TMSJ 5/2 (Fall 1994) pp. 141-157
Recently the largest Protestant denomination has ruled that membership in the Lodge is up to one's individual conscience. This position is contrary to a traditional Christian view of Freemasonry. Freemasonry is a fraternal order that advocates development of virtue and character among its members, as the authors can attest through their own past membership in it. The soteriology of Freemasonry is strongly antibiblical, as several of its teachings indicate--teachings associated with the Lambskin Apron, how to prepare for heaven, the Perfect Ashlar, the Common Gavel, and how to live a worthwhile life. Christian membership in the Lodge is, therefore, impossible to justify in light of Scriptural teachings.
In 1992, Southern Baptist James Holly requested that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) conduct an investigation of Freemasonry. The SBC agreed and in June of 1993 approved a study of Freemasonry2 which, though stating that some of Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity, concluded that membership in the Lodge is a matter of individual conscience.3 This evaluation by the SBC has served as an endorsement of the Lodge.4 In The Scottish Rite Journal, a Masonic periodical, one Mason has written,
This essay will explain the Lodge, tell of the authors' involvement in it, and their reasons for leaving it.
No formal definition of Freemasonry exists in its official literature, 10 but several descriptions are available elsewhere. For example, the Monitor says this of Freemasonry: "It is an institution having for its foundation the practice of the social and moral virtues."11 It also makes the following statement:
The Lodge is a fraternal order--or brotherhood--that teaches its members to develop virtue and character. It distinguishes between the "operative" and the "speculative" mason. The operative mason is the literal mason who builds with stone and brick. 15 The speculative Mason is a member of the Masonic Lodge. The Lodge has adopted the symbols of stonemasonry related to temple- building because speculative Masons are also building a temple. 16 The teaching given to Masons is that they are building a spiritual temple in heaven. It instructs each Mason--regardless of his religion and by his own efforts--to fashion himself into a perfect living stone to fit into the spiritual temple being constructed in heaven. An explanation of this will come below.
Masons also refer to the Masonic Lodge as "the Blue Lodge." Individual Lodges are governed by a Grand Lodge. Nearly every state in the United States has a Grand Lodge, with many others existing throughout the world.
Requisite to being a Mason is belief in a deity. This may be any deity, meaning that a Mason may adhere to any religion. The details of a Mason's religious faith are irrelevant as pertains to membership in the Lodge. It is only necessary that he affirm a deity. So the Lodge includes Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and followers of other religions.
Upon approval of the application of a candidate for Masonic membership (i.e., an "initiate"), he must participate in three secret initiation ceremonies, called "degrees." After completion of the First Degree, the candidate becomes an "Entered Apprentice Mason." After completion of the Second Degree, he is a "Fellow Craft Mason." With completion of the third degree, he is a "Master Mason." This makes him a full member worldwide. The Master Mason can join other Masonic organizations such as Scottish Rite, York Rite, and the Shrine. Many Masons do not join these organizations and may know little about them.
Eddy D. Field II (hereafter Mr. Field) was a member of the Blue Lodge and related organizations for twenty- five years. He was an officer of the Lodge for two of those years. He was a 32o Mason, a Royal Arch Mason, and an officer in his chapter. He held office in the Cryptic Council and was a Knight Templar and a Shriner. He also held membership in Eastern Star, Grotto, High 12, Amaranth, and White Shrine of Jerusalem.
Mr. Field's grandfather and father are both past Masters of the Lodge, with many of his family members being leaders of the various Masonic organizations. Mr. Field's son, co- author of this article, was a member of the Order of DeMolay--a fraternity for males aged 13- 21--founded and supervised by Masons.
For Mr. Field, the main appeal of the Lodge was a strong family tradition. This tradition helped bind his family together and instill in it a sense of pride. Another attraction to Masonry was a practical one. At the time, Freemasons exerted great social, political, and business influence. 17 Many politicians and businessmen were Masons. Since Masons tend to favor each other, it was sometimes easier for a man to advance his career if he was a Masonic "brother." A third feature that attracted Mr. Field to the Lodge was the mystique associated with it. The Lodge claims to be an ancient brotherhood that holds many secrets. This "gnostic" quality also drew him to Masonry.
After his conversion to Christ, Mr. Field carefully examined the origin and nature of the Lodge and discovered many grave problems with it. He compared the religious teachings of Freemasonry with those of Christianity and found them to be opposite. Therefore, he felt compelled to leave the Lodge. The following discussion will detail some results of his comparison.
