Music and dancing are closely entwined. This is true in a limited way in Scripture and even more so in popular culture, and especially rock music. For instance, Elvis Presley in his early years never stood still. He moved constantly. As rock exploded in popularity and became synonymous with pop culture in the 50s "American Bandstand" took over television. The 60s brought us "Upbeat", the 70s produced the legendary "Soul Train", and the 80s metamorphosed both music and television at the same time with MTV. The 2000s have only advanced the popularity of dance and music with hugely popular shows such as "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars."
This only makes sense. Music is intrinsically rhythmic. So is dance. The two have gone together as long as music has existed. In today's post I want to lay out a brief explanation of what the Bible says about dancing, and give you what I believe that means in practical terms.
Dancing is mentioned twenty seven times in Scripture. It reminds me a bit of wine in that it is mentioned in both positive and negative contexts. Most of the uses are positive. For instance, Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. (Psalm 149.3) But they are not all positive. For example, we see that the story of the golden calf involved dancing in its demonic worship. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. (Exodus 32.19)
Thus it is that I conclude that not all dancing is right nor is all dancing wrong. In other words, I cannot make a blanket statement in relation to dancing of either commendation or condemnation. But the lack of being able to make a blanket statement of approval or approbation does not mean we are each of us free to do as we will in relation to dancing. It means we must use Scriptural principle and example to inform our decisions.
A moment ago I said that both music and dance are intrinsically rhythmic. They are also both intrinsically emotional. In fact, I define dancing as the physical expression of the emotion your body is experiencing via the music you are hearing. And I think that definition is loosely borne out in Scripture.
When David and Saul returned from a victory against the Philistines the victory parade was a musical expression of the joy of the people. And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. (I Samuel 18.6) Likewise we see similar expressions by David and Jeremiah. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. (Psalm 30.11) Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with my tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. (Jeremiah 31.4)
This ties in quite clearly with the fact that music is an emotional language. Dance is the logical expression of this rhythmic emotion in a physical space.
…in which we begin to dimly see the danger built into dancing. It is so eminently physical. The problem is that this oh-so physical dancing can easily turn into oh-so physical sexual desire. In point of fact, almost all modern popular dancing is designed largely to provoke or emphasize the body's sexual emotions of lust inherent in immoral music.
As of this writing "Dancing With the Stars" has produced 374 episodes. I have watched exactly one. That one – which I was watching as part of my research into music – had not been playing for more than ten minutes before I heard the following statement given by a mentor to a trainee during a practice session: "Think of your body as a stick dipped into a pot of boiling sex." Why? Because that is exactly what dancing has become in our day especially as expressed in pop culture – sex.
Such dancing is all kinds of wrong. It is expressing or inculcating the inward emotion of lust in the heart and that violates the Ten Commandments. If you do not believe me just as Jesus. He made it quite clear in the Sermon on the Mount.
In response someone will surely say to me, "Well, there is nothing wrong with a nice slow dance on a Friday night down at the VFW hall." Oh, really? Are the dances accompanied by immoral music? Then they will not fail to influence you morally in the wrong direction. Are you telling me that you can spend all night hugging other men's wives and at the same time keep your heart pure toward them? If that is your position let me kindly and simply say that you are an idiot. The bar for sin is not just the act of adultery. Sin is in the first thought of it. (Matthew 5.28, Proverbs 24.9) Sin is also just as much in a physical contact that is sexually stimulating even if it comes short of the act of sex. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (I Corinthians 7.1) [And, yes, before you fire off that comment I know it does not explicitly say "sin." Go read Genesis 20.6 and James 4.17 and get back to me.]
I can hear it now… "But my dancing doesn't involve touching. We stay apart from each other." Are the dances performed to immoral music? During such dancing do you watch others and get sexually stimulated or do others do so watching you? Are the outfits that you or others around you wear to dance in sexually suggestive and immodest? Then I do not buy your whole but-we-aren't-touching-each-other line.
Others assert that dancing is good exercise. I am sure they are correct. But so is climbing in and out of windows robbing the people in the second floor but that does not make it right. There are lots of ways to get good exercise that do not involve immoral music or have a high potential of provoking impure thoughts.
Having said all of that bear in mind I have also said that not all dancing is wrong. It cannot be for there are clearly good examples of it in the Word of God, especially in a worshipful context. Next week I will address that aspect in greater detail. Stay tuned.