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Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes: A Biblical and Christian Examination of Cremation [Paperback]

By Alvin Schmidt (Author)
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Item Number 102834  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   134
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.56" Width: 6.42" Height: 0.36"
Weight:   0.39 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2005
Publisher   Regina Orthodox Press
ISBN  1928653219  
EAN  9781928653219  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Dr. Schmidt writes for readers who may never have considered whether cremation is biblically right or wrong, at least not in any prolonged seriousness. Along with presenting his evaluation of cremation within the framework of the Bible and historic Christianity, he provides an historical overview of the practice from the ancient world including the Americas.

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More About Alvin Schmidt

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Alvin J. Schmidt (PhD, University of Nebraska) retired in 1999 as professor of sociology at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where he still lives. He is the author of several books, including The Great Divide: The Failure of Islam and the Triumph of the West, and served as a consulting editor for Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult.

Alvin J. Schmidt currently resides in the state of Illinois.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Parish Pastor's Perspective  Aug 6, 2007
I was looking forward to this book with great anticipation. I had heard a review of the book and interview with thr author on the "Issues, Etc." radio program, and knew that it would be helpful for me as a parish pastor trying to help people sort out difficult questions surronding final arrangements for themselves or a loved one. I believe the book is very good, but not great. It does an excellent job of bringing forward Scripture references and historical data. It is a bit heavy on the law and I think could have made a stroonger argument against cremation for the Christian if it had taken a more incarnational approach to the subject. I have simply supplemented the material in the book for adult Bible study purposes. The congregation has received our study VERY well!

Rev. Clint K. Poppe
Lincoln, NE
Not All That One Might Hope  Mar 8, 2006
In this critique I will present both what I believe is of value in the book and also identify several weaker points.

The book contains a concise summary of the pagan origins of cremation, which is broad in scope and appears to be thoroughly researched. It presents both the basis for cremation in different belief systems and the manner of cremation in each case. With respect to the West, Dr. Schmidt notes the virtual eclipse of cremation in the Roman Empire by the fourth century due to the impact of Christianity (even before Christianity was legal) and then the reemergence of cremation in the nineteenth century, achieving relatively wide acceptance ultimately after 1963.

The description of what happens to the body during the cremation process is quite unsettling and would by itself, I think, be enough to turn most people off cremation. That the bones largely do not burn in the cremation process and that this is the basis for the appellation "cremains" was something I did not know. In fact the bones must be ground to fit into the recepticle. I agree with the author that Christians ought not adopt this attitude toward the body, alive or dead.

When Dr. Schmidt takes up the OT evidence against cremation, his arguments become a bit shaky. He hangs his cremation adiaphora non est hat on Amos 2:1-2. His reading of the text would make it the sedes doctrinae for the (great) sinfulness of cremation. He gives no evidence, however, of how this passage has been interpreted historically. The cremation of the king of Edom by the Moabite king need not necessarily be read as one of his three or four transgressions. Rather, the cremation may be cited as the basis for like punishment, which will then be exacted upon him. The transgression of the Moabite king is more likely the undeserved desecration of the body of the king of Edom, not the means chosen to do so. Note, it was not sinful for King Josiah to burn the bones of pagan priests (2 Kings 23:16). If cremation is a sin, it must be so uniformly for believers and unbelievers alike.

Dr. Schmidt cites the failure of church bodies to produce formal theological studies on cremation as part of their acquiescence to secular culture (59). I submit that the church has been strangely remiss in this regard. However, I would suggest (contra Dr. Schmidt) that this is to do with the status of cremation as an adiaphoron. Instead of reading the evidence of the early church as Christians choosing burial because of what it confesses, Dr. Schmidt would have us understand Christian burial as ever the rejection of cremation, suggesting that the early church was driven more by nonconformity than by positive example and confession.

In general, Dr. Schmidt's arguments would be much better if stated positively: We Christians bury because we view death as "sleep," because we believe in the sanctity of the human body, alive or dead, because Christ our Lord was buried, because we believe it better confesses the bodily resurrection. It is incorrect and dangerous to turn this around and bind consciences where they are not bound by Holy Scripture.

