By Marshall E. Patton
Dancing is an age old problem in the church, and it continues to present itself anew with each rising generation. While the problem appears over and over, dancing itself appears in a new form from generation to generation. This study shows, however, that the same basic evil in dancing of the past is likewise present in that of the current generation – hence, the problem, regardless of the form or the generation.
One aspect of the problem is found in the fact that far too many do not study the issue objectively. All too often social, sometimes a party spirit, and other pressures make for a prejudicial, biased, and opinionated study. Some hold that preachers are so bound by antiquated views, tradition, and a desire for acceptance among their peers that their teaching is void of objectivity; that because of these pressures they simply can not “get with it” in this modern hour. Bible class teachers are sometimes viewed in much the same light, and others who oppose dancing are thought of by some as radicals, “kill joys,” and objectors without due regard for facts.
In the hope of greater objectivity, let it be observed that while the possibility of such on the part of some exists, surely, more serious thought shows such views to be a reflection upon the integrity of our teachers in general as well as a threat to our future security. Those who are experienced, who are void of a reputation of extremism, :and who are recognized as careful students of the word are well schooled in the dangers of such pressure influences. Among these we find many who have the faith and courage to search out and stand for truth regardless of such influences and consequences. The consensus judgement of such is worthy of the greatest respect and study.
I believe that it goes without debate that the consensus judgment of the more faithful among us (preachers, elders, deacons, Bible Class teachers, and others) is that dancing, as opposed in this article, is wrong. It would be folly for one seriously ill physically to ignore the consensus judgment of the best qualified in the realm of therapeutics. Likewise, we must conclude that it would be equally foolish to ignore the consensus, judgment of the best qualified in the field of Bible knowledge. Young people, especially, should be very careful to avoid the path of folly in their study of this issue.
Inconsistency poses a problem for both the guilty and the observer. All of our literature – that used in Bible classes, religious papers, tracts, books of sermons, etc. that deals with this subject sound a unanimous voice against dancing. The Christian, therefore, who engages in such finds himself at variance with the literature throughout the brotherhood as well as the oral teaching thereof. This puts him in a bad light with his fellows and at a disadvantage to explain his inconsistency to others.
Dancing in the Bible
The dancing of which one reads in the Bible may be divided twofold. (1) There were dances expressive of great joy and gratitude on occasions of victory and signal favors wrought or bestowed at the hand of God; also dances by which devotion, honor, and praise were shown unto Him (e.g., Ex. 15:20; Judges 11:34; 1 Sam. 18:6; 2 Sam. 6:14; Psa. 30:11; 149:3; 150:4; Lk. 15:25). In these dances men and women danced alone – no mixed dancing. (2) There were dances for amusement, pleasure and entertainment. There often involved hilarity, revelling, and mixed dancing (e.g., Ex. 32:19-28; 1 Sam. 30:16; Job. 21:7, 11-20; Matt. 14:3-6; Mk. 6:21-28). Concerning the two kinds of dancing, only the former has any semblance of approval. Even then, those involving some religious aspect (praise unto God) are found in the Old Testament. There is no authority for such in the New Testament age (John 4:23, 24).
Works of the Flesh
Among the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21), we find “Lasciviousness.” Webster defines this word as follows: “Wanton, lewd, lustful – tending to produce lewd emotions; the synonym of licentious, lecherous, salacious the antonym of chaste.” Again, it is defined: “Indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, p. 79, 80). There are two expressions in the above definitions worthy of special attention, because they identify, beyond doubt, the modern Disco dance (as well as others), namely, “tending to produce lewd emotions” and “indecent bodily movements.” The suggestive positions, provocative movements, and seductive gyrations of the Disco dance and other forms of the modern dance are here identified as lasciviousness.
If one were trying to produce lewd emotions by indecent movements of the body, could he do better than employ the bodily movements of such dances? In order to see more clearly the lascivious aspect, omit for the moment the presence of music, and ask the question, “Is there a Christian woman anywhere who would condone another woman engaging is such bodily movements before her husband even in her own living room?” The-presence or absence of music does not change the lascivious aspect. One thing wrong with dancing is that it takes and grants privileges that are not tolerated anywhere else in decent society. Even if a mature Christian (one schooled and experienced in the control of his passions) should be able to withstand temptation, we need to remember that the average man of the world is void of such strength, and many could care less.
