its formless flood.
Come join my feast, come eat your Priest
And drink His Holy Blood."

And so that Fleshy Fortress
In which I safely dwelt,
His halls and walls began to quake,
to quiver and to melt.

Then Saints from every nation
Began to enter in
The space of God’s incarnate grace
The home of God in skin.

And when my final brother
Within that Castle stood,
That Godly Hide repetrified
And sealed us in for good.

So when the Gnostic grumbled
And growled from its grave,
We laughed within our Savior’s Skin,
Preserved inside His Nave.

And so amidst the chorus,
Above our loud “rejoice,”
I heard the Word made Flesh cry out
I heard my Savior’s voice:

"The day of war is over
The day of rest is here
So let me dry your eye, and cry
No more the tears of fear

“Your weary head come lay on
My Tabernacle Bed.
The formless one has been undone.
The Gnostic Sea is dead.”

33 comments:

Nicholas said...

"Jesus is God in a human body"

...and mind, and soul, and will.

"Christianity says that God's Word is a tangible, touchable thing found in physical letters and earthly words."

Did the Word become Flesh or did the Word become pulp?

wcgreen55 said...

God will raise the bodies of those ground to dust in the fall of the Twin Towers. He will raise those who were eaten by sharks and bears, and those who were swept into the sea by waves. He will raise those who were left to rot on battlefields and the few who have fallen into active volcanoes. He even will raise people who aren't wrapped in cloths, anointed with myrrh then put in a cave behind a big stone (which, by the way, is not "burial.")

Since God doesn't restrict salvation to those interred in cemeteries, why ascribe gnosticism to those who simply don't want to take up space in one?

Pastor Fiene said...

There's a big difference between being unwillingly incinerated by an atom bomb and making sure all your loved ones know that you want them to burn your flesh into a pile of ashes after you die.

I'm not saying that people who choose to be cremated are outright denying the faith. But they have obviously been heavily influenced by a Gnostic view of the body, which tells people that all God cares about is your soul, and that your body is, at best, a mere byproduct that He inexplicably keeps around.

wcgreen55 said...

You're welcome to assume anything you want about me: "Sticks and stones" and all that. It doesn't change the fact that God can raise me no matter what happens to my body. Bodies buried still decay. What does it matter if the process takes minutes and not decades?

Where I live (West Florida), cemetery space is hard to come by. The local city cemetery is hemmed in by development and is filling in part of a lake to gain more space. Tampa's city cemeteries are full as are those in other nearby cities; people must be buried in neighboring counties, but these also are filling. Our local VA cemetery is full. This makes burial space costly--over $3,000 for a plot for one casket. We may have to go back to the ancient practice of removing decayed bodies from their tombs and moving the remaining bones to ossuaries for storage until we're raised.

Surely cremation makes more sense.

Carl Vehse said...

"If you want to know why people have themselves cremated after they die, it's because of Gnosticism."

Unless the person prior to his cremation provides a Gnostic reason, or unless the accuser claims to have telepathic powers to read minds of the living and the dead, such a claim may not be true, and would then be slander.

Earlier this month, the Missouri Synod (through the CTCR) corrected its response on the LCMS FAQ website, "LCMS Views – Life Issues" (Cremation, p. 4). In part it states:

"The LCMS has no official position on cremation.

"In their textbook Pastoral Theology (used at our Synod's seminaries), LCMS Pastors Norbert H. Mueller and George Kraus offer this perspective: 'Not too long ago, the church viewed cremation negatively. Because the general public associated the practice with heathen religions and/or an attempt to disprove the possibility of the resurrection, Christians were reluctant to consider it. In itself, the practice has no theological significance and may be used in good conscience.' Synod’s Lutheran Service Book Agenda, approved by the LCMS in convention, includes an instruction (rubric) for the committal of a person’s ashes, encouraging burial or interment and discouraging the scattering of the ashes.

"[T]his is a matter of Christian freedom and no Christian who chooses to have a loved one cremated rather than buried should be led to think that such a decision is sinful or in opposition to the Word of God."

Three other conservative Lutheran church bodies (CLC, WELS, and ELS) have similarly explained on their websites or in their official publications that cremation has no Scriptural or theological proscription and so long as the motivation is not unchristian, nor for purposes of greed, those who are considering cremation (or donating their bodies to medical schools) should not be burdened with a false sense of guilt.

