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William St. John

The apostle Paul instructed the Philippians, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). A similar admonition is given to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:18). In 1820, Peter Cartwright, a preacher of Kentucky, was returning home when night overtook him. Since the next inn was seven miles away over dark and dangerous roads, he was compelled to stay in an inn where the local populace was having a Saturday night dance. Feeling out of place, he sat in a comer and tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible. However, a fair young woman came over and asked him to dance with her. Hardly knowing what to do, the preacher hit upon an idea. He arose, took the young girl by the hand, and addressing the gathered people, he expressed his gratitude for their kindness. He further stated that he was in the practice of asking God’s blessing upon everything he did. Falling upon his knees, he began to pray in earnest for those who were present. The crowd was astonished; some began to kneel with him, some to weep, and still others left the inn. When Mr. Cartwright arose from his knees, no one present wanted to continue with the dance.

This incident serves only to illustrate an important point. Should we think it strange that dancing and prayer do not go together? Drunkenness, revellings, and fornication are often found in the company of dancing; but such spiritual things as prayer and worship are incompatible with the present day practice of dancing. Benjamin Franklin said,

“Those who lead in the dance for pleasure, amusement or entertainment, we care not what their pretext for it is, whether for ‘healthful exercise,’ ‘relaxation,’or to ‘learn gracefulness,’ are not the people that lead in worship, or piety. They are of a different type, a different spirit, and under the influence of a different set of impressions, emotions and impulses. They are not the examples in manners, in dress, order, or in any good sense.”

Among the Hebrews, the only approved dancing was always religious in nature. The dancing only occurred at times of victory or deliverance and was offered unto God with songs of praise, sacrifice, and thanksgiving as an expression of joy and gratitude (Ex. 15:20-21; I Sam. 18:6; I1 Sam. 6:12-14; I1 Chron. 15:25-29). This type of dancing was never for amusement, entertainment, physical pleasure, nor exercise of the body, and men and women never danced together. It was not an “art form” (which excuse some have used to justify the worst of evils), nor was it to demonstrate a person’s skill. Note also that this dancing is only found in the Old Testament under the law of Moses. Jesus and His disciples never commanded people to dance. There is no record of them dancing, nor is there any inference (necessary or otherwise) that they ever danced. Since “all things that pertain to life and godliness” have been delivered to us (I1 Peter 1:3), we conclude that dancing is a form of worship that is no longer authorized. It is no more authorized than animal sacrifices, burning incense, musical instruments, or a plurality of wives.


Are the Scriptures silent on this subject? No indeed. Though the names of dances change, the essential elements of evil remain. The Scriptures speak of Herodias’ daughter who danced before King Herod and brought about the death of John the Baptist (Mark 6:22), thus indicating that good judgment and discretion are lost under the influence of dancing. The drawing power of the modern dance is the physical attraction of men and women.


“Lasciviousness” (Gal. 5:l9) is defined as, “1. Having or denoting wanton desires, lustful. 2. Tending to produce sensual desires,” Wanton (acts or) manners” “as filthy words, indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females,” and “Sensuality.” This alone would condemn the modern dance as it is sensual and involves bodily contact and/or indecent bodily movements. Even the descriptions of the modern dance are not suitable to print. Another term, “revellings,” refers to dancing and/or drinking and Paul declares that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5: 19-21).


The fruits of dancing are certainly not purity of spirit (I Pet. 1:22) and young people are particularly susceptible. At a time when their hearts and minds should be on fire for God (Ecc. 12: I), they instead find their souls burning with the fires of evil passions (Matt. 5:27-28, I Cor. 7:9), passions which are kindled by the dance. The dancing of today is lascivious, born of evil and producing the loss of people’s lives and souls. Paul warned Timothy, “Flee also youthful lusts” (I1 Tim. 2:22). It comes in many guises and is pushed upon us as accept- able. In many cases, the public schools are forcing it upon our children. Proms, musicals, school dances, exercise classes, and modern music all help to support and foster this ungodly evil. But a six inch rattlesnake is just as deadly as one six feet long. A rose by any other name is still a rose, and dancing is still dancing whether at the dance hall or in the school halls. Some things may be worse than others, but they are still violations of God’s will (Matt 7:21).

Is there anything good that can be said for the modem dance? Even those who partake admit to its evils. Hany Stribes, originator of the waltz said, “I will say that I do not believe a woman can waltz virtuously and waltz well for she must yield her person completely to her partner.” Arthur Murray said, “The difference between dancing and wrestling is that in wrestling some holds are barred.” What can we say of modern dancing? What must we conclude? It is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19). It is questionable to say the very least (Rom. 14:23). It destroys our influence and is a stumbling block to others (Matt. 5:13-16, I Cor. 10:32). Dancing is wrong. It is sinful. Christians do not dance and godly parents neither encourage nor allow their children to dance.


(1) Rice, John R. The Spiritual Sword, Sword of the Lord Publishers, Murfreesboro, TN, 1969. p15.

(2) Franklin, Benjamin. The Gospel Preacher, Gospel Light Pub. CO., Delight, AR. pp. 398-399.

(3) Funk & Wagnalls. The Practical Standard Dictionary, Funk & Wagnalls, New York & London, 1929. pp 649-650.

(4) Thayer, Joseph H. Greek English Lexicon, Zondeman Pub. House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1977. pp. 79-80.

(5) Arndt, William F. & Gingrich F. Wilbur. A Greek English Lexicon, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1952. p 114.


[This is from the July 1 1992 special issue of the Old Paths Advocate]

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God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”