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Our view on dancing

Hello Pastor, good morning 🙂 I just want to ask, as a church, where do we stand on dancing in general?

Question from a young man in Dublin West.

Thank you for your question. Let me start my answer trying to clarify a bit this important issue.

1. Define a term

What do we mean by dancing?

It can be ballet, a type of choreography, thematic dance, traditional country/peasants’ dance (every country has something like that), dance at a wedding, the movements of fans at a match, the ritual dance before the game or after winning the award, the military parade, the aerobics program, the acrobatic dance, the sensual dance, the break dance and countless styles of more or less dirty-dancing…

2. Open-minded

Before we say what we think as Adventists about dance (identified as one of the above), it is worth appreciating the courage to ask and also the transparency to talk about subjects that are otherwise taboo. We thank the questioner and we hope to have the necessary open mind to judge things even if they are different than what we would think or would be willing to accept.

3. The Bible and the Dance

Where do we stand as a church? I would say we stand where the Bible stands. 

If we have identified the dance that we are referring to (point #1), then we will see that the discussion is generally with a tendency towards the dance between a man and a woman, let me say: him and her. Some would (culturally) question some body movements of our people during certain programs in some churches, but that is a different story. 

If our case (your question) deals with dancing between a man and a woman, then it is worth saying from the beginning that the Bible does not talk about it at all. And if anyone finds the play and dance in the Bible (see texts below), then let them know that such texts have nothing to do with the dance between “him and her” nowadays, nor with the dance at the weddings. Regarding whether to do it at church or not, again, we will not find anything in the Bible about dancing into a synagogue, temple, or a divine service.

Does dancing appear in the Bible? Yes.

  • Psalm 149:3 (yes, take your Bible and read for yourself). Don’t forget v.6, where it talks about other things the dancers should have with/on them. 
  • Psalms 150:4. If we read the entire list, we see that there are many instruments to play and the word for “dance” may have meant a certain musical instrument.
  • 2 Samuel 6:14,16 – David dancing… That was simply a gesture of joy (for which his wife even despised him.). David did a lot of good things, but not everything he did was worth it (wars, murder, adultery, crazy laughter, etc.). Do you know when he played the madman? (1 Samuel 21:13)

However, Ellen G. White gives us another perspective: ““And David danced before the Lord,” in his gladness keeping time to the measure of the song.” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 707). Probably as we sometimes do when we applaud in a rhythm (I like to keep a drum beat).

It is worth reading further: “David’s dancing in reverent joy before God has been cited by pleasure lovers in justification of the fashionable modern dance, but there is no ground for such an argument. In our day dancing is associated with folly and midnight reveling. Health and morals are sacrificed to pleasure. By the frequenters of the ballroom God is not an object of thought and reverence; prayer or the song of praise would be felt to be out of place in their assemblies. This test should be decisive. Amusements that have a tendency to weaken the love for sacred things and lessen our joy in the service of God are not to be sought by Christians. The music and dancing in joyful praise to God at the removal of the ark had not the faintest resemblance to the dissipation of modern dancing. The one tended to the remembrance of God and exalted His holy name. The other is a device of Satan to cause men to forget God and to dishonor Him.”

  • We also find in the Bible the party given to the prodigal son, when he returned home – (Luke 15:25).
  • We also find the daughter of Jephthah, who went out before her father (Judges 11:34).
  • We find that at some feasts the girls went out to dance (Judges 21:21, 1 Samuel 18:6).
  • So did Mary, the sister of Moses (Exodus 15:20)
  • But so did the Amalekites (1 Sam. 30:16).
  • It is important to know that parties could degenerate into true apostasies. At the time of idolatry, when they made the golden calf, the people of the people “stood up to dance” (Exodus 32: 6). Sin is also mentioned in the New Testament by Paul referring to the same moment (1 Corinthians 10: 7).
  • And about “Wisdom,” the Bible says that “dances” before the Lord (Proverbs 8:30-31). Here I see the thematic or joyful dance, a series of joyful movements that represent something (like: a movement from the bottom to the top shows the growth, a wave of the body can symbolize a wind that blows, etc. ).

4. What do others know about us?

I found what BBC was informing about Adventists. Among other things, “Social dancing is not allowed.” People know us very well know. I wouldn’t disappoint them!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/subdivisions/seventhdayadventist_1.shtml

5. Resources

Now, that I think I opened new perspectives for your own study, let me share some good resources. A very good article is “Shall We Dance?” (Adventists Affirm was a conservative Adventist magazine). The article was written by Bacchiocchi and challenged Bill Knott’s more liberal perspective. Ironically, Bacchiocchi was very conservative, and over the years Knott became the editor-in-chief of … Adventist Review 

Conclusion of the article:

There is no indication in the Bible or history that dance was ever a component of the divine worship in the Temple, synagogue, or early church. Furthermore, the Bible offers no support for the kind of romantic or sensual dancing popular today. Nothing in the Bible indicates that men and women have ever danced together as couples. Dancing was a social celebration of special events, such as a military victory, a religious festival, or a family reunion. Most of the dancing was done by women who were excluded from the music ministry of God’s house, apparently because their entertainment type was considered unsuitable for the worship service.

The lesson that the Church today needs to learn from Scripture and history is that secular music associated with entertainment is out of place in God’s house. Those who are actively involved in pushing for the adoption of such music in the church need to understand the biblical distinction between secular music used for entertainment and sacred music suitable for the worship of God. People in Bible times understood and respected this distinction, and we must respect it today if the church is to remain a sacred sanctuary for the worship of God rather than becoming a secular place for social entertainment.

At a time when the distinction between sacred and secular music is blurred and many are promoting modified versions of secular dance music for church use, we must remember that the Bible calls us to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (1 Chron 16:29, Ps 29:2, 96:9).

Other Adventist resources

  • The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary , article, “Dance”: “Biblical dance has little resemblance to the society dance (or even the so-called ‘square dance’) of modern Western civilization.”
  • Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia , vol. 11, article “Recreation and Amusements,” section on “Dancing”: “Social Dancing as it is today is not found in Scripture, and from the beginning Seventh-day Adventist Church has objected to it. […] Because it is maintained that the dance tends to lessen interest in spiritual life, it usually involves unchristian associations, and creates excitements that can lead to immorality, baptismal candidates are instructed to refrain from dancing (Church Manual).

From Ellen G. White (quoted in the Church Manual)

“The amusement of dancing, as conducted today, is a school of depravity, and a fearful curse for society” (MYP 399).

“Many of the amusements popular in the world today, even with those who claim to be Christians, tend to the same end as did those of the pagans. There are indeed few among them that Satan does not turn to account in destroying souls. Through the drama he has worked for ages to excite passion and glorify vice. The opera, with its fascinating display and bewildering music, the masquerade, the dance, the card table, Satan employs to break down the barriers of principle and open the door to sensual indulgence. In every gathering for pleasure where pride is fostered or appetite indulged, where one is led to forget God and lose sight of eternal interests, there Satan is binding his chains about the soul. “- PP 459, 460.