Is the prohibition on tatoos moral law or judicial law?

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Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
Whew, this implying law upon personal scruples is suffocating... but I can get on board with it...

I demand that you all cut your hair to exactly one inch length and comb no part in it. All hair. You need to be at least as ugly as me or you must be violating some law. Not sure which, but I'll get to work on it.

And while you're at it, I think contact lenses are an indication of vanity, so let's get rid of those as well - what kind of witness can we expect to put forth while exercising such vaingloriousness? And what's the deal with all this dandy-dressing necktie stuff? Plain blue pajamas for everybody - with coolie hats. And no more make-up, of course.
 

Boosterseat_91

Puritan Board Freshman
I think that one can consistently confirm that God is Lord over our bodies and still get a tattoo.

It's more than intellectually acknowledging that "God is Lord over our bodies." It might be more correct to say, biblically, our bodies are not our own, but are the temples of the Holy Spirit (cf earlier Scriptures).

Nor is it the mere act of getting a tattoo.

What is it for? To show off a defacement of the body with permanent (or semi-permanent) scarring, so the public can see an image not naturally part of the human body.

Is the sole criteria one thinks it is beautiful. Or whether it will attract attention to ones self?

You are assuming motive here. I agree that getting a tattoo can be sinful depending upon the motive. But can you prove Scripturally that getting a tattoo always comes from a sinful motive?

How do you know that all tattoos are inherently vainglorious displays and therefore sinful?

What's the reason for an unnatural scarring of the skin with flamboyant color? It's to show off something (to who?)

How do you know that that is always the case? What Scriptural proof can you give that this is universally true?

something becomes inherently sinful because some people have a negative reaction to it?

You may find helpful going back and looking at the Scriptural principles cited in post#77.
Christians have a duty not to create an appearance of evil, not to cause a weaker brother to stumble, to witness the truth God owns our body, to not exhibit worldliness. Again, its not mere the act of getting a tattoo.

It's much more than a case of I want to do it because I think it will look beautiful to me, and attract other people's attention to me, and the Old Testament prohibition doesn't apply to me, and if another brother is offended it's his problem because it's my body and what I do is all about me, and what I think.

(This is the way the fallen mind, centered in self measures all things, it is not the way of the redeemed.)

Those are not Scriptural proofs. In order for those texts to apply in this situation you would have to assume that tattoos are sinful and therefore they display worldliness and have the appearance (which is a very poor translation) of evil. But they do not prove that tattoos are sinful in and of themselves. Again, you are assuming motives. If that is the motive then I agree it's sinful. But can you prove that this is the motive universally for all tattoos?

But understand, it was prohibited for God's people (Israel) in the Old Testament.
The question really is, since that law is not strictly applicable to God's people not living as a "church under age" as was ancient Israel,
are there New Testament principles that continue? (Clearly, there are at least many, many qualifications- including what does it show to our neighbor).

I would allow that we could construct a hypothetical situation that might simplistically seem to not be sin.

But for the vast majority of cases, there is harm to self, neighbor and witness,

and even before we get to the hygiene and medical reasons.
(Many in old age regret the defacement of their skin, and health and medical problems that later can stem from it, but that's another story)

Ah, now we get into something that may actually be Scriptural proof. The question is was the prohibition for tattoos moral in nature and therefore binding upon all men in all eras or was it ceremonial and done away with? I hold the latter and I believe Rev. Bruce has done a fine job proving this.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
What's the reason for an unnatural scarring of the skin with flamboyant color? It's to show off something (to who?)
How do you know that that is always the case? What Scriptural proof can you give that this is universally true?

Not sure what you mean.
Are you saying that tattoos are a natural part of the human body?
Are you saying there is no scarring of the skin?
Or are you saying that tattoos are not designed to show off vivid coloring to create attention that is not natural to skin color?
The question is was the prohibition for tattoos moral in nature and therefore binding upon all men in all eras or was it ceremonial and done away with?

Yes the original post asked that. And no, tattoos or tattooing are not part of the moral law as we divide it (moral, ceremonial or civil) but I believe they generally fit under the "general equity" application of the civil law given Israel because of many New and Old Testament principles. In that way, they become applicable to us today.

But you still seem to be missing the point. "Getting a tattoo" is not the only consideration for the Christian.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
But can you prove Scripturally that getting a tattoo always comes from a sinful motive?

Also remember, sin is by omission, commission, intentional or of ignorance. Still sin either way.
So a believer who stamps themselves with a lascivious image is still sinning, whether they realize, or intend it or not. They may just be (willfully) ignorant of the effects.

Or in denial about it.

Sin often has that effect,
blindness toward it.
 