It is unnecessary and beyond the scope of this investigation to probe whether or not Masonry is a religion; most Masons deny that it is. Yet the Lodge explicitly teaches, "It is so far interwoven with religion as to lay us under obligations to pay that rational homage to the Deity which at once constitutes our duty and our happiness." 18 Religion or not, a comparison of the Lodge's religious teachings with Scripture is inevitable. The results of such a comparison make it clear that Freemasonry denies the teachings of Christianity. A theologian, who caused quite a stir with his critique of Freemasonry,19 offered this evaluation:
The Lodge teaches that every Mason should learn and obey its teachings, including its soteriology, though the Lodge does not necessarily discipline anyone who does not. In the Third Degree, under "The Charge," the Monitor states,
Duty and honor now alike bind you to be faithful to every trust; to support the dignity of your character on all occasions; and strenuously to enforce, by precept and example, a steady obedience to the tenets of Freemasonry.21
Masonry teaches on many religious subjects, but of particular relevance to the present discussion is its soteriology. What follows is an analysis of five statements selected from the Monitor that expound the soteriology of the Lodge.
The Lambskin Apron
The First Degree includes a discussion of "The Lambskin Apron." As the Lambskin Apron is the most important emblem in the Freemasonry, 22 it is in order to discuss it first. Each candidate receives an apron in the First Degree. The Monitor says this about the apron:
The statement about the Lambskin Apron creates several problems. It says that "purity of life and conduct" is necessary for admittance into heaven. If this means absolute purity, no one can in reality qualify. If it means relative purity, then what is the basis of measurement and how can one know if he has qualified? In fact, Christ is the Lamb of God who, by virtue of his purity, qualified as the sacrifice for the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29). In 1 Pet 1:18- 19, the apostle writes to believers,
Thus, the lesson taught with the most important symbol in the Lodge directly opposes the Christian gospel.
Preparation for Heaven
From the Third Degree of the Monitor comes another statement delineating the soteriology of the Lodge:
The Scriptures do not teach that a person goes to heaven by imitating even Christ Himself, much less anyone else. Salvation is a gift of God's grace. Paul writes in 2 Tim 1:9- 10 that God
The Perfect Ashlar
Part of the First Degree in the Monitor has a statement about "The Perfect Ashlar." Masonry calls a perfect stone a "Perfect Ashlar." The following describes the teaching symbolized by the Ashlar:
First Pet 2:5 teaches the opposite regarding Christians when it says that Christians "as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." God, not believers themselves, is the builder of believers, of course.30
The Common Gavel
A fourth statement in the First Degree portion of the Monitor reveals more of the Lodge's plan of salvation. As stated previously, Masons are building a spiritual temple in heaven. The instruction to each Mason is to fashion himself into a perfect living stone to fit into the spiritual temple in heaven. "The Common Gavel" symbolizes this concept:
As the Common Gavel closely relates to the Perfect Ashlar, the criticism of the Perfect Ashlar applies to it. No one can make himself fit for heaven; only God can do this through Christ.33
The Well- spent Life
A final example will aid in explaining the soteriology of the Lodge:
This contrasts directly with Christian teaching, according to which the hope of eternal life is Christ. In Col 1:27, Paul writes that God has made known to Christians "what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." The Lodge offers hope of eternal life apart from Christ. This hope for immortality is false, though, and a false hope for immortality is a false gospel.
The above five statements from the Monitor suffice to show the soteriology of the Lodge. A serious conflict exists between this soteriology and that of Christianity. The two are, in fact, contradictory. Freemasonry teaches that one may gain entrance into heaven through his good works, no matter who is his god and what is his religious affiliation. Christianity teaches that one gains entrance into heaven through Christ's work on the cross, appropriated by faith.
From this analysis of the five statements, the god of Masonry, often called "The Great Architect of the Universe," is identifiable. This god is one that will accept someone into heaven on the basis of works, regardless of religion. This is a false god, not the God of the Bible. 35
A Biblical Appraisal of Masonic Soteriology
Paul was unequivocal in responding to anyone proclaiming a "gospel" contrary to36 the true gospel:
As documented above, Freemasonry advocates a plan of salvation contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul's curse would apply to proponents of the soteriology of Freemasonry.38
A Biblical Appraisal of Masonic Membership
In light of the foregoing, a Christian's participation in the Lodge is a significant issue. Masons consider themselves "one sacred band or society of friends and brothers."39 In the First, Second, and Third Degrees, a Mason swears oaths to God, under penalty of death, to fulfill certain obligations. 40 He swears to this oath on a book considered by his Grand Lodge to be sacred. Thus, the book varies depending on the dominant religion of the area. So, it may be the Bible, the Koran, or the Bhagavad Gita, depending on where it occurs. Also, candidates take their oaths at the altar of the Masonic god, the same altar at which they all kneel, regardless of their religious persuasions.