Unfortunately, the FAQ answer on an older LCMS website still contains the previous, heterodox response. The CTCR has been requested to have that site corrected as well.

Pastor Fiene said...

Official position, financial reasons...I can't help but think that all of this is the standard attempt to justify a practice after its become commonplace. And the best way to justify a bad practice is to take what is actually a pretty simple issue and make it appear complex and nuanced.

But I think this is a pretty simple issue. If you listen to the Bible talk about how to treat people's dead bodies, what does it say? "Bury, bury, bury, bury, bury." If you listen to Gnostics talk about how to treat people's dead bodies, what do they say? "Burn, burn, burn, burn, burn."

So when people go with "burn," which theology is wielding a greater influence on them?

Nicholas said...

Ossuaries are a good solution.

Carl Vehse said...

If the theologians of four conservative Lutheran church bodies do not find God's proscription of cremation in Scripture, then it is doubtful whether repeating a mantra, "Bury, bury, bury, bury, bury," is going to be significant, except perhaps to frighten a few old ladies.

If there were Scriptural mandates for Christians to be buried (with or without various organs removed, or having the blood sucked out and replaced with antifreeze), or prohibitions against cremation or donating one's body to science, they would be readily available on the websites or blog sites of Lutheran church bodies. But there are no Scriptural proscriptions on cremation applicable to Christians today. However there do seem to be numerous eisegetic arguments against cremation.

Master of None said...

"...earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection..." When you are poor and don't want to force your family into debt to pay for a plot, casket, etc. in order to delay the length of time it takes to return you to dust then don't tell me or anyone that they are influenced by Gnosticism when they take the cheapest way to sleep until the day of bodily resurrection...

Daniel Baker said...

I think saying that those who opt for cremation (especially in the Lutheran Church) are influenced by Gnosticism is a lot like saying we are influenced by paganism due to the vestiges of what we call things (names of days, planets, holidays, etc.).

Cremation is poor practice, especially for the Lutheran. "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." We claim in our Confession to adhere to all of the meet, right, and salutary practices of the Church Catholic - even the Church of Rome, as known by its writers. Cremation is certainly not known to the Church Catholic. Hence, cremation is a poor witness to our faith and our heritage, not to mention the prior pagan influences (be above reproach, blameless, spotless, etc.).

However, once again, to assert that the grandma who doesn't know one way or the other and was just trying to save her grandkids thousands of dollars of funeral expense is sinning or influenced by paganism is a stretch at best. Loving instruction on the best possible burial practice is in order. Having said all of that, perhaps we also should discuss the way that modern embalming is done - hardly in line with the practice of the Church Catholic either; in fact, it reminds me of the pagan practices of Ancient Egypt. We all know how God felt about Egypt.

Fallhiker said...

I don't have issues with cremation since I have no limits on what God can do (i.e. resurrecting a pile of ashes) but in your mind set, you must add embalming to a Gnostic practice since embalming is directly tied to preserving the body in an earthly manner to last an eternity. Other than that I have no problem with your point of view concerning Gnosticism and the rest of your POV

Anonymous said...

I think we maybe picking on the cremation bit a little too much and are missing the entire point. (or maybe I missed the point) I don't recall reading "those who are cremated will be condemned and not raised from the dead. Pastor Hans was merely addressing a worldview that doesn't seem to quite fit with the biblical view on the body.

But that still isn't even the main point of this paper. The main point as it should be in Lutheran papers is... Jesus. Jesus being God in the FLESH. And how important it is that he came in the flesh. "And yet, just as Gnosticism thrives in every generation, so the words of St. John kill it in every generation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus is God in a human body. And when that human body was broken for us, the God/Man forgave our sins and gave us the right to enjoy full and eternal communion with His Father."

Carl Vehse said...

Again, there are no Scriptural proscriptions to cremation; cremation is not a sin. There’s nothing wrong with indicating preferences, even associated with Scriptural analogies/imageries, for burial, rather than cremation (or vice versa).

