Okay, here’s a controversial subject that I actually am not bringing up for the purpose of stirring up controversy. I’m honestly curious to hear different people’s differing ideas on this (the more thought-out and biblically-based the better). I’d like to avoid debate — so as an exercise, how about if we all just present our positions, and then politely ask questions about each other’s ideas?
The subject: body modifications. I.e. tattoos (of all degrees and locations), piercings (and gauges), aesthetic surgery (whether tweaking a feature already present, like a nose job, or changing physiology, like elf ears or tongue bifurcation), functional hacks (like implanting piezoelectric metal slivers in your fingertips so you can feel electromagnetic fields, and so on), scarification (flensing, branding, etc.), and all the rest.
For myself, I categorize the above list (and all other technological enhancements to life in general, actually) under three headings.
First: Cosmetics. These do not change function or form, but merely display artistic license in a creative fashion. I do not distinguish morally between permanent and non-permanent, or integrated and non-integrated cosmetic enhancement (thus: makeup and tattooing are equivalents).
Second: Prosthetics. These are a correction of function back to a natural order. Eyeglasses and laser surgery are both prosthetic enhancements using technology to enhance biological performance in order to overcome a biological limitation. A pacemaker, a wooden limb, a mechanized endoskeleton…. all the same thing basically. Putting someone’s face back together again after an injury would fall under this category.
Third: Augmetics. These are an addition of function past the natural order. In the exact same fashion as prosthetics, augmetics are enhancements using technology to enhance biological performance to overcome a biological limitation. The lever is a simple example. So is a wheel, a car, an airplane, binoculars, a sword, a pencil, a calculator…. pretty much most technology over the millenia has been augmetic in nature. In keeping with the pattern for the previous two categories, I do not see philosophical, logical, or biblical reason to state that external, non-integrated technology is fundamentally or morally different from biologically-integrated technology. If correcting eyesight to normal vision levels via surgery is okay, and it is also okay to use binoculars to see farther than normal, then it should also be okay to use surgery to augment your eyesight to see better than normal. Carrying the extension, it should therefore also be okay to add functionality in similar fashion (e.g. we can’t fly naturally, and so we build planes to add that functionality). Ergo, piezoelectric fingertips should be kosher.
It should be obvious from this that I clearly do not believe Leviticus 19:28 applies to these kinds of modifications. I do believe that it is likely to be a law which is not ceremonial and is not distinctly a part of the old covenant, and therefore is likely to be applicable today. But I do not believe that it is a blanket condemnation against all modifications. It appears to be specifically referring to not making marks on your body “for the dead” (as a part of a pagan funeral ritual presumably). It is clear to me that this is not defining marking one’s body as a pagan practice inherently, because elsewhere in Torah God instructs Israel to pierce the ear of a bondservant as a mark of his servitude. God does not contradict Himself, and so these two laws cannot be in conflict. Ergo, piercing in and of itself is not a violation of Leviticus 19:28. It is the reason and the purpose behind the piercing that is in question.
Like with all technological use, or adornments. We should dress appropriately and as Christians, and not avoid clothing simply because pagans wear clothing in wrong ways. I would posit that the same goes for body modifications.