The reason for the church creating a “position paper”
on the subject of dancing is due to the wide range of opinion
and practice among Christians regarding whether it is spiritually
appropriate for believers to participate in dancing. This question
needs to be addressed for both the practice of the individual
believer, and church sponsored activities and events. This paper
will not resolve the ongoing controversy in the wider Christian
community, but it is aimed at shedding additional light on the
Biblical principles that should be applied, as well as the cultural
factors that have changed the practice of dancing since the writing
of Scripture. The goal is to establish dancing guidelines in wisdom
for the church and individual.
Biblical and Cultural Background
Included at the end of this paper is a survey of all the passages
in Scripture which mention dancing. From the twenty-four passages
surveyed, it is clear that dancing played a role in the culture
and society of that time. We also have examples that dancing played
a role in some of the significant events of Biblical history.
Culturally, it seems that dancing was a more common part of their
life than for us today. They danced to signal courtship availability,
to celebrate military victory, to worship, and to highlight special
occasions. One common theme in the examples of dancing mentioned
in the Bible is as an expression of joy and celebration. Dancing
is three times contrasted with mourning.
The way they danced was significantly different than the norm
today. They practiced gender separation in dancing; women with
women, and men with men. They danced in gender groups without
pairing off. The most common form of dancing today is gender mixed
and in pairs. Additionally, women danced more commonly than men.
Biblical examples include Miriam leading “all the women”
of Israel in dancing at the defeat of Pharaoh, the daughters of
Shiloh dancing at a feast of the Lord, and the women of Israel
dancing to meet a victorious King Saul returning from battle.
Most examples of dancing in the Scriptures describe it as a
normal and healthy part of life. In certain spiritual settings
it is even seen as a holy thing.
The Psalms exhort us to, “...praise His name with dancing”,
and “David was dancing before the Lord with all his might”.
Noticeable exceptions to dancing as a healthy part of life, or
a holy expression of worship are when Israel corrupted themselves
in out of control dancing while Moses was on Mt. Sinai, and the
daughter of Herodias dancing to influence Herod. Both of these
exceptions seem to describe a wrong purpose motivating the dance
and a sensual element in the expression of the dance.
The Biblical exhortation quoted above to “praise His name
with dancing” is still part of God’s Word for us to
apply to our lives today. However, the question that is commonly
asked as to whether Christians should dance is usually not concerned
with whether it is appropriate to dance before the Lord. The question
addresses whether it is appropriate for believers to individually
pair off male and female and dance in the type of dancing common
There is no commandment in Scripture stating, “thou shall
not dance”, but the kind of dancing in question for believers
today did not exist in that day. The lack of a clear prohibition
is not proof that God is pleased when believers participate in
any and all forms of dancing in vogue today. There are broader
Biblical principles that must be considered and applied to the
issue of dancing today. Following is a short list of passages
that could alter the believer’s perspective and practice
- “...abstain from every form of evil” - I Thessalonians
- “...like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves
also in all your behavior” - I Peter 1:15
- “Do not love the world nor the things in the world”
- I John 2:15
- “...do you not know that your body is a temple of the
Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that
you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price:
therefore glorify God in your body” - I Corinthians 3:19-20
The decision for the conscientious believer whether to dance
or not involves the greater concern for the glory of God. “...whatever
you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31)
Does this activity glorify the Lord? Would it please Him for me
to do this? What would Jesus do in this situation? These questions
are healthy to ask before participating.
Current Cultural Climate
An important factor that should not be overlooked in the effort
to establish guidelines for dancing that would reflect God’s
wisdom is the extent to which the changes in our present society’s
moral standard have led people to approach dancing in an entirely
different way than is described in the Bible.
In earlier American history the community barn dance was a place
where the entire family would participate together with strict
oversight for the younger people to insure appropriate male and
female interaction. Eventually, the “sock hop” developed
to provide a dance for young people, but there were always adult
Dancing as a social and personal expression has radically changed
mirroring the changes in social morality through the 1960s / 1970s
/ 1980s / 1990s to the present day. Granted that the following
example might be an extreme, but the concern is that the behavior
described is no longer as “taboo” as it once would
have been. At a recent advertised “rave” dance at
a large well established local church a young woman removed her
top and danced in the midst of the other dancers until “security”,
which was there for crowd control, approached her and required
her to put her top on. What is wrong with this picture?!! It seems
that so much of dancing today has become nothing more than a vehicle
for sensual expression.
