Peter & Kelly

on The Way

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Peter & Kelly + Lukas + Emmet + Danai

Going to Heaven: The concept of heaven in the Bible and Christian teaching
Research Paper (All Nations Christian College) 2 June 2004 — Peter Passchier

Is participation in Freemasonry wholesome for disciples of Jesus?
Advanced Religions Paper (All Nations Christian College) 7 May 2004 — Peter Passchier

Passages from Colossians and Hebrews compared
Assignment Christology (All Nations Christian College) 5 December 2003 — Peter Passchier

Is Israel's election related to any inherent qualities?
Assignment Old Testament Theology (All Nations Christian College) 28 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

The Gospel and the Religions
Reading Report Theology of Mission (All Nations Christian College) 11 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

Efforts towards unity within the church
Assignment Churchplanting (All Nations Christian College) 27 June 2003 — Peter Passchier

Jesus: transactional or transformational?
Assignment Leadership (All Nations Christian College) 20 June 2003 — Peter Passchier

Isaiah in crises
Assignment History and Literature of the Hebrew Bible (All Nations Christian College) 17 March 2003 — Peter Passchier

Do missionaries destroy cultures?
Assignment Social Anthropology (All Nations Christan College) 6 December 2002 — Peter Passchier

Temple Tumult
Assignment New Testament: Gospels and Acts (All Nations Christian College) 29 November 2002 — Peter Passchier

Acts
Initial Assignment (All Nations Christian College) 1 October 2002 — Peter Passchier

A Narrow Escape
A Narrow Escape (Creative writing) 13 September 2015 — Kelly Passchier



Advanced Religions Paper (All Nations Christian College) 7 May 2004 — Peter Passchier

Is participation in Freemasonry wholesome for disciples of Jesus?

Introduction

Should a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ be initiated into Freemasonry — such a question requires making a moral judgement, and can be evaluated from widely different viewpoints. A student at an evangelical bible school, heavily involved in a community of professing disciples of Jesus, might have a different idea of wholesomeness than a Christian who is active in Freemasonry, not to mention people who have a more negative attitude towards Christianity. The definition of wholesome is key to answering this question, it is the bone of contention for differing systems of morality and religious convictions. The question is not whether the presence of Christians might be wholesome for the lodge that they would be participating in, nor is it about the potential contribution that this involvement might have towards the work of spreading the gospel — particularly among Masons. The wholesomeness of Masonic commitment is to be evaluated in terms of its benefits to being a disciple of Jesus, of it being in line with His purposes, as this paper seeks to assess the compatibility between participation in Freemasonry and following Jesus. A general evangelical understanding of being Christian will be presumed: holy living —shunning and renouncing personal sin— and an uncompromised dedication to the calling of Jesus on one's life, as the emphasis of this discussion will be on examining Freemasonry rather than Christianity.

Freemasonry is a huge and diverse subject matter, with a vast array of differences between rites, traditions, orders, branches, degrees and countries. Not even the metaphor of masonry and architecture is common to all branches of what can be loosely referred to as Freemasonry. For the purposes of this discussion the focus will be on the first three degrees of Freemasonry, usually referred to as the Blue Lodge or Craft Masonry. All Masons —regardless of their initial religion— are supposed to first go through the initiations associated with these degrees, whatever branch of Freemasonry they might choose to enter into later. They are the prerequisite for all degrees, rites, orders or charters to follow — some of which are only accessible to Christians, while others cater to different religious persuasions — but many go no further than the initial three degrees of Craft Masonry. They are mostly identical between lodges and even countries, and they are the oldest degrees, still largely in their original formulations from the beginning of the eighteenth century.

Defining Freemasonry

Mackey in his encyclopaedia (Tsoukalas, 1995:3) quotes Knoop (see McCormick, 1984:22) in an attempt to capture the essence of Freemasonry: Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols (this definition is also part of the Blue Lodge ritual, see Short, 1990:45). This definition neglects to mention the dimension of world-view and belief-system, that plays a major part in gaining a spiritual understanding Freemasonry. But it is equally important to describe Freemasonry as an institution — a semi-secret fraternal organization aiming to further the character development of its members and contributing to the needs of society at large. Semi-secret refers to the fact that the existence of Freemasonry is no secret, but what happens in the Lodge and what Freemasons believe, is — although hardly any secrets have been left uncovered (Darrah in Morey, 1993:107), especially because many ex-Masons have written books, like Finney (1948), Harris (1983) and Shaw (Shaw & McKenney, 1988). La Fontaine found in her study on initiation (La Fontaine, 1985) that Freemasonry fitted in with similar organizations that originated in other parts of the world: membership is not publicly advertised, and most often there is no active recruitment, membership is most often single-sex —usually males only— and featuring a hierarchical advancement structure within the society — not as a top-down pyramid structure, but as an upward ladder. Initiation is a social transaction, usually involving secrecy about its ritual and often requiring oaths, thereby setting the initiated apart from the non-initiated and at the same time positioning the initiated within the organization (La Fontaine, 1985:15). Often initiations have an aspect of death and rebirth, and the newly initiated finds a whole new world opening up, with new rules and opportunities. Indeed, one consideration in joining such an organization is the social network it offers together with the security of belonging — especially because often members find themselves at variance with the dominant structures of the society at large (La Fontaine, 1985:49-56). In the case of Freemasonry, a divergent religiosity is offered as an alternative to the dominant church or to a situation of different churches with contending beliefs (see also Colville Smith, 1926:4). In addition to La Fontaine's characteristics, Freemasonry is explicitly into personal development of its members and benevolence towards humankind.

