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Christianity and freemasonry
by Rev. N. Anderson, PGChap
The following is the abridged text of a lecture delivered by Rev. N. Anderson, PGChap, at the Victorian Lodge of Research on 27 March 1997 and published in the VLOR's transactions for 1997 entitled 'Examining Freemasonry'.
In answer to C. Kingsley; who had remarked in Macmillan's Magazine (misrepresenting Newman) that Newman did not consider truth a necessary virtue; Newman wrote his supreme work "APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA". This paper is my APOLOGIA on behalf of Freemasonry against its critics.
Recently there have appeared a plethora of quasi-masonic literature, all of it masquerading as truth, such as "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail", The Temple and the Lodge", "the Messianic Legacy", the Dead Sea Scrolls Deception", "The Holy Place", and more recently, "The Hiram Key" all of which make revelations about the Genesis of Freemasonry. This literature, although very commercial and "New Age", is in fact largely poor scholarship and is based upon "Gnostic" speculations deriving from a reading of the "Nag Hammadi texts", some mishmash of ideas left over from the Renaissance, speculations from Blavatsky, theosophy, C.J. Jung coupled with archaeological evidence gleaned from Egypt and the Manichaean Gnostics. This Manichaean movement had been the final flourish of Gnosticism and had survived through various geographical wanderings until its flare up in Southern France in the Middle Ages when it was eleminated by a crusade. Until the eighteenth century revived an interest in the older sects now called gnostic, the term Manichaean was used for all dualist heresies. These speculative writings tend to attack religious Orthodoxy, and its creeds, and present as historical truth, speculations that rip out the heart of Christianity. It is natural that Christianity should respond, and and it has, from some quarters, with considerable vigor.
Some Pentecostal and Evangelical churches including the Baptist Church have begun to attack the large number of sects springing up all over the world, particularly in America, and they include Freemasonry amongst these sects, even though it pre-dates most of them. Some of this material is stridently anti-masonic and filled with gross distortions and blatant error. Being well aware that throughout its history Freemasonry has come under attack from the Catholic Church it struck me as odd, seeing the reformed Christianity and Freemasonry both come out of the Reformation, that fundamentalist Christians should join with Rome in the hue and cry against its sibljng. Normally I would have brushed such attitudes aside as emanating from ignorance. However, some of these diatribes are being written by converted masons. It's these which present us with a considerable problem. "The theological case against Freemasonry is a strong one but many Christians find the case unconvincing. This negativity seems to be spreading into the mainline Protestant Churches and this I find alarming. The time for silence in Masonry has passed, we of the brotherhood must make a stand against these assiduous attacks.
But there is yet another problem, Francis A. Yates states in "the Rosicrucian Enlightment" on page 252 'The older literature on history of Freemasonry mingles myth and fact in inextricable confusion". Anne Gilmore-Bryson in an essay titled "The London Templar Trial Testimony: Truth", myth, or fable notes, states "much written on the Templars in England is inaccurate particularly works written by members of the Masonic order". These negative statements, are just two, among many which deride masonic scholarship itself, and these come from world renowned historians. The problem lies in the speculative nature of freemasonry. plus the fact that many freemasons never understand the meaning of the craft, ever.
In answer to our critics then we freemasons must have knowledge in THREE
It is only armed with this knowledge that a brother has any hope of answering adequately the attack of their critic(s). To this end I will summarize the principle criticism and answer it in turn.
1. ITS DEFINITION
"Masonry is a religion to be included with cults and sects. It is not just a brotherhood but a religious fellowship. It is a non-sectarian fraternity teaching a lofty system of morality and basic religion in symbols. The members are bound by oaths never to reveal its modes of recognition or ritual. It is a society for men only and this has a big appeal. It is an evening away from the wife. Public attitude to freemasonry ranges from "it's harmless" to "Masonry is a dangerous subversive society, a kind of Mafia". Rev. Paulson quotes an Arab taxi driver who called the Temple "the house of Satan".