Boosterseat_91

Puritan Board Freshman
What's the reason for an unnatural scarring of the skin with flamboyant color? It's to show off something (to who?)
How do you know that that is always the case? What Scriptural proof can you give that this is universally true?

Not sure what you mean.
Are you saying that tattoos are a natural part of the human body?
Are you saying there is no scarring of the skin?
Or are you saying that tattoos are not designed to show off vivid coloring to create attention that is not natural to skin color?

No, I'm asking you how do you know that the motivation for every tattoo is to show off something? something which you imply to be sinful.

The question is was the prohibition for tattoos moral in nature and therefore binding upon all men in all eras or was it ceremonial and done away with?

Yes the original post asked that. And no, tattoos or tattooing are not part of the moral law as we divide it (moral, ceremonial or civil) but I believe they generally fit under the "general equity" application of the civil law given Israel because of many New and Old Testament principles. In that way, they become applicable to us today.

But you still seem to be missing the point. "Getting a tattoo" is not the only consideration for the Christian.

No point missed. You are trying to say tattoos are always sinful based upon considerations other than them being a violation of God's law. This is not possible. In order for those other "considerations" (such as offending the weaker brother) to be legitimate objections, it must first be shown that tattoos are inherently sinful.

Yes the original post asked that. And no, tattoos or tattooing are not part of the moral law as we divide it (moral, ceremonial or civil) but I believe they generally fit under the "general equity" application of the civil law given Israel because of many New and Old Testament principles. In that way, they become applicable to us today.

Again, you are assuming that it is sinful and therefore violates NT principles (such as not offending the weaker brethren). However, in order to prove this, you must prove that tattoos are inherently sinful. The Leviticus passage is the only verse, in my opinion, that can prove this. But I still find this very unlikely since the context seems to be pointing to the nation of Israel being set apart from other nations (like the whole beard thing) rather than being moral in nature.

Also remember, sin is by omission, commission, intentional or of ignorance. Still sin either way.
So a believer who stamps themselves with a lascivious image is still sinning, whether they realize, or intend it or not. They may just be (willfully) ignorant of the effects.

Or in denial about it.

Sin often has that effect,
blindness toward it.

I've yet to see any biblical proof offered that a tattoo is actually in violation of God's law. I agree that a tattoo could be sinful based upon its content or motive (a lascivious image would probably be sinful). But that does not prove that all tattoos are sinful.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
In order for those other "considerations" (such as offending the weaker brother) to be legitimate objections, it must first be shown that tattoos are inherently sinful.

No.

It must be shown that it causes the weaker brother to stumble.

Drinking alcohol may not be strictly prohibited in Scripture.

Yet drinking around an underage young person prone to binge drinking, with alcoholic propensities in his family might be.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
♫ First there is a [-]mountain[/-] LAW, then there is no [-]mountain[/-] LAW, then there is. ♪
♫ First there is a [-]mountain[/-] LAW, then there is no [-]mountain[/-] LAW, then there is. ♪

'Specially 'bout them things what I don't like....
 

FCC

Puritan Board Freshman
Of all the wonderful subjects surrounding the Reformed Faith, Puritan Literature, and our Confessional Standards, and these are the kinds of threads which get the wildfire attention. :lol:

I always find this kind of cultural discussion interesting Josh. It shows that the Reformed faith has lost touch with what it means to lead a sanctified and holy life and that we are struggling to rediscover this way of living. From tattoos to movies to what kind of music we listen to, it has a huge role to play in our sanctification and whether or not we can classify ourselves as "bought with a price" and "therefore glorifying God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (I Cor. 6:20) As long as we live in a fallen world with the old man struggling to survive within us, working in an unholy alliance with the world and Satan, we will struggle with these issues.

I also find it interesting how much the mindset of the world has influenced the church. Our interpretation and application of Scripture has certainly changed over time. It poses the question of whether Scripture, the infallible, inspired Word of God changed or whether we have changed?
 

irresistible_grace

Puritan Board Junior
I have changed a lot since professing Christ & the LORD knows my theology has change drastically since becoming "Reformed."

When it comes to tattooing, the thing I struggle with more than anything is the permanence. Hair can grow back when you cut it (for the most part) & you can change "offensive" clothes at any time but tattoos are permanent. Obviously, tattoos can be altered but they can never be completely removed (as I understand it).

The children of God are supposed to be changing... constantly. We are not to remain the same. We are supposed to be putting off the world constantly & putting on Christ. I know we are not "national" Isreal and I disagree with using passages of Scripture like the one found in Leviticus as a "proof text" against tattoos in general. However, I still think that the theme of Leviticus is "holiness" and we are called to be a holy people "set apart." For this reason, I think it is important to emphasis that even if tattoos MAY be permissible they remain contrary to nature and should be avoided for the most part.

