Don E. Smith
In current times the citizens of the world would not think twice about participating in mixed gendered dancing or attending venues where such is taking place. At the very least, none of the world would object to such an activity. In the United States, it has become the norm for school age children to attend proms, homecoming dances, and other school dances, and many parents pride in sending their children off to these. With a look of innocence, not a few also take part in father-daughter dances. The adult world takes it to another level, with dancing taking place at clubs and bars. Seemingly innocent dancing is performed at wedding receptions and parties, holiday or otherwise. In contrast, the citizens of heaven forthrightly object to all of the above, knowing that all such is unabashed sin that is of utmost shame. The world would call the church evil for saying so, but what does the Bible teach on this subject? Let us find out.
What Does the Bible and Proper Reason Teach?
For faithful Christians, any worldly practice that is dangerous to the soul must be completely avoided. As will be seen throughout this study, dancing is absolutely perilous to the soul. What dancing leads to is eternally condemning, but the things associated with the activity are also “unchristian.” The attire that goes hand in hand with dancing is, more often than not, of the most immodest nature. Many times, the establishments where dancing takes place are those places where the loosest of morals is flaunted, encouraged, and embraced. Let us remember that James tells us to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27).1
The nature of couples’ dancing and otherwise is most unvirtuous. Movements of body parts that the act requires show forth lustful intentions, and are, in and of themselves, lustful actions. These many times lead to other sinful actions, which could be avoided, if dancing were not acted upon in the first place. This is one method of temptation Satan uses that we might carry ourselves into sin— “the lust of the flesh” (1 John 2:16). Dancing, therefore, is outright unrighteousness (cf. Rom. 1:18ff).
The absolute immorality of dancing cannot be overemphasized. The movements of the act are blatantly immodest, as anyone with any sense can see. Outfits that the participants are clad with when dancing many times go along with the intent the perpetrator of this sin has in mind. The clothing worn brings us to another point regarding two other forms of dancing, which many consider to be innocent. Cheerleading is a form of dancing, and the apparel worn for it is absolutely shameful. In a similar vein of thought is that of ballet. The tight revealing clothing for it brings just as much shame upon the person wearing it as does the cheerleading garments. Parents should not be enrolling their children into such activities, as it teaches them that such behavior and dressing is appropriate and okay. If women are to “adorn themselves in modest apparel” (1 Tim. 2:9), certainly children are to follow their example. This goes for men too. To involve oneself or one’s children in any of these aspects of dancing is therefore sin.
Ultimately, the question would be, “Is dancing authorized by the scriptures?” Does God approve of such? As will be seen later in this study, some dancing is referenced in the Bible, and it is not condemned. But our question deals with modern dancing, which the world chooses to see as okay. To ask whether dancing is authorized, is the same as asking whether the clothing and lustful movements of the body are authorized by God. It is the same as asking whether dance clubs and bars are authorized establishments for entertainment. Can we do such and attend these places in the name of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:17)? Are we authorized to be a stumbling block to others by such a practice? The rhetorical nature of these questions is clearly seen, and we all know the answer.
In the foregoing, it has been demonstrated that dancing is unchristian behavior, unrighteous, immodest, and unauthorized by God. Clearly it is sin. Another element this sin spreads is its corrupting nature. Paul wrote, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33). Another translation puts it this way, “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals” (ibid., ASV 1901). “Communications” therefore equates to companionships, as also defined by James Strong (3657). We are told that companionship can corrupt our good morals, and associating with those who are dancing is certainly influencing and corrupting.
Dancing is also lasciviousness. The word translated “lasciviousness” is defined as “unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence” (Thayer). By understanding the nature of modern dancing, it could just as easily be defined the same. It is certainly unbridled lust (and causes such), outrageous, and shameless. Since the Bible condemns lasciviousness as a work of the flesh, dancing would be included in this (Gal. 5:19). Dancing is, therefore, against the law of God and sinful.
The act of modern dancing is also covered generally and specifically under the term “reveling.” Reveling is defined as “a carousal (as if letting loose),” according to Strong (2970). “Letting loose” is an excellent description of modern dance, which is condemned as sin by the inspired apostle Paul (Gal. 5:21). In other historical writings dating back close to the time the King James Version was translated, the term “revel” is used in parallel comparison with dancing (Geddes & Grosset). The condemnation of reveling, “and such like,” places sin square on the nose of dancing.