ANSWER:- Masonry is neither a religion nor a substitute for religion. Masonry seeks to inculcate in its members a standard of conduct and behaviour which it believes to be acceptable to all needs, but studiously refrains from intervening in the field of dogma or theology".
Masonry is however religious in so far as it involves an intellectual or philosophical quest for God. Its antecedents are lost in a haze of myth. It does however seem evidently to be one of the secret societies that sprang up all over Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. A product of the extraordinary maelstrom of speculative spiritual and philosophical ideas that washed over the Continent. The Papacy with Hapsburg backing strove to maintain the universalism of the Church. The Thirty Years War which dragged on until 1648 checked that imperial ambition and left Europe with powerful national states divided between Catholic and Protestant. The industrious printing houses, almost all protestant, poured out a stream of speculative literature which was soaked up by a powerful and affluent middle class. Apart from the so-called mainline Protestant churches there developed a particularly esoteric and somewhat Gnostic Christianity particularly evidenced in Germany and Bohemia. This speculative material formed the background of the "Secret Societies" and it is from within this matrix that masonry first sees the light of day.
Freemasonry defines itself as "A peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. It teaches brotherly love, relief and truth, that these virtues be applied to daily life.
Therefore it is a Society that encourages works "by their fruits you will know them". It certainly is not a religion, for it offers no opportunity to worship God. A personal faith is not questioned, if worship is looked for then the brother must go to the church of his choice. It is a philosophy which strives to practice every moral and social virtue. There is nothing in masonry which is incompatible with a person's "civil, moral or religious duties" . All philosophy is intended to grant mankind a sense of dignity and nobility in a world which is so often hostile and dangerous; to inculcate strength and courage where there is much fear through beauty, strength and wisdom to show a sense of brotherhood with humanity and to reach out towards God. There is nothing sectarian about freemasonry, its teachings are never reduced to creeds or dogma. The mason who seeks from his organization a religion is asking for something which it makes no claim to provide , and for that matter cannot give. The main thrust of our detractors rests on the fact that they believe that it is a Religion. Therefore they argue fallaciously on a false premise.
2. A SECRET SOCIETY
Masonry is a secret society with secrets it keeps not only from those outside the order but also from those within it. Our detractors then go on to say that all the secrets are known anyhow. So there are no secrets The biggest secret about Freemasonry is that there are no secrets. The very thing they try to conceal has been revealed and will defeat them.
ANSWER:- Any sense of exclusiveness, whether it is based upon sex, race, class or creed, runs counter to the contemporary need for "Political Correctness". Yet there is much in this need to "know everything" or "be anything" that leads to moral decadence. Who would have thought that the movement to burn the bra and let everything hang out, could have led to such moral decadence. Sex changes and the tall poppy syndrome are two examples. The distinction between male and female has been blurred, largely to societies detriment as seen in the breakdown of family life and the palpable selfishness of the individual. Masonry evolved within a society wherein the roles of men and women were clearly delineated and appropriate. Thus it was and is a society of "free men of good report".
Its "Secrets" are derived mostly from the bible or from biblical concepts. The bible had been translated from Latin into the vernacular (ie, the national language) and the protestant publishers already mentioned, distributed them throughout protestant Europe. This action had taken the scriptures out of the exclusive province of the church, and placed them in the hands of the rising merchant classes. It became obvious that what the church had been teaching was an interpretation often at variance with the written text In some cases they were teaching doctrine not even found in scripture. Thus a new understanding of the Christian faith evolved causing schism. This new understanding was of course the impetus for the Reformation. The church universal counter attacked, through the Inquisition it sought out with vicious vitality those who possesed "those prohibited lectures". Bonfires were lit all over Europe consuming these so called heretics and witches. At the very time masonry evolved, religious and political persecutions forced it underground. You guard closely what others would destroy. In more enlightened times it ceased to be a secret society, but it held fast to its secrets most of which are protestant interpretations of scripture.