The question of what is appropriate for believers is complicated
by the great variety in current dance forms. The differences between
ballroom dancing, square dancing, country line dancing, and rave
dancing are more than simply style. In two of these dance forms
for example, square dance and country line dance, the emphasis
is more on the group enjoyment of the dance, rather than the sensual
/ romantic connection between couples. Simplistic solutions either
permitting all dance forms in the name of Christian liberty, or
banning all dancing out of fear of the worst case scenario have
both been tried by churches resulting in either moral compromise
or legalistic frustration.
Recommended Church Dance Guidelines
- Avoid applying one single rule to all kinds and occasions of
- Do not sacrifice Christian liberty to dance for the sake of
- Do not sacrifice godly caution about dancing for the sake of
- Remember that what is permissible is not always profitable
(I Corinthians 10:23).
- Remember that one person’s liberty can be another’s
stumbling block (I Corinthians 8:9).
- Identify and avoid using clearly ungodly music in any dance
- Foster a “family atmosphere” in dances involving
the entire family
(i.e. wedding reception dances).
- Allow dances that are intentionally group oriented (i.e. square
- Avoid dances that emphasize mixed gender pairing off among
- Allow married pair dancing for the purpose of building marriage
intimacy (i.e. marriage retreat).
- Avoid cross-couple dancing (other partners) in marriage couples
Survey in Scripture: Dance
- (Exodus 15:20) Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took
the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her
with timbrels and with dancing.
- (Exodus 32:19) It came about, as soon as Moses came near the
camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses' anger burned,
and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at
the foot of the mountain.
- (Judges 11:34) When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold,
daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with
- (Judges 21:21) and watch; and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh
come out to take part in the dances, then you shall come out of
the vineyards and each of you shall catch his wife from the daughters
of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
- (Judges 21:23) The sons of Benjamin did so, and took wives according
their number from those who danced, whom they carried away. And
they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the cities
and lived in them.
- (1 Sam 18:6) It happened as they were coming, when David returned
killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities
singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with
joy and with musical instruments.
- (1 Sam 21:11) But the servants of Achish said to him, "Is
this not David
the king of the land? Did they not sing of this one as they danced,
'Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands'?"
- (1 Sam 29:5) "Is this not David, of whom they sing in the
'Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands'?"
- (1 Sam 30:16) behold, they were spread over all the land, eating
and drinking and dancing because of all the great spoil that they
had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of
- (2 Sam 6:14) And David was dancing before the LORD with all
his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod.
- (2 Sam 6:16) Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into
the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out
of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the
LORD; and she despised him in her heart.
- (Psalms 30:11) You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
- (Psalms 149:3) Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them
sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
- (Psalms 150:4) Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him
with stringed instruments and pipe.
- (Eccl 3:4) A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn
and a time
- (Song 6:13) "Come back, come back, O Shulammite; Come back,
come back, that we may gaze at you!" "Why should you
gaze at the Shulammite, As at the dance of the two companies?
- (Lam 5:15) The joy of our hearts has ceased; Our dancing has
- (Jer 31:4) "Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt,
O virgin of
Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines, And go forth
to the dances of the merrymakers.
- (Jer 31:13) "Then the virgin will rejoice in the dance,
And the young men
and the old, together, For I will turn their mourning into joy
and will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow.
- (Matthew 11:17) “We played the flute for you, and you
did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.”
- (Luke 7:32) "They are like children who sit in the market
place and call
to one another, and they say, 'We played the flute for you, and
you did not
dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.'
- (Matthew 14:6) But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter
of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod,
- (Mark 6:22) and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in
and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king
said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you want and I will
give it to you."
- (Luke 15:25) "Now his older son was in the field, and when
he came and
approached the house, he heard music and dancing.