PS - I am an artist. I think many "tattoos" are beautiful (especially my mother's) and I wanted to be a tattoo artist most of my life but unlike some of my brothers here, I did/do not find it to be a God honoring profession worth pursuing, personally.
 

Boosterseat_91

Puritan Board Freshman
In order for those other "considerations" (such as offending the weaker brother) to be legitimate objections, it must first be shown that tattoos are inherently sinful.

No.

It must be shown that it causes the weaker brother to stumble.

Drinking alcohol may not be strictly prohibited in Scripture.

Yet drinking around an underage young person prone to binge drinking, with alcoholic propensities in his family might be.

According to your logic, this would make drinking alcohol inherently sinful since you are arguing that people having a negative reaction to tattoos makes tattoos inherently sinful. Please explain more if I am misunderstanding you.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
I always find this kind of cultural discussion interesting Josh. It shows that the Reformed faith has lost touch with what it means to lead a sanctified and holy life and that we are struggling to rediscover this way of living. From tattoos to movies to what kind of music we listen to, it has a huge role to play in our sanctification and whether or not we can classify ourselves as "bought with a price" and "therefore glorifying God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (I Cor. 6:20) As long as we live in a fallen world with the old man struggling to survive within us, working in an unholy alliance with the world and Satan, we will struggle with these issues.

I also find it interesting how much the mindset of the world has influenced the church. Our interpretation and application of Scripture has certainly changed over time. It poses the question of whether Scripture, the infallible, inspired Word of God changed or whether we have changed?

Get large pot, add water, add frog, add heat. Soon enough you will have one bewildered and boiled frog.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
I always find this kind of cultural discussion interesting Josh. It shows that the Reformed faith has lost touch with what it means to lead a sanctified and holy life and that we are struggling to rediscover this way of living. From tattoos to movies to what kind of music we listen to, it has a huge role to play in our sanctification and whether or not we can classify ourselves as "bought with a price" and "therefore glorifying God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (I Cor. 6:20) As long as we live in a fallen world with the old man struggling to survive within us, working in an unholy alliance with the world and Satan, we will struggle with these issues.

I also find it interesting how much the mindset of the world has influenced the church. Our interpretation and application of Scripture has certainly changed over time. It poses the question of whether Scripture, the infallible, inspired Word of God changed or whether we have changed?

Get large pot, add water, add frog, add heat. Soon enough you will have one bewildered and boiled frog.
So tattoos are sinful? Especially on frogs?
 

Mindaboo

Puritan Board Graduate
Tats are a big turn off for me. When I see a beautiful woman with a tat I just want to cry over the spoiled canvas that God has given her. Tats on men and women tell me that there is a short coming in their character, something that they are compensating for. It also seems to be a glorying in one's own flesh and a desecration of it.

Well, call me a spoiled canvas. I would hope that when people meet me they see more than my outer appearance. I got my first tattoo at the age of 19. It was small with a man's initials. That relationship didn't work out, and years later I went to have it removed. After three or four painful laser surgeries, which were expensive, I decided to go get another one to cover it up. My tattoo may cause others to stumble, but the truth is that for years the brother in the Lord I care most about, (my husband) was stumbling every time he had to look at it. So, other weaker brothers may stumble over it, but my husband no longer has to. I was not a believer when I had the first one done, but I certainly was the second time. I don't expose my tattoo on purpose, not because I'm embarrassed about it, but I forget it's there. There is so much more to me than the butterfly on my back. Thankfully my Lord doesn't look on my outer appearance. He looks at my heart, which has enough problems with or without a tattoo.


Personally, I am glad you aren't my kids example as an Elder in this area.

I would be honored to have Andrew as my kid's elder. He is a very sincere, godly man. I wish there were more men out there like him standing in the office of elder, with or without a tattoo.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Personally, I am glad you aren't my kids example as an Elder in this area.

I would be honored to have Andrew as my kid's elder. He is a very sincere, godly man. I wish there were more men out there like him standing in the office of elder, with or without a tattoo.
Mindy,

That comment was overly inflammatory and for that I apologize. It distracted the conversation. You are entitled to do as you please. You are one of the sweetest souls as is Andrew. We just have different understandings concerning the topic at hand. I would most certainly desire for Andrew to counsel my children in godliness on other issues. To me this issue just exhibits a slide into cultural and spiritual idolatry and something I believe the scriptures are clear on. I hope that clears this up.
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The Leviticus prohibition of tattoos falls into a subclass of separation-laws, which was an element of the ceremonial laws-of-distinction dividing the OT Israelites from every other nation on earth. They were not to devote their bodies to God in this way, after the custom of many surrounding societies. Their "unmarked" flesh was itself a "brand" that stood out in the menagerie of competing invention.

