Is Dancing a Sin?
To dance. Or, not to dance? That is the question among Pentecostal believers. The body of Christ in this present generation have embarked on a journey with no turning back. The old adage answers to questions that bring about controversy and discussion are no longer acceptable. There is now a generation of believers who are educated, articulate, and street savvy who make decisions based on spiritually reasonable thought and Scriptural facts rather than, “Because the pastor said so”, “That’ s how it has always been”, “It’s tradition”, or, just “No”.
Before this Bible study goes any further there is a warning clause. It is not the intent of this Bible study or this local assembly to bring about seeds of discord or rebellion. The Scriptural information and life application examples are for the individual believer to be led by the Spirit of God to make decisions in their life that are holy and acceptable. Only an immature Christian seeking license to do what they desire in disregard to pastoral or parental authority will weaponize truth for their own profit. No matter what your position, place of worship, or opinion you must submit to the authority that God has placed over you through your local pastor and church leadership.
Why the warning? Sadly, many Christians may be right Scripturally in their belief. However, the way they go about expounding and applying it can be ungodly resulting in offences and rebellion that do not profit the body but infact become a stumbling block. Everything must be done in decency and in order. Such truth in the hands of spiritually immature novices can be destructive. Nonetheless, we must continue to move forward in educating our fellow brothers and sisters and aid them in building their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
As aforementioned, the church is in a time of apologetics. Young people from across the racial, social, denominational and spectrum of Pentecostalism are asking the hard questions that traditionalist and legalist do not like to answer. Or, if they do answer the response lacks a Scriptural basis and conviction. Answers as such deter a young person from seeking truth and propel them to a state of rebellion. The church must be fully equipped to explain why certain beliefs, standards, and traditions are held in the body of Christ.
With so many young people growing up in the church and being lost it is vital to confront the social issues of the day and teach on matters that personally affect them. Young Christians are challenged with a myriad of social and culture paradigms including the high school experiences that includes birthday parties, dances, proms, and project graduations. Additionally, marriages and other celebratory events traditionally include dancing. Along with such events includes the glamour and excitement of dressing up, taking pictures, and dancing. So, here lies the question. Is it acceptable for believers to dance? Or, not too dance.
Dancing defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary is 1: to engage in or perform a dance 2: to move or seem to move up and down or about in a quick or lively manner. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible there are 11 different words for dance listed below in the Hebrew. With this in mind, it must be acknowledged that in early Jewish time dancing was an intricate part to their cultural complexity.
CHIYL (2342) - to twist or whirl in a circular or spiral manner.
MACHOWL (4234) - a round dance.
MECHOWLAH (4246) - a dance / company of dancers
DALAG (1801) - to leap or spring.
CHAGAG (2287) - to move in a circle / march in a sacred procession / celebrate a festival / dance.
KARAR (3769) - to dance or whirl.
RAQAD (7540) - to stamp / spring about / dance / jump / leap / skip. 1
PAZAZ (6339) - to spring or leap.
PACACH (6452) - to hop / skip over / to dance.
GIYL/GUWL (1523) - to spin round under the influence of emotion
ALATS (5970) - to jump for joy / be joyful / rejoice / triumph.
Types of Dance
Ballet – Ballet is a highly technical performance dance originating in the early Renaissance era that uses music, theatrics, theme, and story to entertain the audience. This style of dance is regarded as the building block of other dance styles.
Jazz – Jazz dancing is an upbeat style and high energetic form of dancing. This type of dancing incorporates many styles of dance with the dancer defining the movements with their own character and style.
Hip-Hop – This type of dancing derived from Hip-Hop music culture in the 90’s. This type of dancing allows the dancer to use personal interpretation and improvisation to perform. Such dance techniques categorized under Hip-Hop are breaking, popping, locking, and krumping.
Folk – Folk dancing is a traditional dance passed that is passed down through the generations. This style of dance reflects a community and/or culture of people that shares the story of the people. Folk dancing is usually associated with social activities and religious ceremonies.
Tap – Tap dancing is a high energetic dance that uses the dancer’s feet as drums to maintain the beat and rhythm.