If dancing is as described in the foregoing (and it is), then it is of the darkest evil. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Certainly, if we are to abstain from the appearance of it, we cannot engage in the practice of it. Paul also said, “Abhor that which is evil…” (Rom. 12:9). We are to literally hate evil, just as God does (Prov. 8:13; cf. Ps. 45:7; 97:10). Therefore, we should abstain from the appearance of dancing, never let the thought of practicing it cross our minds, and hate the activity as God does, knowing it is sin and what the wages of it are for all involved (Rom. 6:23).
Since the wages of sin is death (ibid.), what death is referred to here? As God teaches us, death is a separation. For example, a dead faith is a faith separated from works (Jas. 2:17). Likewise, when we die to sin, we separate ourselves from it (Rom. 6:1-2). Our physical death is a separation of our spirit from our body (Jas. 2:26). So, it is understandable that we spiritually die when we separate ourselves from God (Isa. 59:2). Though not physical, it is this spiritual death that Adam and Eve suffered upon their sin in the garden (Gen. 2:17; 3:6). Therefore, when we commit the sin of being a partaker with the activity of dancing in any way, we separate ourselves from God, and in essence commit spiritual suicide. Dancing is that perilous to the soul.
If dancing is that perilous to the soul (understanding the foregoing, would any argue that it is not??), then it is a damnable practice. Its adherents and practitioners have nothing to look forward to but the “lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). To take the attitude to go and dance anyways, or encourage others to do so, whether directly or indirectly, is to be in disobedience to the injunctions of God that teach against it. Disobedience is equated to unbelief. In 1 Peter 2:7, Peter states, “unto you therefore which believe…” and then equates the opposite (unbelief) with disobedience, stating, “but unto them which be disobedient.” So, being in disobedience to God’s injunctions is to be in unbelief. Truly, “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jas. 2:10).
There are some who attempt to use the Bible to justify the practice of dancing. A few passages exist that mention dancing, but none of them are in any form a reference to modern dancing. A common passage used is the reference to David dancing before the Lord (2 Sam. 6:14; 1 Ch. 15:29). The “reasoning” is, “if David danced, so can I.” Another frequently used verse to support their view is Ecclesiastes 3:4, “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Some also bring up the idea that there was dancing taking place at the return of the prodigal son (Luke 15:25). The error in trying to support modern dancing with these verses is in the fact that this dancing was never done solely for entertainment, but was done at a time of a joyous occasion. It is better described as leaping for joy, not the lustful movements of today’s modern dance.
Further study shows that modern dance has no example or pattern by which it can be equated to the dance of the Bible. There is no instance in the scriptures wherein a man and woman are found dancing together, as in modern dance. Miriam and the women danced in joy at the protection God gave them from Pharoah (Ex. 15:20). The daughters of Shiloh danced alone at a feast of the Lord, otherwise they would have been protected (Judg. 21:21). Again, each example in the Bible is an occasion of joy. There is no example of couples dancing together found on the pages of Holy Writ. Therefore, the mentions of dancing in the Bible cannot be used to justify the lust-filled sinful modern dance.
A study of the Bible shows that modern dancing is plainly sin. The Bible clearly teaches it is unchristian behavior. No Christian could practice it and claim to be doing that which is righteous. Modesty does not find any place in modern dancing. Therefore, we have seen that dancing is not authorized by the scriptures. Its very nature is corrupting. The actions of dancing perfectly fit with the definitions of the terms “lasciviousness” and “reveling.” By this, dancing is equated with evil, it is perilous to the soul, and damnable. Though some try to use the Bible to justify dancing, they will not be found justified by God. Even if the world will call the church evil for saying so, God stands as the ultimate Judge:
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! (Isa. 5:20-23)
1. All scripture quotations and citations are from the King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise indicated.
2. American Standard Version, ASV, 1901.
3. Geddes & Grosset, Sir William Wallace, 2002.
4. Thayer, Joseph Henry, Thayer’s Greek Definitions, e-Sword.
5. Strong, James, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996