Lay Me in God's Good Earth: A Christian Approach to Death and Burial, By Kent Burreson and Beth Hoeltke
Lay Me in God's Good Earth
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: August 20, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: A0760
  • ISBN: 9781514007600

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A Christian case for natural burial

The promises of the Christian gospel are never more precious or more beautiful than in the context of death and burial. And yet current burial practices in Western society are archaic and impersonal. They fail to confront us with the reality of death, and they make it harder to process death or to grieve properly.

Kent Burreson and Beth Hoeltke have been teaching a Christian understanding of death and natural burial for many years. They argue that natural burial—laying the body into the earth in a way that allows it to decompose naturally—is not only better for the environment but is also a more accurate picture of Christian hope of the resurrection. Grounded in sound Christian teaching about death and burial, they advocate for natural burial and offer practical instructions for navigating the complex questions around burial practices.

Lay Me in God’s Good Earth is not only an immensely practical guide to natural burial; it is also an application of the hope of the resurrection to those grieving the loss of their loved ones.

"In this well-researched and compellingly written book, Kent Burreson and Beth Hoeltke thoughtfully address important, and sometimes difficult, end-of-life questions. They guide the reader well through the many options for caring faithfully for the bodies of the dead, and they make a compelling case for natural burial. A very provocative book!"

Thomas G. Long, author of Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral

"Lay Me in God's Good Earth is a much-needed guide to equip the church to teach the theology and art of dying. Sound, pastoral, sensitive, and practical, this book empowers honest conversation about our common journey of death and God's intention to raise us and all creation. Burreson and Hoeltke advocate thoroughly and convincingly for natural burial as a witness to and participation in God's purpose of restoring us and all creation. Rich in biblical words and images, this decidedly Christian book inspires meaningful conversation in home and church. Its practical wisdom also supports and guides any who must respond to the death of a loved one or prepare a loved one for their own death."

Craig Alan Satterlee, teacher of preaching and worship and bishop of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod ELCA

"This is a delightful, insightful, and timely book that can and should be used in a variety of settings (parish and other classes in planning Christian burial, counseling with the bereaved, and by pastors). Firmly rooted in the creedal affirmation of 'the resurrection of the body and life everlasting,' this readable study examines traditional (including cremation) and newer more ecologically sensitive manners of burial in affirming and nonjudgmental ways. I highly recommend this book."

Maxwell E. Johnson, emeritus professor of liturgy, University of Notre Dame

"Dr. Burreson and Dr. Hoeltke bring together sound theological reflections, ancient Christian practices, and environmental concerns to make the case that natural burial best honors the body as God's creation in the hope of its resurrection. As such, this book fills in an important gap within theological and environmental studies and deserves a wide readership!"

Charles P. Arand, Eugene E. and Nell S. Fincke Graduate Professor of Theology at Concordia Seminary

"After losing both my dear parents in the span of ten months, I was forced to consider matters of death and burial. Particularly comforting to me is the careful attention and concern with which Christians value the physical body, even after death. Dr. Burreson and Dr. Hoeltke take you into that care that reflects the beauty and dignity of the human person, and into truths that are undergirded by the hope of resurrection as modeled by our Lord, Jesus, himself: 'the firstborn among many brothers' (Romans 8:29). The genius of this book is that it does not romanticize death in order to deal with it, nor does it dismiss grief. Instead, it offers a sobering hope that produces stability: stability in how we think about death, prepare for it, and remember our future eternal rest in how we put our loved ones to rest."

Marcus "Flame" Gray, Christian rapper

"People are usually surprised to hear that the majority of the services at our conservation burial grounds are for committed Christians. Lay Me in God's Good Earth makes a compelling biblical case for natural burial."

Billy Campbell, founder of conservation burial

"Burreson and Hoeltke have given us a theology of the body in death and dying. The body as God's good creation awaiting its resurrection should be handled with dignity and honor in burial and preparation for death. This book argues for a natural burial in God's good earth in an ecologically responsible way and guidance in countering the American way of death. Six appendixes offer a complete checklist for burial planning; cost comparisons of natural burial, conventional burial, and cremation; resources for handling the body at home; resources for burying naturally; and a bibliography for further reading. Since we will all die, this book is a resource every Christian family and church should have."

Frank C. Senn, affiliate professor of liturgy at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and author of Eucharistic Body

"Lay Me in God's Good Earth is an important book. We have too long assumed that the way the funeral industry treats the bodies of our loved ones is our only option. Burreson and Hoeltke have opened my eyes to the fact that there are ways to care for our dead in a manner more in keeping with Christian teaching. This book not only reestablishes how the Christian story ought to affect our burial practices, but it is also a practical guide for how a congregation like ours can put these principles into action."

Joshua Palmer, pastor of Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Tucson, Arizona

"Green burial has an incredible positive impact on both the environment and the individual, and Kent Burreson and Beth Hoeltke explore each through their unique, faith-based lens. Lay Me in God's Good Earth paints an impressively engaging portrait of American death care, past and present, and provides not just the authors' reasoning for going green but a comprehensive roadmap for how to do it."

Grace Griffin, vice president of customer relations and green burial specialist at Bellefontaine Cemetery Association

Read an Excerpt


1. In Christ the Dead Will Rise
2. In the Ground: Burying the Body Naturally
3. Remembering the Dead in Hope
4. Knowing the Way Home: The Story of This Earthly Journey to Resurrection
5. Caring for the Body of Our Dead
6. Dying with Hope
7. The Particularities of Death

Tools and Resources
A. Our Final Journey: A Burial Planning Guide
B. Cost Comparisons
C. Resources for Caring for the Body at Home
D. Resources for Burying Naturally
E. State Funeral Boards and Licensing Agencies
F. Resources for Further Reading



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Kent Burreson

Kent J. Burreson (PhD, University of Notre Dame) is professor of systematic theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Together with Beth Hoeltke, he is the author of Death, Heaven, Resurrection, and the New Creation.

Beth Hoeltke

Beth Hoeltke (PhD, Concordia Seminary) is the retired director of the graduate school at Concordia Seminary and an adjunct instructor at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri. Together with Kent Burreson, she is the author of Death, Heaven, Resurrection, and the New Creation.