Modern – Modern dance originated from ballet. Though derived from ballet the dancers move away from the rigid choreographed rules of ballet and are allowed free expression. The use of gravity to enhance the dance moves in contrary to that of ballet which trains the dancers to be swift and light footed.
Swing – Swing dancing is a lively social dance which involves couples. This type of dancing receives its name from the swinging, spinning, and flips which it involves.
Belly – Belly dancing gets most of it’s recognition from depiction of ancient Egyptian woman. This type of dancing uses isolated movements of the abdomen and hips to allure its audience.
Flamenco – A Spanish dance that has intricate footwork and uses arms and hands in sweeping movements. The dance usually consists of rhythmic feet stomping and strict arm and hand movements. This dance is found in Arabic, Indian, and Spanish cultures.
Line – Everybody has done some type of line dancing in their past. Example of such a dance is the “electric slide”. Line dancing is a choreographed dance which groups of people dance in parallel lines following a sequence of steps. Line dancers to not touch each other as in other types of dancing
Contra – Contra dancing in layman’s terms is folk dancing as a group. Pairs of couples face each other in parallel lines and dance to live music in a family type atmosphere.
*There are many other forms of dancing around the globe. The above was used to give a general presentation of the types of dance that can be found.
Not To Dance
More often than not, Pentecostals and other traditional Christian denominations will side on the part that a Christian is not to dance because it brings about sexual innuendos and was used to worship pagan gods. First, denominations categorize dancing as lascivious behavior. Lasciviousness is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “wantonness”. Wantonness is described as unruly, undisciplined, playful mischievous, lustful, and sensual behavior. Holman’s Bible Dictionary defines lasciviousness as “unbridled expression of sexual urges”. The book Galatians, Ephesians, and 1Peter warn a Christian not to follow in step with this type of behavior for they are the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19; 1Pet 4:3).
It doesn’t take a Biblical scholar, or a person graced with the gift of discernment to recognize that many of the bars, discos, lounges, and clubs consist of men and women engaging in lascivious behavior. Dancing in the hands of a person that is not saved is a sexual weapon used to manifest and project sexual urges. Take such dances that involve grinding, humping, touching, and kissing. Yet, any type of activity in the hands of someone that is unsaved can be abused and misused to fulfill a lustful and fleshly desire. Take for instance, the act of sexual intercourse. God created sex to be between a husband and wife. However, this sacred act has been taken out of the confines of marriage and the church and has been pimped out and prostituted among the streets. The question we must ask ourselves now is, “Because the world abuses it should a Christian not use it?”
Secondly, often during pagan rituals dancing was used as a form of worship that was utilized because it sensationalized the experience. An example from the Bible comes about in the earliest reference of dancing recorded in the Bible in Exodus chapter 32. Moses and Joshua came down from Mt. Sinai after receiving the Ten Commandments and observe the Israelites dancing around the golden calf. Additionally, the activities surrounding Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel took describes the priest of Baal cutting themselves, screaming, shouting, and dancing around the altar. None of which worked (1Kings 18:25-29).
Dancing was also mentioned when the daughter of Herodias entertained King Herod on his birthday, which pleased him. Taking advantage of the situation Herodias asked for the head of John the Baptist that was granted by the command of Herod (Matt 14). These two instances bring about the negative outlook of dancing from a Scriptural perspective.
Lastly, the Word of God tells believers in 2Coritnthians 6:17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”. And 1Thessalonians 5:22 states, "Abstain from all appearance of evil". These Scriptures are given by most church leaders and doctrinal boards to be the line of separation between the church and the world. The philosophy behind the Scriptures is that if the world does it the church will not. Thus, the world dances so believers should not with the only exception that it is unto the Lord in worship. The question we must ask ourselves, “Is the action of dancing an unclean thing?” And, “Is dancing only to be done before the Lord?”
Dancing for Worship
It is clear from Biblical examples that dancing is used as a form of worship. The song, “Dance like David danced” in churches on Sunday morning attest to the activity. David is famously characterized as a man after God’s own heart who upon the Ark of the Covenant entry into the City of David he danced before the Ark of God in celebration and worship (2Samuel 6:14). King David danced unrestrained so much so that his wife attempted to chastise him. A noteworthy thought should be taken because this act of David was not choreographed in anyway. He allowed his adoration for the Lord to be expressed by his emotions through dance. Thus, the expression, “Led by the Spirit” is applied.