As a ceremonial law, this word for the holy people is abrogated by the same God who originally instituted it.


There are health reasons to consider, if one were contemplating a tattoo. There is the semi-permanent nature of the act--it cannot be undone without considerable difficulty and more pain. There are questions of wisdom and propriety and the due evaluation of motive in taking a tattoo. There may be cultural considerations.

At the same time, it is as wrong to label this practice per se as a sin, as it is to condemn all smoking. I myself have no pleasure whatever in the cigarette habit (while strangely, a whiff of cigar smoke--someone else'--brings back some pleasant memories). But my many rational reasons against the practice does not a sin make it. And more importantly, not to inveigh against it is an important affirmation both of Christian liberty, and our freedom from OT ceremonial restriction.

The same must be said about tattoos. Unless the purpose for the tattoo is ungodly, unless the tattoo is a celebration of sin, if tattooing is a particular idolatry or a plain hating of the body of God's creation (a rational conclusion, I think, of the "uglification" of the body by swarming it with symbols, and by pockmarking it with piercings and insertions all over), I cannot agree that the mere addition of a tattoo is sinful, as such. It may be unwise (or not at all), but it has ceased to be an offense to God--which it was merely by positive commandment.

We do a great disservice to those believers today who wear tattoos, whether they took them before or after conversion, by pointing to the ink and identifying it as sinful. Should they cover it up at all times, because it is a shame to them? It's meaning may be innocuous, or it may represent an important and non-sinful memory. What right does another Christian (or anyone else) have to condemn the very thing? None. And if Moses be pointed to, then he who condemns "is a debtor to do the whole law," Gal.5:3.


Finally, let's bring out the Tattooer's favorite text, though it is pretty clearly a misunderstanding and misapplication of Scripture--really, no more an abuse of Scripture than the invocation of Lev.19:28--

Rev.19:16 "And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."


Yes, it misses the point of the text, and probably misunderstands John's very language.
But that's also the problem with those who attack the practice (and the practitioners) by appealing to the separation-law of the OT.

When I read about the thigh, it reminds me of making covenant. It has nothing to do with ink.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
This makes me giggle. What with all the real issues with real sin that we have wrestle over, smugly declaring something one has a personal distaste for to be sin/appearance of sin/stumbling to weaker brethren, etceteRA, etceteRA (in my best Yul Brynner voice) seems reminiscent of some fellows around Jerusalem during our Lord's visitation. They added extra-biblical commandments of men to God's law, shook their heads disapprovingly at those who disregarded same, and justified themselves with assertions that scripture inferred, albeit vaguely, their additions. Jesus said to let them alone. Something about blind guides. I would hope we would consider whether we are taking the same course when declaring an act not specifically forbidden to be a sin.
 

Mindaboo

Puritan Board Graduate
Mindy,

That comment was overly inflammatory and for that I apologize. It distracted the conversation. You are entitled to do as you please. You are one of the sweetest souls as is Andrew. We just have different understandings concerning the topic at hand. I would most certainly desire for Andrew to counsel my children in godliness on other issues. To me this issue just exhibits a slide into cultural and spiritual idolatry and something I believe the scriptures are clear on. I hope that clears this up.

Randy, no offense taken. I don't know how sweet I am, but thank you.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Thanks Mindy. As I noted both you and Andrew are sweet souls. I wouldn't break fellowship with anyone over this issue. And Rev. Buchanan is one of the Best Counselors on the PB. I meant in no way to infer that these men were of ill repute.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
According to your logic, this would make drinking alcohol inherently sinful since you are arguing that people having a negative reaction to tattoos makes tattoos inherently sinful. Please explain more if I am misunderstanding you.

Leah,
Please read all the post carefully- it specifically says the other practice (not wishing to divert into that) is not strictly prohibited in Scripture, but its use is (greatly) qualified.
The qualifications violated, do make it sinful, and in the case of the subject at hand, those are many.
And I think the general equity arguments are overpowering,
The worldliness and pride of seeking to deface one's body for perceived thrill is alone reason to abstain from this practice.

Rather, be grateful to God for the body He gave you, and seek to honor it, and not use it as a means to cause your neighbor to stumble. Seek the high road.

Westminster Confession of Faith
Chapter XIX
Of the Law of God

....IV. To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require....[7]
and all this before we even get to health and hygiene implications. [We won't go into the dermatologist's journal of medicine....]
 
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