But when one implies with rhetorical jargon, eisegetic wordplay, or sophistic handwaving that Scripture mandates a Christian be buried, or that by choosing cremation or donating one's body to medical science a Christian’s decision is not God-pleasing and he is failing to testify to the Gospel in the clearest possible way, then one is arrogantly claiming to speak for God what God has not spoken.

Anonymous said...

Carl, I agree with you. I'm just not sure where Pastor Hans did that? From what I understood him to be stating is the likeness of thought between Gnosticism and our very own sinful natures. And then he brought it around to how scripture is contrary to those thoughts, and how Jesus is the answer. Maybe I'm off base with what the author intended though as well.

honeybee said...

Thank you for this fantastic post, Pastor Fiene.

I used to be a supporter of creamation until very recently.

What changed my mind was this:
I live in Beligum, where there is a proposal for funeral directors to use something called "Resomation", a process where bodies are dissolved under high pressure with sodium
hydroxide. The liquid left over can be put in the garden, or more economically, into the sewage system. I am not making this up. This is part of a push go "go greener."

When I learned about this, I was so disgusted and horrified, that it forced me to reexamine my beliefs about cremation as well.

As a result, I changed my will and now will be buried in consecrated ground.

Carl Vehse said...

""I'm just not sure where Pastor Hans did that?"

Have you tried reading the first sentence in Rev. Fiene's article? This is an assertion that any person's internal motivation, thinking ("why"), and decision for cremation is Gnostism. Rev. Fiene makes this clear in his August 31, 2011 5:18 PM post; it is not just a "likeness of thought."

In mid-2005, on her now-defunct blog site, "If you don't like it, just go away," Bunnie Diehl had a discussion of "Cremation vs. Burial." The several-weeks-worth of comments on Bunnie's blog can be read, via archived files on The Wayback Machine. A list of the seven archive URL links can be found on this post. The blog files contain similar attempted appeals-to-emotion or guilt-by-associations against cremation as have been seen on this thread.

honeybee, perhaps your church should consider consecrating a columbarium for use by its members?

As for "Resomation®" it is a registered trademark of a British company with a process they market to compete with cremation with a supposed environmental "carbon reduction" method. Maybe Algore will give it his global climate sensitive stamp of approval (and take a test drive). ;-)

sr_walther said...

Just to be cynical, there is plenty of cheap land to be buried in up in Northern Wisconsin!

On a serious note, another resource on cremation you may want to check out is Dust to Dust or Ashes to Ashes? by Alvin Schmidt

Tena said...

Thank you, Pastor Fiene.

Carl Vehse said...

Anonymous: "From what I understood him to be stating is the likeness of thought between Gnosticism and our very own sinful natures."

Read the first sentence in Rev. Fiene's article. This sentence carries the meaning that the reason, internal motivation, thinking, and self-decisions of why people would have themselves cremated is Gnostism. Rev. Fiene makes this clear in his August 31, 2011 5:18 PM post; it is not just a "likeness of thought" or a coincidence, like a Christian and a Gnostic both driving the same make and model of cars with the same color.

In mid-2005, on her now-defunct blog site, "If you don't like it, just go away," Bunnie Diehl had a discussion of "Cremation vs. Burial." The several-weeks-worth of comments on Bunnie's blog can be read, via archived files on The Wayback Machine. A list of the seven archive URL links can be found on this post. The blog files contain similar attempted appeals-to-emotion or guilt-by-associations against cremation as have been seen on this thread.

honeybee, perhaps your church should consider consecrating a columbarium for use by its members?

As for "Resomation®" it is a registered trademark of a British company with a process they market to compete with cremation with a supposed environmental "carbon reduction" method. Maybe Algore will give it his global climate sensitive stamp of approval (and take a test drive). :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pastor Fiene, for another thought-provoking post and for your skillful and enjoyable poem.

Unfortunately I, too, disagree with your analysis concerning cremation. When you can prove from Scripture that cremation is less holy than the removal of bodily fluids, I'll recant. Good article, though.

Speaking of CLC/(W)ELS, when will you sort of direct a Lutheran Satire at their expense? I am curious to see how that would turn out (being a member of one of the bodies in question).

Andrew said...

