There is a tendency in the church today towards adopting the style and dress of the world. For example, it is not uncommon to see tattooed and pierced people in the pew on a Sunday. Most often these are not new Christians who have recently been delivered from the kingdom of darkness, but second and third generation churchgoers, young (not young) people who have grown up in Christian homes.
One of the ways the Church has chosen to deal with this growing phenomenon is to downplay the importance of these Satanic symbols. This is not because the older generation already approves of tattoos and facial piercings; It’s because the older generation doesn’t really have a well-thought-out objection to the practices.
For the most part Christians who oppose “body art” do so simply because it is not “Christian.” They’re right, but when a decorated young churchgoer asks why he wasn’t a Christian, the unadorned can only say that he’s worldly and unChrist-like. At this point the hipster will ask what is related to the worldly and non-Christ-like body art. This usually leaves the person unable to speak. For a conservative Bible believing Christian, tattoos and piercings1 are clearly in opposition to the ideal of Christ and one’s identity as the temple of the Holy Spirit. However, he found that he couldn’t really formulate a convincing argument for why. The reason conservative Christian Joe cannot articulate his belief is that in “modern rational Western society, men do not understand the power of non-verbal symbols and dress.” 2 In other words, because your average Christian does not understand the importance and pervasiveness of symbolism, he cannot formulate an argument against Misuse of icons.
James Jordan wrote that:
The symbolism, then, is not a secondary concern, but rather a curiosity. In the truest sense of the word, symbolism is more important than anything else to human life.3
Jordan’s thesis is that all of creation was designed by God to tell us about it and to teach us about reality through symbols. In other words, the world does not exist for its own sake nor ultimately for man; But it was created to reveal God in the symbols of creation.
For example, God is a shepherd (Ps. 23: 1), fire (Heb. 12:29), like a lion and like a flock of birds (Isa. 31: 4-5). It is an eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11), a lamb (Isaiah 53:7, Revelation 5:6), a hen (Matthew 23:37), the morning star (Revelation 22:16), food, drink, and bread (Isaiah 55:1; John 6:35), a rock (Deuteronomy 32:4), and a tower (Proverbs 18:10). Therefore the Christian view of the universe must be primarily symbolic. We look at a flower or a rock or an eagle in flight and say, “This is wisdom, here is God shown.” These things are expressions or symbols that help us discover God and learn to see through God’s eyes, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, the substance of creation allows us to look at the (ultimately incomprehensible) personality of the Creator and teaches us to think in terms of symbols.
So thought Jesus. Take the time to re-read the Gospels and you will be reminded that Jesus continually used language and allegories (parables), to convey the truth. If the symbols are not important, then it is important that nothing Jesus said. Everything he taught seemed to be explained in symbols. Hence, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a trawl, and a pricey pearl. His followers must take up the cross, bear his yoke and let go of their lives.
Since the human race is the special bearer of the image of God (a special symbol of God), it is likewise a symbol maker. Thus when we invest in something of symbolic significance, we are supposed to follow God’s lead (Ephesians 5:1). For example, God uses dragons to symbolize evil. Similar to fashion, our use of the dragon (in literature, art, etc.) should align with God’s symbolic use of the dragon. This is not to say that Christians may never use dragon images in a positive way. God Himself speaks of the fire that spews out Leviathan in positive terms (Job 41). In fact, the tanninHowever, the great beasts of the deep – including Leviathan – were God’s “pets”. Moreover, God has endowed some symbols with multiple meanings. For example, there are both the Lion of Judah and Satan roaming around like a lion (Revelation 5:5, 1 Peter 5:8); The righteous are brave like a lion, and the wicked like a lion (Proverbs 28: 1, 15); The lion is the servant of God who judges and is an evil people in rebellion against him (Jeremiah 4:7, 12:8). However, to better understand God’s seamless use of symbols, we must stay within the clear guidelines provided by the Bible.