At the end of each oath, the Worshipful Master (the local Lodge head) informs the Mason that he is bound to all Masons. After the First Degree, the Worshipful Master says, "Brother Senior Warden, release the candidate from the cable-tow, his being now bound to us by a stronger tie."41 After the Second Degree, the Worshipful Master says, "Brother Senior Warden, release the candidate from the cable-tow, it being twice around his naked right arm, is to signify to him that he is now bound to the fraternity by a two fold tie." 42 After the Third Degree, the Worshipful Master says, "Brother Senior Warden, release the candidate from the cable-tow, it being thrice around his naked body, is to signify to him that he is now bound to the fraternity by a threefold tie." 43 These three statements illustrate the serious bond between Masons. As a further example of the extent of this bond, in the Third Degree each Mason swears to keep secret, if asked, the crimes committed by a fellow-Mason. Murder and treason are the only exceptions. The oath reads, "Furthermore, that I will keep the secrets of a Master Mason as my own, when given to me in charge as such, murder and treason excepted."44 Thus, by solemn oath the Mason binds himself as a brother to every other Mason, regardless of his god or religion.
Beyond this, though, in the Second Degree the candidate bows in reverence to the god of Freemasonry, called G.A.O.T.U. 45 He does this after the Worshipful Master utters the following call:
In 2 Cor 6:14-18, Paul discussed the relationship of believers to unbelievers.48 In 6:14-16a he wrote,
The Lodge teaches clearly that one may earn admittance into heaven on the basis of works, regardless of religion. This is a false gospel, which places those who advocate such a doctrine under Paul's imprecation. If this is not enough to convince a Christian not to involve himself in Masonry, it should be enough that a Christian Mason binds himself by oath to all other Masons in a way that associates him with their idolatry. In 2 Cor 6:14 Paul forbids such a relationship. The activity of a Christian Mason is even more unbiblical, though, when he kneels at the altar of the false god of the Lodge and pays homage to its deity. These facts demonstrate that Christian participation in the Lodge is more than a matter of individual Christian conscience. It is imperative that Christians not participate in this organization.54
One writer summarizes the church's appropriate response to Christian Masons:
2A Study of Freemasonry (Atlanta: Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1993). See also A Report on Freemasonry (Atlanta: Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1993).
4Joe Maxwell, "Baptist Battle over Freemasonry Erupts Anew," Christian Research Journal 16/2 (Fall 1993):41; John Weldon, "The Masonic Lodge and the Christian Conscience," Christian Research Journal 16/3 (Winter 1994):21.
5The Scottish Rite Journal (August 1993), cited by Weldon, "Masonic Lodge" 21.
6Maxwell, "Baptist Battle" 42; Dale A. Byers, I Left the Lodge (Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 1988) 114- 18.
7Jack Harris, Freemasonry: The Invisible Cult In Our Midst (Chattanooga, TN: Global Publishers, 1983) 111- 12; Maxwell, "Masonic Lodge" 41; Alva J. McClain, Freemasonry and Christianity (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1951) 32.
8This disagreement is possibly traceable to the great number of Masons in the SBC (see Weldon, "Masonic Lodge" 39). Holly estimates the number to be between 500,000 and 1.3 million (Maxwell, "Baptist Battle" 42).
9Weldon, "Masonic Lodge" 22.
10The Monitor and Officers' Manual is the official textbook of the Lodge (The Monitor and Officers' Manual, rev. ed. [n.p.: Grand Lodge of California, 1985] 35). It contains verbatim extractions of teachings from the secret degree work (i.e., initiation ceremonies). The extractions printed in the Monitor become non- secret in the process of being so reproduced. This is important because a Mason will not discuss secret teachings with non- Masons. For this reason this analysis in most cases refers to the Monitor. Some Masons refuse to discuss the teachings of even the Monitor, considering them to be secret. They are not, however. The teachings published in the Monitor are open for discussion by any Mason.
Each candidate learns these doctrines at the initiation ceremonies. He receives a copy of the Monitor and must memorize selections.
The present discussion refers to the California Monitor, and though it is typical of those in other jurisdictions, the content of the Monitor may vary slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The essential doctrine remains the same, however.
14Ibid., 30- 31.
15Ibid., 19- 20.
