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Response to the “Dance”

The following letter was received in response to the article, “The Dance is Redeemed,” which appeared in the Standard Bearer, August 1, 1982. The letter was signed—though I do not include the signature in the article. Because the letter raises questions of more general interest to our readership, I trust the brother will not object to an answer in the Standard Bearer.

Dear Rev. Van Baren, 

In your article, “The Dance is Redeemed—Finally, after Many Years,” no Scripture is quoted at all in support of your position that the dance is evil. In fact, I find numerous passages where the exact opposite seems to be stated—

Ps. 149:3, Ps. 150:4, Jer. 31:13, 31:4, Eccl. 3:4, Ex. 15:20, Ps. 30:11, Luke 15:25, II Sam. 6:14.

In no way do I disagree that worldly dancing is evil, but the Bible in these texts

Ps. 150:4

even commands us to praise God by dancing. If we can only sing the psalms in the worship service, shouldn’t we obey what they tell us to do? 

The world also eats and drinks, sleeps, sings, makes music. We as Christians don’t condemn these activities if we sanctify them by thanksgiving and prayer. Why, then, do we condemn dancing in itself? 

Using the kind of logic found in your article, we couldn’t do anything the world does. I believe we can do the same things—but in glory to God. To me, the dance seems to have been an integral part of the Jewish life. Could you reply to this please? 

P.S. Once again I want to emphasize the fact that any dancing not done to God’s glory is sin, but is there not any way it can glorify God—it did in the Old Testament.

First, I thank the brother for his interest and response. 

Perhaps, in answer to the letter, I could state: both the decision of the C.R.C. of 1982 as well as the decision of 1928 dealt with the modern, “ballroom and social dance” as well as the so-called “liturgical dance.” It was not treating the Scriptural dance of the Old Testament. Even in the 1928 decision, there was no objection raised to the dance of the Psalms. The decision of 1982 was to “redeem” the social dance and introduce into the worship the “liturgical” dance. Our churches too have never taught that the dance mentioned in the O.T. Scriptures, performed to the glory of God, was wrong. But, you see, there is a world of difference between the “dance” as now approved by the C.R.C. and that of which Scripture speaks. There is no cry to duplicate that O.T. dance, but the desire is to dance in other ways. 

There is, of course, a difficulty in connection with O.T. dances. How were these done? Can we, today, determine how we can properly imitate that dance? And, would we use the kind of music David did too? Nor do we read of the dance by the church in the New Testament. There are, indeed, a couple of references to “dancing” in the N.T., but none of these speak of the activity of the church or the necessity of the dance in the N.T. age. But, again, the concern is not to “redeem” the dance of David, but to make use of the worldly dances in a godly way. Can we do this? 

I did not quote passages of Scripture for a stated reason: the article presented only the recent decision of the C.R.C.—and the objections to the same kind of dancing which the 1928 Synod had presented. There are no passages which say: “Thou shalt not engage in the social dance.” Yet a passage which should speak to all of our activities declares, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. . .and what communion hath light with darkness?” (II Cor. 6:14). 

Nor may we, then, do all that the world does. It is true that we both eat and drink, sleep and sing—though in radically different ways. There are activities of the world which we may never duplicate and can never “redeem” (homosexuality, abortion). Nor can we take over the song and dance of the world, do it in the same way that they do, yet seek to ‘glorify God thereby. The world has not been dancing as did David. Why then should the church decide to “redeem” the world’s dance under the claim that David danced too?

Liturgy for “Peace”

The Reformed Journal, May 1982, contained an insert which was produced by Ground Zero Religious Task Force. The first part of this booklet is a responsive reading. The second section contains quotations of decisions by various religious bodies. The responsive reading is a cry for peace. It begins:

Speaker: This liturgy is presented as a service of worship dealing with issues which have significant political overtones. This joining of worship and politics is inevitable because both politics and religion address the same questions: Whom do we serve? Where is our security rooted? What do we believe and what do we do? In this service we focus on God as the origin of love, peace, and security, and on ourselves as channels of God’s love, instruments of God’s peace, and thereby secure. May this Divine power transform our worship, our political lives, and our world.

The reading speaks of God’s kingdom, power, glory, His truth and wisdom. It concludes:

People: We commit ourselves to good stewardship of our time, our money and taxes, and to the preservation of our planet and home. We encourage the allotment of resources to appropriate and humane uses. 

Leader: We are gathered here to envision Peace on Earth! In our personal lives, in our homes, and in our communities. . . 

All: Let there be peace! 

Leader: In Washington D.C. and in Moscow, throughout all the cities on earth… 

All: Let peacemaking fill the hearts and minds of all the world leaders. 

Leader: In the mid-east, in Africa, Europe, Central and South America, in Asia, and throughout our own troubled continent. . . 

All: Let trust and wisdom replace fear and suspicion. 

Leader: May the Spirit of Love and Peace grow strong in the hearts of all people. 

All: Let there be peace on earth!

That gives a sample of the kind of liturgy used in the churches today. It is in truth a piece of anti-Christian literature. It is a shame that any Reformed churches or groups have anything to do with this. There is openly presented a union between religion and politics (cf. the introduction). It is the beginning of the fulfillment ofRevelation 13. One notes, too, that in the whole of the reading there is not one word which mentions Christ or His cross. Christ, after all, is the only Source of peace. He restores a proper relationship between God and His people through His shed blood. That same cross must be the basis of proper relationship of man to man. What must one conclude when “churches” cry out about “peace” without even mentioning the Name of the Prince of Peace? These indeed cry, “Peace, peace,” but this is not peace. May the child of God be alert and aware of these false presentations of peace.

“Gereformeerd Weekblad is no more”

Calvinist Contact, Sept. 3, 1982, reports of the demise of the “Gereformeerd Weekblad.”

After 37 years of publication “Gereformeerd Weekblad” (GW) has folded. The first issue appeared on July 6, 1945, only weeks after the complete liberation of the Netherlands after World War II. The final issue bears the date June 25, 1982. For financial reasons, caused by a diminishing readership, the publication was no longer feasible. It has also proved impossible to find a new editor for Prof. J. Plomp, who, at the age of 70, wanted to resign. 

The pages of G.W. reflect the spiritual and theological development in the Reformed Church in the Netherlands (GKN) in the years between 1945 and 1982. This Dr. Herman Ridderbos, for many years editor and author of the familiar rubric “From Week to Week,” pointed out in the lead article of the final number. In 1945 the Reformed Churches reeled from a double shock: the ruins and breakdown left in the aftermath of World War II and the brokenness of the churches left by the split in 1944 when thousands. . . formed the “Liberated’ Reformed Churches. . . . 

Ridderbos now asks the question why it was possible then to produce a paper from a commonly held Reformed perspective but is not possible now. The changes that have come about in the intervening years are mirrored in the subtitle of the paper. Beginning as “G.W. for the promotion of the interest of the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands” it became “for the upbuilding of Reformed life,” and in the final years it was simply said to be “opinion paper for Reformed life.” The common basis and oneness in perspective that marked church life in earlier years had disappeared. 

Said Ridderbos, “That which gives me concern is the spiritual confusion which slowly makes not only Reformed life but also the Christian life and confession more and more indefinable and indefinite.” Alas, the periphery of the church has become more vague and the centre more empty!

The commentary on the demise of the G.W. is telling and evidently accurate. When a religious paper loses its distinctiveness, or when a denomination does, there is no more reason for its, existence. One can only be saddened by such a state of affairs.