Dr. Schmidt accuses the clergy of acquiescence to society, and I would agree that the clergy is largely culpable for the increase in cremations of Christians. However, I would suggest the real issue is not acquiescence to society but misunderstanding the nature of adiaphora and failing to deal with cremation pastorally. Even where Christians are given freedom, they will seek to make choices which better confess to the world what they firmly believe.

Jesse Krusemark
The Best Book On The Subject  Nov 17, 2005
Dust to Dust or Ashes to Ashes is a very good book on the view of cremation. Alvin Schmidt, a conservative and confessional Lutheran Church Missouri Synod scholar, argues for Christian burial and rejects cremation. This book is unique in the fact that it is one of the few books published on the subject and the only book on the subject from a conservative Lutheran viewpoint.

The book is short, and repetitive; perhaps the contents of this book could have been reduced to a series of journal articles without loosing much content. The material in the book is written for pastors and church leaders but accessible to any interested layperson. It is a quick and interesting read, free from confusing theological jargon.

Chapter 2 explains how historically only pagans burned their dead, page 15 says, "The pagan practice of cremation was invariably interwoven with certain religious beliefs regarding the deceased individual's soul. Many groups believe that incinerating the body freed or released the soul from the body in which it had been held captive during the person's life."

Chapter 3 covers the topics of cremation past and present. Some of the topics that are discussed are: The Decline of Cremation in Ancient Rome, Cremation's Reappearance in the West in the 1900's, The bodies reaction to cremation, and what constitutes for "ashes".

Chapter 4 is titled "The Ancient Israelite View of Cremation". This is an excellent chapter covering the Old Testament history of burials and usages of burning of the dead. Some of the interesting topics that are treated in this chapter are: the burials of Abraham and his descendants, Cremation as a punishment for the accursed and instrument of God's wrath, the burning of King Saul and his sons.

Chapter 6 is titled "Biblical Arguments Against Cremation". In my interest of the book this was the most important chapter, however I was disappointed because it was his weakest. Schmidt failed to give a clear Biblical mandate-opposing cremation yet he denies that the practice is adiaphron. His best argument is from the burial of Jesus Christ page 60 says, "...given that God willed Moses and Jesus Christ be buried, it is reasonable to conclude He wills that all people, past and present, be given earthly burial." One highlight of this chapter is his section on the phrase Dust to Dust and Ashes to Ashes.

I gave this book five stars because 1. there are few books on the topic 2. it is easy to read 3. it fits with conservative Christian and Historical Evangelical theology 4. it only has one major weakness, denying the practice as adiaphron without a clear biblical mandate.

Ross Edward Johnson
A Historically Evangelical Conservative Confessional Lutheran
Dust to Dust Ashes to Ashes/ A. Schmidt  Oct 3, 2005
Informative, hilarious(some parts on use of cremins) and comforting.
Counter Cultural in a BIG Way  Aug 25, 2005

I only give 5 stars to books that present me with ideas that stay with me for a long time. This is such a book.

With an argument that runs counter to the culture in which we live Dr. Schmidt argues that cremation is a pagan custom that was discarded by early Christians who believed in a literal resurrection of the body (in a new glorified form). His argument is not about whether God is able to resurrect a cremated body, or whether the issue is a "heaven/hell" issue, but whether it presents a poor Christian witness. He seems to feel that as Christianity loses influence cremation gains in popularity.

After reading the book for my "Book of the Month Group" we had the privilege of inviting Dr. Schmidt to address our group and discuss his ideas. Most of us went into the meeting prepared to debate. My group is composed entirely of pastors and none of our denominations challenge the practice of cremation. I was impressed with his grasp of the subject and extensive research. We spent much of our time asking questions.

I was interested to discover that he did not set out to write this book, but stumbled upon items that caught his attention while doing research for another of his books. Once his interest was captured, he came back to work on this book.

I have not read other books on this subject, so I do not have anything to compare it with. However, it was a fun, easy read that left me thinking.


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