17Recently, though, membership in the Lodge has declined by two to three percent annually (Maxwell, "Baptist Battle" 41- 44).
19The opinion of Paul M. Bretscher, "The Masonic Apostasy from Christ," Concordia Theological Monthly 26 (February 1955):97.
20Walton Hannah, "Should a Christian be a Mason?" Theology 54 (January 1951):4.
24All biblical quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.
25John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge (Chicago: Moody, 1989, 1990) 78- 79; Jim Shaw and Tom McKinney, The Deadly Deception (Lafayette, LA: Huntington House, 1988) 132; L. James Rongstad, How to Respond to the Lodge (St. Louis: Concordia, 1977) 11, 18; Ron Carlson and Ed Decker, Fast Facts on False Teachings (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1994) 85; Harris, Freemasonry 22- 23.
26Cf. Rom 4:5; 6:23; 10:9-10; Tit 3:5- 7.
27Monitor 35- 36.
28Ibid., 9- 10.
29Harris, Freemasonry 45- 46.
30The context indicates that okodomesue (oikodomeisthe, "you are being built up") is passive indicative with God as the implied agent (cf. v. 9; see D. Edmond Hiebert, 1 Peter [Chicago: Moody, 1984, 1992] 132; J. N. D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and Jude [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1969] 89).
32Harris, Freemasonry 17- 18.
33McClain, Freemasonry 31- 32.
35Ankerberg, Secret Teachings 176; McClain, Freemasonry 18- 19. See Ankerberg, Secret Teachings, chap. 8, for a further development of this point.
36Though it is preferable to render par' (par' ho) as "besides that which" or "in addition to that which" (see J. B. Lightfoot, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957] 75), the adopted rendering--"contrary to"--is the more common translation. The point is the same in either case, because the Masonic teaching on salvation fits either rendering. It is both "contrary to" and "in addition to" the Christian gospel.
37Ernest De Witt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, ICC (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, n.d.) 28.
38Byers, I Left 81.
39Monitor 30- 31.
40King Solomon and His Followers, rev. Calif. ed. (Richmond, VA: Allen, 1989) 22- 23, 81- 83, 135- 38, respectively. This book contains the current secret ritual of the Lodge in code. The statements in this paper result from a decoding of the code- book. The earlier edition of the code- book is King Solomon's Temple. Those unable to use the code- book may consult Malcom C. Duncan, Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, 3rd ed. with add. and corr. (New York: David McKay, n.d.). This work contains the complete secret Masonic ritual (the three Degrees) in English. Because it is an older version it is somewhat different from the current edition, but the differences do not alter the present discussion.
The older code- books and older English- language ritual manuals containing all the secrets for the Lodge and related organizations are obtainable from Ezra A. Cook Publishers, 6604 West Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL 60634.
45This is an acronym for "Great Architect of the Universe."
46King Solomon 100- 101. The asterisks represent raps of the gavel by the Worshipful Master. The first three raps instruct all present to rise, the last tells all to be seated.
47Hannah, "Should a Christian" 5.
48The interpretation of pistoi (apistoi) as "unbelievers" is debatable, but has the best support (see William J. Webb, "Who Are the Unbelievers [pistoi] in 2 Corinthians 6:14?" BSac 149 [January- March 1992]:27- 44).
49Webb offers three reasons why 2 Cor 6:16 refers to literal, rather than metaphorical, idolatry: "That Paul intended literal idols in 2 Corinthians 6:16 is more likely in light of the living God--idols contrast, his pattern of clarifying metaphorical intent when referring to idolatry, and the major problem at Corinth with literal idols. Any references related to metaphorical idolatry, therefore, should probably be rejected" (William J. Webb, "What is the Unequal Yoke [terozygontew] in 2 Corinthians 6:14?" BSac 149 [April- June 1992]:170-71).
51A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1931) 4:236.
52Webb, "Unequal Yoke" 170- 71.
53Ankerberg, Secret Teachings 91- 92, 191; Byers, I Left 81; Harris, Freemasonry 36; McClain, Freemasonry 36; R. A. Torrey, Practical and Perplexing Questions Answered (Chicago: Revell, 1908, 1909) 112.
54Weldon, "Masonic Lodge" 39.
55Bretscher, "Masonic Apostasy" 114.
56R. A. Torrey said, "The name of Jesus Christ is cut out of passages in which it occurs in the Bible so as not to offend Jews and other non-Christians. How a Christian can retain membership in a society that thus handles deceitfully the Word of God, and above all cuts out the name of his Lord and Master, I cannot understand" (Perplexing Questions 112).