It is however clear from all that I have read that there are in fact no longer any masonic secrets, you can find them all in most public libraries. Yet it is also clear that very few of our critics have the slightest understanding of them, or of the rituals. This leads to the most outrageous interpretations and blatant error. They are often guilty of bringing their own preconceived notions forward; being eager to judge and to find evil; they point the finger in self righteous judgment. They have eyes but do not see, they have ears but will not hear. They judge themselves by the very judgment they use.
The church had become powerful through the confessional. When it does not know all the facts of a given situation loses some of its power, for this reason it calls evil those who keep secrets.
Secrecy is not necessarily incompatible with the Christian ethic. Secrecy in prayer is supported by scripture. Matthew 6:6 reads "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you". There is also authority for benevolence practised in secret. Matthew 6:36, reads "But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you". Jesus himself made use of secrecy, the Messianic secret; Matthew 16:20 "Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ". There are also in scripture discussions about growth into knowledge, about hidden mysteries and secrets. Jesus answered the disciples in Matthew 13:11 "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given". One would have to ask, why is revelation given to some and not to others? Why the mystery? Mysteries are divine plans or decrees often passed on in veiled language known only to the elect and usually relating to judgment. Here the mystery was a new truth given to humanity by revelation in the person and mission of Jesus. Jesus speaks in parables because the people are spiritually insensitive. "None so blind as he who will not see" Parables veiled the true meaning from those whose minds were already hardened". Don't confuse me with facts my mind is made up. It also meant that the pearls our Lord had to offer about the kingdom of heaven were not cast before swine. Only those chosen by God, those with an open mind were able to receive the "Good News". All grace comes from God.
Masonry of course parallels all this. "It is a progressive science "It is part of its ancient tradition that the secrets of Freemasonry should be veiled and only revealed as the candidate makes further progress the science. There is so much to learn in each degree that it is simply a matter of common sense to have its knowledge progressively revealed.
3. IS IT A RELIGION?
A mason may practice any religion or none at all. He may be steadfast in the faith he loves best whether it is Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or whatever. He may even be a Gnostic. Its universality is its boast. In its language citizens of any nation may converse. At its altar men of every nation and every religion may kneel. Masonry is very syncretistic. There is no reference to Jesus or to Christianity. One of their names for God incorporates pagan Gods.
ANSWER:- Our Society is a multicultural society, and it stands to reason that therefore many religions are practiced within our community. Freedom of worship is an inalienable right granted to every citizen. I would have thought then that any society which can embrace all creeds and nations would be a unifying society and therefore ideal. However to reiterate Masonry is a philosophy that is very complimentary to the religious spirit. Religious concepts are its soul, they are its apex, its light and give it its power. It has never been a church, a sect or a cult. The Reformation and Counterreformation church had proved to be so dangerous that masonry concentrated rather on "the getting of wisdom". It only initiates into knowledge it never worships God. The knowledge a mason gains depends on the amount of private study. His worship can only take place in private or at church.
There are many names for God found in scripture; masons chose names which reflect its philosophy and yet reflect also attributes of God as revealed in scripture. But the name that sticks in the throat of most pentecostals is actually made up of three Hebrew words.
(a) "Yah" is a short form of "Yahweh" the name revealed to Moses from the burning bush. It means "I am" the present tense of the verb "to be". "Yah" appears 25 times in the O.T. It is found in the cultic cry "Hallelu - Yah" = Praise Yah.
(b) "Bul" is a short form of "Ba'al" and could be used of human leaders. It had the meaning of Lord or owner. Like ADON which means Lord from the Greek Adonis. Adon is basically an honorific title. "Adoni" is often used as Lord by the Hebrews as a pseudonym for Yahweh. Adoni Yahweh = the Lord God.
(c) "on" means vigor and is the Hebrew form of Heliopolis or city of the sun. The three together stand as a name for God "I am Lord of the Sun". It is from this meaning that the masonic understanding is taken and has nothing to do with pagan Gods. For the mason all three symbols point to aspects of the One God "Yahweh".
