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Freemasonry and/or the Church (1)

Freemasonry is better known as simply Masonry or more popularly still as the organization of the Masonic Lodge. A rather strange subject for the Beacon Lights, you are probably thinking to your­self. Maybe if I relate to you how my interest was developed your interest will be quickened also.

Recently, while performing my pastoral duties, I was brought into contact with a certain man who had a very unusual question, at least it seemed out of the ordinary at the time. It was this man’s expressed desire to become a confessing member of a Reformed Church. But he also contemplated joining the Masonic lodge. Hence his question: Is membership in the Reformed church, or more particular­ly, is membership in the Church of Christ compatible with membership in the lodge? I told him what I understood to be the position of Reformed churches and in particular the position of our Protestant Reformed churches; membership in the lodge has always been condemned. The gentleman was not satisfied with my answer. He wanted to know why membership in the Masonic lodge was condemned. The best I could do in expressing why membership in the lodge was condemned was to speak in gener­alities for I had never studied what constituted the Masonic lodge, nor what was its basics and goals. Consequently I made a brief study of the subject and then promptly dropped the matter, thinking that the Masonic lodge, or Freemasonry, was something so far out that a further study was not warranted.

But a few weeks later I was again con­fronted with the problem of the compati­bility of membership in the Church and the Masonic lodge. This time the confron­tation came through the pages of The Banner of June 7, 1974 pages 6-7. I read the article with interest two or three times. Rev. George F. Vander Weit was discussing a problem connected with evangelism in his church. People were coming to his church, but not staying. He found as the culprit which undid all his work in evangelism, the position of the C.R.C. that “no lodge member can join its membership.” That position of the C.R.C. is the evil culprit which drives from the church and its fellowship many “com­mitted Christians” in whom, obviously, the Holy Spirit is working. Rev. Vander Weit bemoans this position of the C.R.C. He thinks that his church should allow these Masonic Lodge members to be members of the church, even though, the religion of the lodge is, according to Rev. Vander Weit, admittedly wrong. Giving up membership in the Masonic lodge ought not be a condition to membership in the C.R.C., according to Rev. Vander Weit, but must be seen as a dimension of sanctification and should be sought by pastoral and educational approaches. His position is to accept Masonic lodge members into the fellowship of the C.R.C. and then to labor with these members for as long as five to ten years attempting to produce a sensitivity in these members, which will ultimately manifest itself by their act of separating themselves volun­tarily from the Masonic lodge. This is my understanding of the brother’s article.

What I had read so thoroughly shocked my spiritual sensitive system that I found myself making a new study of the Masonic lodge! My interest was quick­ened anew. Hence an article or two on this strange subject for the Beacon Lights. What is Freemasonry? Why has the P.R. Church condemned, and the C.R.C. for that matter, membership in the Masonic lodge? Let’s take a look at Masonry and do so by, firstly, considering its organization­al aspects, and, secondly. Freemasonry as a religion, and finally, give a brief evaluation of this organization.

The Organization

Freemasonry or the Masonic Order had its beginning in England. It originally was a society of cathedral builders in the 17th century. The stone masons and stone cutters constituted its membership. The Masonic lodge was officially established in the year 1717 in England. From England Freemasonry soon spread to continental Europe and by 1740 to North America. For over 250 years “men have knelt to swear the solemn oaths of the Masonic lodges. Freemasonry was organized in England but four out of five of the world’s Freemasons now live in the United States. They and their brothers in other countries have made Freemasonry the largest inter­national secret society.” (Handbook of Secret Organizations, by W. J. Whalen page 46.) There are over 16,000 Masonic lodges in this country with a membership of over four and one-half million. How powerful the Masons are, is difficult to say, but “in any single year the majority of state governors. United States senators, and U.S. representatives are likely to be Freemasons.” (Handbook, Whalen p. 53) You probably know that there is some­thing called a 32nd degree mason. It is the highest regular degree of Masonry though there is a 33rd honorary degree too. The three basic Masonic degrees are those of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. These three basic degrees constitute the Blue or Symbolic lodge. In this country after one has reached the 3rd degree of Master Mason, he can follow one or both of the two Masonic rites. “A Master Mason, may elect to climb one or both of the two Masonic ladders of the higher rites: the Scotish or the York. About… one out of four Master Masons have taken the Scotish route. This rite organized in the United States in 1801 consists of thirty-two degrees plus the honorary 33rd degree.” (Handbook, Whal­en p. 54) Concerning the York rite Whalen comments: “One in ten Masons… belong to the York rite, sometimes known as the American rite. This rite culminates in the Knights Templar, which is closed to Jews and other non-Christian masons.” (Hand­book, Whalen p. 55) If I am not mistaken the York rite consists of ten degrees in addition to the three basic degrees of Masonry. The principle officers of a Masonic lodge are the Master, whose word is law, the Senior Warden, and the Junior Warden. Other officers include the secretary, treasurer, senior deacon, junior deacon, marshal, chaplain, stewards, and the tyler or doorkeeper. The Master or chaplain begins the lodge meeting by reading a portion of Scripture and with a word of prayer to the Supreme Being.