The earliest mention of dancing in the Bible is found in Exodus 15:20. Miriam, the prophetess in celebration of the victory and deliverance of Israel at the Red Sea took timbrels and danced singing unto the glory of God. The psalmist writes in Psalms 149:3, “Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp”; “Praise him with the timbrel and dance....” (Ps 150:4).
Today’s churches have instituted many forms of worship in their services including dancing. Churches have implemented praise dancers with streamers, mime dancing, and choreographed dances in skits to lead, engage, or entertain the congregation in worship.
Dancing in Celebration
The act of dancing was not only used as a religious practice during Biblical times as a form of worship, but it was used to celebrate special occasions. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3 there is a “time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”. The time of dancing in this text is not referring to an act of worship, but it was used as a time of celebration as the father of the prodigal son did in the Gospel of Luke chapter 15. Upon the return of his youngest son the father held a great feast with food, song, and dance in celebration of his son’s homecoming. Furthermore, upon King Saul and David’s return from warring against the Philistines the woman had come out into the streets singing and dancing in celebration of their victory (1Sam 18:6). Later in 1Samuel the people of Israel celebrated the spoil David acquired after conquering the Philistines through song and dance (1Sam 30:16). The time to dance is a simple expression of joy to contrast the negativity of mourning.
The Jewish people also perform many different types of dance in celebration of special occasions and weddings in accordance to mitzvah commandment to celebrate the union between man and woman. A common Jewish dance used to celebrate marriage is the Hora. The Hora is a Jewish circular dance that is demonstrated during such special events. Other traditional Jewish dances are the Mizinke and Krenzl. Therefore, to answer the question “Was dancing only to be done in worship?” The answer would be “No”.
Contrary to fundamentalist and traditionalist belief there is nothing wrong with dancing as long as it is done following the principles of the Bible. Too answer the earlier question, “Because the world abuses it should a Christian not use it?” Just because the world cannot handle freedom and allow for their fleshly desires to manipulate and abuse activities does not mean a Christian cannot celebrate in similar activities. If that was the case Christianity would have died out many years ago because there would be no procreation during sexual intercourse. Christians live in a corruptible world but are not part of this world. Whether saved or unsaved there are common interest and activities shared being that all people are human. The true essence of the issue is not whether an activity is sinful or not but is rest in the participation of the activity with others that may not share the same Biblical beliefs, maturity, and experiences. Many Christians have interest in hunting, shooting ranges, football, and souvenir collections. These hobbies or activities due not automatically denote sin. A person that is saved can conduct themselves during the course of an activity in modesty, decency, and holiness.
There is a license to dance in celebration but with any liberty there are laws in place to restrain human behavior from taking it to far. Christians must take into account the kind of music, the atmosphere, the objects in view, and most especially the spirit behind it. Of course, it is easier for a pastor or elder to declare dancing is wrong and sinful and be done with it. However, is such a statement, right? It is the responsibility of pastors, elders, and parents to teach their children in the way they should go. To make sure that those entrusted into their care have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ and are submissive to the voice of God. Guiding, investing, and teaching someone is hard work that takes much patience and love. When you teach principles rather than enforce declarations the principles taught will not leave that person or cause rebellion. With this being said, the leadership of the church holds the right to lift up a standard dependent upon the congregation or individual the leadership is dealing with. A pastor may be counseling an individual and at that specific time in the person’s life the pastor can restrain that individual by saying it is not good for that individual to take part in that type of activity.
Nonetheless, to blanket all of Christianity across the globe with a “no dance standard” is an error. Dancing in celebration of graduating high school or after a victory at a sporting event does not compare to bumping and grinding at the club. Some other principles to think about when dancing that are observed according to Jewish law is that a male and female could not dance together unless they were married. This prevented those sexual innuendos and lustful desires. It is also important to dress properly and modestly. Remember it is the spirit behind which you dance that is the determinate factor whether it is sinful or not. The spirit will determine how you dress, act, and dance.