Sometimes women say that such does not so effect them. Perhaps there are exceptions – more often among teenage and single girls. This point involves a study of the psychological and biological differences between the male and female, which space limitations forbid just now. However, just remember that no matter how innocent one may be of lewd emotions in such dances, he cannot be sure that such does not “produce” or “tend to produce lewd emotions” in another. Remember, “Lasciviousness” is condemned in these words “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
“Revellings” is also listed among the works of the flesh. A study of this word as defined by Webster and by lexicographers shows that it means a lack of restraint and self control; emotional excitement; that which is boistrous, loud and noisy. While this word may not be descriptive of every form of dancing that falls into the category of amusement, pleasure, and entertainment, it is descriptive of the modern dance hall and that associated therewith. It, therefore, must be considered in a study of this theme.
A few years ago, Paul Harvey, under the heading of “Pagan Dance Nothing New,” said:
“I had no business in that night club except that friends insisted I ‘should know what’s going on.’
“It was one of those places where, in suspended cages, girls wiggle and giggle to a jungle drum beat. Later, I’m told, they dance on tabletops among the customers. I didn’t wait.
“Anyway, I said, `that’s one degree of vulgarity that I’ll never get on TV!”
“Now three shows feature little else: ‘Go, Go,’ ‘Shindig’ and ‘Hullabaloo’ (Cf. “American Bandstand” – mep).
“And many variety shows are interspersed with similar pagan fertility rites.
“Choreographers must never have read anything more profound than `Billboard’ and ‘Playboy’ if they genuinely consider their product avant-garde. It is, conversely, as old as the Old Testament and as unimaginative as burlesque.
“The Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Arabs, the Turks, the Sardinians, the Mongolians, the Chinese – certain alley cats and dissolute dogs – long ago allowed such self-expression as is masqueraded as ‘new”‘ (Paul Harvey, ABC News, Via Bedford Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 52, Jan. 16, 1966).
According to an AP dispatch from Hollywood (sometime ago), Ginger Rogers said of the twist:
“The twist is ungraceful, vulgar, and exhibitionism personified. I think it’s scandal. It is the most obscene dance I’ve ever seen, worse than the shimmy ever was” (Via God Speaks to Today’s Teenagers, by James Meadows).
Space limitations preclude further quotes which show that even many “not of us” put those who engage in such dancing in a bad light. This is significant in relation to the issue because of the principle of influence (Matt. 5:16).
It should also be observed that in listing the works of the flesh, Paul adds to “lasciviousness” and “revellings” the expression “and such like.” These works of the flesh identify acts that would excite to unlawful desires and passions on the part of either the performer or observer. Furthermore, it does not meet the issue to say that properly supervised and sponsored dancing falls into a different category. Supervision can have some control over the aspect of revelery, but one cannot supervise the thoughts, emotions, and passions of another.
Dancing, as opposed in this article, identifies the participant as foolish, inconsistent, indulging the works of the flesh, condemned by the Scriptures, and without hope of heaven. Repentance is mandatory by a loving Heavenly Father who would have all men to be saved.
- Name some influences that often keep one from studying this issue objectively.
- Is it foolish to ignore the consensus judgment of the best qualified on any issue?
- What is the consensus judgment of the best qualified teachers and most of the more faithful in the church on dancing?
- In what problem of inconsistency does one who engages in the modern dance involve himself?
- Distinguish between the different kinds of dances found in the Bible.
- Are dances of devotion, honor, and praise unto God authorized in the N.T.?
- Are dances for amusement, pleasure, and entertainment approved in the Bible?
- Does the change in the form of dancing from generation to generation change its basic evil?
- Define “lasciviousness.”
- May one be guilty of “lasciviousness” who does not experience lewd emotions himself?
- Identify “lasciviousness” in different forms of dancing.
- Does “revellings” apply to the modern dance hall?
- Does the modern dance limit one’s influence for good? How?
- While the supervision of a dance may control in some measure the revelry aspect, can it control the thoughts, emotions, and passions of the participants?
- What did Paul say of those who “do such things” (Gal. 5:21)?
Truth Magazine XXIII: 22, pp. 357-359
May 31, 1979