How does one become a member of the Masonic lodge? Well, he had better not be black in color, first of all, no negroes allowed. Nor should he be a cripple, have a withered hand, or be blind or whatever for the Masonic lodge will only accept persons of sound mind and body. The candidate must express some belief in a higher power than himself. “A belief in the existence of God is an essential point of Speculative Masonry — so essential…that no Atheist can be made a Mason.” (Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Mackey p. 315) If a candidate thus far meets the requirements he can be made a mason only if he gets the unanimous approval of the existing members of the lodge. One vote against a candidate is enough to preclude the possibility of induction into the Masonic Order. The candidate must also take an oath to keep inviolate the secrets of the order. The secrets include all the esoteric instruction given orally in the lodge, the events of the lodge meeting including its extensive, mysterious, ritual and the lodge’s various Passwords and secret hand grips that serve to identify one Mason to another. In addition the mason must keep secret any knowledge he may have of illegal activity of another mason. The lodge is a secret organization. The secrets of which are to be hidden from the eyes and ears of the profane non-mason. The oath of the first degree, Entered Apprentice, is:

“To all of this and these I solemnly and sincerely promise and swear without equivocation, mental reservation, or secret evasion in me whatever, bending myself under no less penalty than hav­ing my throat cut from end to end, my tongue torn out by its roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea a cable tow length from shore, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 hours, should I knowingly or willing­ly violate this my solemn obligation as an apprentice. So help me God and enable me to keep steadfast in the due performance of the same.” (Handbook, Whalen p. 57)

As the Mason passes from one degree to another he must make a similar oath each time. There is connected with this induc­tion into the Masonic lodge also a mysterious, degrading, humiliating initia­tion. I do not intend to describe it in detail for you, but you may check some of the literature available if you desire. Among other things the initiation consists of the following: the candidate to membership in the lodge is stripped of his street clothes and given a special garment by the lodge, he is led blindfolded into a darkened room, he is led about by a rope tied to his neck. All of which is to depict the candidates helplessness as one who is ignorant and groping about in darkness and looking for the “light” of Freemasonry. After his initiation and oath the blindfold is taken off and suddenly he sees the “light”. Sometimes the initiation to the various degrees consists of mock beatings which result in the “death” of the victim and later he is raised from the dead by the hand of the Master of the lodge. From death to life. The dead candidate to Masonry is brought to life as a Mason.

How does the lodge sustain itself re-membership from year to year. Suppos­edly the lodge does not solicit new members or publicly canvass an area for new members. But the lodge does have its supporting society. The Order of the De Moloy serves as a recruiting ground for the Masonic lodges. The De Moloy enrolls boys between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one. The Masonic lodge excludes women from its membership and conse­quently their wives and daughters over twenty-one are members of the Order of the Eastern Star, which has as its motto: “We have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” Girls under twenty-one are organized as Job’s Daughters, these Masonic daughters take their name from Job 42:15.

This concludes my description of Free­masonry as an organization. There is much more that could be related, but I think the above is sufficient for our purposes. Next time we will consider Freemasonry as a religion and evaluate it.

Maybe I should leave you to ponder a definition of Freemasonry given by one of its distinguished proponents:

“Masonry is the activity of closely united men who employing symbolical forms borrowed principally from the mason’s trade and from architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striv­ing morally to enable themselves and others, and thereby to bring about a universal league of mankind, which they aspire to exhibit even now on a small scale.” (The Builders, Newton, page 241.)