My Dad who is going through the battle of his life with cancer told the hospital that he wanted them to use his body for research. His priest (Orthodox) told him there would be no Orthodox funeral without the body. Usually the remains are cremated but can be returned in a year. He remained unconvinced, but it was his doctor, a fourth year resident, agreed with the priest and convinced my Dad to not donate his body. He talked of the memories for the family but more importantly he reminded him that he is a creation of God, redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus and should treat his body as such. Interesting

Rev. Paul L. Beisel said...

For me it is as simple as this: Why would we intentionally destroy something that God has knit together and called "Good."? Cremation is, in my opinion, disrespectful to the body.

Pastor Fiene said...

Andrew,

While I certainly agree with your father's doctor about the importance of having a body for the family to bury, I would certainly say there is a big difference between donating your body to science, which is an act of service toward your neighbor, and burning your flesh into a pile of ashes, which does not serve your neighbor in any sense.

So I probably wouldn't agree with the Orthodox approach here.

Carl Vehse said...

honeybee: "I changed my will and now will be buried in consecrated ground."

Perhaps your church should consider consecrating a columbarium for use by its (former) members? As for "Resomation" it is a registered trademark of a British company with a supposed environmental "carbon reduction" process they market to compete with cremation. Maybe Algore will give it his global-climate-sensitive stamp of approval. :-)

In mid-2005, on her now-defunct blog site, "If you don't like it, just go away," Bunnie Diehl had a discussion of "Cremation vs. Burial." The several-weeks-worth of comments on Bunnie's blog can be read, via archived files on The Wayback Machine. A list of the seven URL links to the archive posts can be found on this post. The blog files contain the usual attempted appeals-to-emotion, guilt-by-association, or ad hominem arguments against cremation.

Also discussed on Bunnie Diehl's old site is Alvin Schmidt's book on cremation. The book was not published by CPH nor has it been certified by the Commission on Doctrinal Review. In fact the book was published by Regina Orthodox Press, a producer of books on the false theology of the Eastern (Un)Orthodox Church, which has traditionally opposed cremation.

Furthermore the book is hypocritical. Schmidt states in his book, "I did not write this book to indict Christians or to make them feel guilty, but rather to show them biblically and technologically that cremation, contrary to what most Christian clergy and denominations say today, does not have God’s approval."

This is simply untrue because he also asserted in his book: "Christians must not in ignorance assist in bringing back an age-old pagan practice that symbolically detracts and undermines the cardinal doctrine of Christianity — the physical resurrection of the body. In short, cremation is not an adiaphoron, as many clergy have either explicitly told their members or led them to believe indirectly. For Christians, cremation simply is not a God-pleasing option. As James Fraser, a Christian pastor, has written, ‘Burial is the only God-given way of honorably disposing of the dead.’"

Schmidt confirmed his legalistic position that cremation is a sin in a post on Bunnie's blog discussion of cremation when he wrote: "As I say, anyone who has been a party to cremation and upon repentance can have that sin also forgiven. As I say in the book, it’s similar to what Jesus told the adulterous woman, ‘Go and sin no more.’ In other words, if you, as a Christian, have been party to a cremation, don’t do it again.’"

Thus, despite Dr. Schmidt’s claim that he is not indicting people or making them feel guilty, he actually asserts the opposite – that cremation is a sin and anyone who is a party to the cremation needs to repent! Since God through Scriptures does not declare cremation as a sin, Rev. Schmidt in effect presumes to speak as God in pronouncing, to the contrary, that it is. Such an ex cathedra pronouncement in that book is heterodox to say the least! The CTCR apparently had a similar opinion of Schmidt's book, since they removed the mention of it on the LCMS FAQ webpage on cremation.

Carl Vehse said...

In mid-2005, on her now-defunct blog site, "If you don't like it, just go away," Bunnie Diehl had a discussion of "Cremation vs. Burial." The several-weeks-worth of comments on Bunnie's blog can be read, via archived files on The Wayback Machine. A list of the seven URL links to the archive posts can be found on this post. Bunnie's blog files contain the usual attempted appeals-to-emotion, guilt-by-association, or ad hominem arguments against cremation.