4. LUCIFER, THE ANGEL OF LIGHT
Masons talk of Lucifer as the angel of light who gathers all freemasons unto himself. He is the devil and they worship him, therefore masonry is evil and no self respecting born-again Christian should have anything to do with it. The whole system is clearly based upon man's works and not upon Grace, and nine Popes have condemned it.
ANSWER:- The Myth of the "Satanic Jew " engrained bitter hatred of the Jews by some Christians and led directly to the holocaust. It was fundamentalists, whether catholic or protestant Christians, that led to the burning of heretics and witches throughout the Reformation and counter Reformation periods. With the re-emergence of religious fundamentalism throughout the world we can see the "myth of the Satanic mason" being promulgated amongst some Christians and Muslims. This bigotry must be met face on, for it is simply based upon ignorance.
I can find no reference to Lucifer in any masonic ritual. As most of the critics information seems to come out of America, there may be a degree there which incorporates the name Lucifer. I simply do not know. However the word Lucifer is used only once in scripture in Isaiah 14:12 "How you are fallen from heaven "O Day Star", Son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!" Here the R.S.V. translation of "O Day Star" is the Latin light-bearer and is translated "O Lucifer son of the morning art thou". It is translation of the Hebrew helel and is applied to the king of Babylon in reference to his glory and pomp by the Prophet writing in B.C.720. This imagery is applied to Christ in 2 Pet.l.l9 as "day star" and in Rev. 22:16 as "The Morning Star". Taken in conjunction with Luke 10:18 "and he said to them I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven", it was used as a synonym for the devil by St. Jerome and other Fathers in the 3rd century A.D.
It becomes clear that, as masonry is neither a religion nor a substitute for religion the bulk of the relevance of our critics arguments are illogical for they are based on a false premise. It cannot be a religion for it offers no opportunity for worship. Yet it is a religious philosophy which deals with works and not grace. There are many philosophies which point to God and many movements correctly described as religious in that they make use of religious symbolism to elevate the mind. Baden Powell is quoted to have said "There is no religious side to scouting yet the whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realisation and service of God"
It is the Sin of Pride which suggests that God only speaks or illuminates the Christian. There are not many Christians today who really believe the doctrine that outside the church there is no salvation. To do so is to deny the hope of salvation to Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Unitarians and many others. Let's face it, it is God who decides, all grace comes from God alone. Our problem, as I see it, is one of ignorance both on the part of masons and non-masons. For the mason we need to focus more on truth and not use our speculative thinking to create synthetic structures for our reality. It is a well known fact that much of the writings of masonic mystics are as distasteful and embarrassing to the craft as they are to Christian readers. Truth alone should be our guide.
BOOKS AGAINST FREEMASONRY
MATHER, George A. & NICHOLS, Larry A., "Masonic Lodge" Zondervan Guide to Cults &
Religious Movements. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49530, USA 1984.
McKENNEY, Tom C., "Please Tell Me, Questions People ask about Freemasonry - and the Answers", Huntington House Publishers, Lafayette, Louisianna, USA. 1994.
PROUT, Donald A., "Freemasonry - Friend or Foe?", Standeast Publishing Co., Surrey Hills, Melbourne, 7th Edition, 1989.
RONGSTAD, James L., "The Lodge - How to Respond", Revised Edition. Concordia Publishing House, St.Louis, MO, 63118-3968, USA, 1995.
SHAW, Jim & McKENNEY, Tom, "The Deadly Deception", Huntington House Publishers, Lafayette, Louisianna, USA. 1988.
STORMS, E.M., "Should a Christian be a Mason?", New Puritan Library Inc., Fletcher, NC, 28732, USA, 15th printing 1994.
DEWAR, James, "The Unlocked
Secret - Freemasonry Examined", William Kimbler, London, SW1,
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