Symbols are powerful. They are more than expressions of ideas they actually direct life: “For God, symbols Creates Reality for man icons building reality. 5 To suggest that we can arbitrarily redefine the meaning of symbols is foolish. For example, if I were to conduct services next Sunday while wearing a tie emblazoned with a swastika, I have no doubt that on Monday I would not be an employee of the Idaho Veterans Home in Lewiston or pastor of Cottonwood Community Church. When using the symbol for Christian use? Too powerful to be trifled with.Although the swastika has ancient origins unrelated to Nazism, there is no doubt that it will forever be associated with the horrors of truth and unbridled power.Depicting the horrific barbarism of a pagan Germanic people.The same is true of many symbols used in the body art subculture.Skulls, bones, bats, etc. all remain symbols of misfortune, death, witchcraft and evil6
Which brings us back to the topic of tattoos and piercings. The real reason they are not suitable for Christians is that these things symbolize evil. Tattoos and piercings are symbols of a worldview that opposes God and his kingdom. In the Bible, marking or cutting the body was forbidden because it was part of Canaanite culture—specifically a ritual to honor or mourn the dead. We read in Leviticus 19:28, “You shall not cut your body for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on yourself: I am the Lord.” (Ref. 21:5, Deuteronomy 14:1) 7
Pagan thought has always embraced chaos as a regenerative resource. Bestiality, homosexuality, self-mutilation, etc. are indulged in an attempt to quantify the supernatural power of chaos. They believe that enduring the pain of a tattoo or piercing develops control and allows them to discover a deeper sense of themselves. He is A spiritual experience down to the realm of the occult. Thus, whether they realize it or not, the tattooed and the pierced are dressed in the most hideous form of paganism.
Moreover, tattoos and piercings have been given negative symbolism in our time as well. Even today with the pervasiveness of these practices, tattooing and piercings are still equated to criminals and the lower class. 10 However, modern Christian youth seem to believe they are breaking new ground by joining the ranks of the tattooed and pierced. Part of the deception is the belief that the lower-class lifestyle (and uniform of paganism), is somehow more real than the life we live in Christlikeness. Theodore Dalrymple writes that those who adopt lower-class standards are;
… under the influence of the idea that some aspects of reality are more real than others; that the miserable side of life is more original, more original, than the refined and cultured side—and certainly more glamorous than the bourgeois and respectable side. It can be said that this idea is the basic premise of modern popular culture.11
Whether or not the church is tattooed and pierced to admit it, “body art” remains the uniform of the criminal element and the occult; It is associated with rebellion and foolishness of youth – all of which God defines as sinners. The tattooed and pierced have a short-term self-centered worldview rather than the long-term self-sacrifice reborn in the believer’s realm. Instead of seeing the increase in body art in the Church as a sign that its symbolic value is undergoing a positive transformation, we need to acknowledge it as a creeping influence on the Church by the world and the kingdom of darkness.
1. In this article I define “piercing” as face piercing, nose piercing, multiple ear piercings, and body piercings. In a walnut shell, anything other than a single or double ear piercing (by a woman). I know I’m setting myself up for a charge of inconsistency, but at this point I don’t see a single (or double) ear piercing on a woman as being in the same category as face, nose, and body piercings.
2. James Jordan, Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical Worldview(Brentwood: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers Inc., 1988), 35.
3 – Jordan, fresh eyes30. See also James Jordan, Creation in Six Days: A Defense of the Traditional Reading of One Genesis(Moscow: Canon Press, 1999).
4 – Jordan, Create.
5- Jordan, fresh eyes32.
6. Iona Opie and Moira Tatem, eds., Available here. Thesaurus of Myths (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992)
7. See my article, Another hole in your head.
8.RJ Rushdoony, The one and the many(Fairfax: Thoburn Press, 1978), 104f.
9 – David Coplian, Evil marketing(Nashville: WND Books, 2005), 72.
10- Theodore Dalrymple Life on the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass(Chicago: Evan RD, 2001), 48f.
11. Dalrymple, 119.