Also discussed on Bunnie Diehl's old site is Alvin Schmidt's book on cremation. The book was not published by CPH nor has it been certified by the Commission on Doctrinal Review. In fact the book was published by Regina Orthodox Press, a producer of books on the false theology of the Eastern Church, which has traditionally opposed cremation.

Carl Vehse said...

Schmidt's book is deceptive. Schmidt states in his book, "I did not write this book to indict Christians or to make them feel guilty, but rather to show them biblically and technologically that cremation, contrary to what most Christian clergy and denominations say today, does not have God’s approval."

This is simply untrue because he also asserted in his book: "Christians must not in ignorance assist in bringing back an age-old pagan practice that symbolically detracts and undermines the cardinal doctrine of Christianity — the physical resurrection of the body. In short, cremation is not an adiaphoron, as many clergy have either explicitly told their members or led them to believe indirectly. For Christians, cremation simply is not a God-pleasing option. As James Fraser, a Christian pastor, has written, ‘Burial is the only God-given way of honorably disposing of the dead.’"

Schmidt confirmed his legalistic position that cremation is a sin in a post on Bunnie's blog discussion of cremation when he wrote: "As I say, anyone who has been a party to cremation and upon repentance can have that sin also forgiven. As I say in the book, it’s similar to what Jesus told the adulterous woman, ‘Go and sin no more.’ In other words, if you, as a Christian, have been party to a cremation, don’t do it again.’"

Thus, despite Dr. Schmidt’s claim that he is not indicting people or making them feel guilty, he hypocritically asserts the complete opposite – that cremation is a sin and anyone who is a party to the cremation needs to repent! Since God through Scriptures does not declare cremation as a sin, Rev. Schmidt in effect presumes to speak as God in pronouncing, to the contrary, that it is. Such an ex cathedra pronouncement in that book is heterodox to say the least! The CTCR apparently had a similar opinion of Schmidt's book, since they removed the mention of it on the LCMS FAQ webpage on cremation.

Pastor Fiene said...

I would just like to point out that, in all this talk of cremation, nobody has talked about how wonderful my poem is. My heart is breaking.

pastordbeck said...

I think the piece on cremation is at least engaging and interesting for discussion. I'm surprised none of the other issues were met with resounding "Amen"s...The stuff about sexuality and Sugar Ray...that's the real meat of this post, because, like a lot of folks above, I don't often list premarital sex, homosexuality, transgender...ness? and cremation in the same category. Just my thoughts...

Anonymous said...

I believe I complimented your poem, Pastor. In my September 3 post (above) I referred to it as "skillful and enjoyable."

RLO said...

Your poem? Too long and "rhymie" for my likings. But your Lutheran Satire videos? They're to die for! Just can't get enough of 'em. Still waiting for your first satire to bag on those WELS Lutherans (of which I am one).

John said...

I love how folks attempt to bind church members to unwritten rules, and claim the authority to do so without absolutely proving such authority.

I am certain that I shall be raised up on the last day. The Word tells me so.

'nuf said.

Carl Vehse said...

For 39 years the Rev. Gordon C. Bergin was pastor of Diamond Lake Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and had a long time interest in fireworks. Before his death in Feb. 2005, at age 93, Rev. Bergin, told his son, Brian Bergin, who is also a Lutheran pastor and the founder of Northern Lighter Pyrotechnics Inc., a fireworks club, that he wanted to say goodbye in a spectacular way: aboard a flaming rocket. According to this USAToday news report:

Mike Swisher, a member of the Northern Lighters and a pyrotechnics manufacturer, was asked to build the 6-inch shell. About 1 cup of Bergin's ashes were to be used as packing material instead of the usual sawdust.

Swisher said viewers won't notice any difference in the display because of the ashes. He said the burst should be a trail of sparks and at the end of each comet trail, there will be a little cross-shaped burst."

Rev. Bergin was launched at the 2005 Fourth of July fireworks display at Marine on St. Croix, MN.

And, for those who want to have a bang-up time after they die, and before Judgment Day, according to this news report, a company, Holy Smoke LLC, will load your cremated ashes into shotgun, rifle, or pistol cartridges of your choice. All shotshells and bullets will be sealed and boxed with reverance and care (any unused ash will be returned to sender).

Brian H. said...

Thank you for your helpful critique, and willingness to post your poem. Don't give up.