Freemasonry's goal is often briefly formulated as "making good men better" — only men of good moral standing are supposed to be invited to enter, and Freemasonry aims to refine the characters of its members. The exact nature of masonic morality is not easy to establish (Ankerberg & Weldon, 1989:61-74), although loyalty to Freemasonry is decidedly important as is keeping your word in general (Mackey, in Knight, 1983:239) and your oaths particularly. One's own conscience is deemed the main guide to morality (Colville Smith, 1926:3), as there is no single authoritative source in any one scripture. An important characteristic of Freemasonry is the aspiration to unite men of different religious affiliations, effectively constituting a universalistic umbrella, assimilating all religious views —exclusivist or not— and subsuming them in a syncretistic framework. Members can only be accepted when they profess to believe in a Supreme Being. The Masonic generic designation for God in the Blue Lodge ritual is T.G.A.O.T.U. — The Grand Architect Of The Universe. Originally, being of good moral standing and a belief in God are the main prerequisites for a man seeking admittance into a lodge — added to that perhaps having sufficient financial means. (For outward appearances, but also because one needs to continue paying dues to the Blue Lodge even after having moved on into other branches, otherwise membership will be suspended.) To avoid clashes between members with different religious beliefs, showing the outworking of your beliefs in one's character and actions is encouraged, while discussions are discouraged. Especially the discussion of Jesus is deemed undesirable — demonstrably as a reaction to various forms of Christian persecution of Freemasonry, but also because of its universalistic aspirations. It is easy to find websites implicating Freemasonry in all kinds of conspiracies, notably towards world government and a single world religion. While cases of power abuse on a smaller scale have been documented and popularised by Knight (1983) and Short (1990), it appears that the institution of Freemasonry is not influential enough to be a driving force in any such conspiracy — although its goals may be compatible with alleged conspiracies. A number of Christian authors emphasize that Freemasonry should be viewed as a religion, like Tsoukalas (1995:17-42), Ankerberg & Weldon (1990:37-43), Hannah (1963:28-42) and Lawrence (1987); Masonic sources are divided over this issue, although most would submit to the notion that Freemasonry is a religious institution (Storms, 1980:83). The belief in a Deity is required, an encompassing worldview is presented, arranging one's life to be in line with that worldview is expected, morality is important, prayer is practised, 'religious feelings' are aroused, there is ritual praxis and the handling of sacred objects, all of which gives rise to a social group bound together by these characteristics of a religion (Alston in Tsoukalas, 1995:24-25).

Freemasonry's history

The history of Freemasonry is much researched and debated, both within Freemasonry and outside. An obvious milestone is the documented establishment of the Grand Lodge of England in London in 1717. Before this time there is no undisputed evidence of Freemasonry, although many claim that this is explained by the secret character of the organisation before that time — but even Masonic authorities state that little is known about the time before 1717 (Coil, in Ankerberg & Weldon, 1990:35). It is widely accepted that confabulations about its origins started soon after this time (Mackey, in Morey, 1993:77). Harris (1983:21-23) presents a brief and insightful reconstruction of how Freemasonry might have had its origins in the building of the tower of Babel — as many Masons would have it. Robinson (1989) presents an appealing —though definitely not the first— theory with intriguing circumstantial evidence about a Knight Templars origin, although the postulated four centuries of almost total secrecy do not help to substantiate this. Freemasonry in its Blue Lodge ritual uses legends from the time of the building of the first temple in Jerusalem under the auspices of Solomon, but many traditions and orders go far beyond that, to Nimrod, Noah and even back to Adam. Most theories of origin range far back into prehistoric times of civilizations and religions from all over the globe, without any means to support them other than the similarities between the content of masonic ritual and the sported ancient lore — often fabricated for lack of historic information (see Hallam in Morey, 1993:67). Researching Masonic history is like entering a swamp, where hard evidence might give way, secrecy covers many facts, and —perhaps merely purported— documents are not easily accessible. An origin in the mediaeval guild of stonemasons is often assumed, but not unanimously accepted (Dewar, 1966:28-38). The guilds operated within a Roman Catholic framework; the guild's main purpose would be to monopolise a particular craft and to set its trade apart from related crafts by keeping secrets. References to the guild of free-stone masons date from the fourteenth century (McCormick, 1984:23), and a number of references circulate hinting at the transition from operative Masonry —continuations from the guilds— to speculative —symbolical and philosophical— Masonry. During the time of the reformation in Britain operative Masonry was largely rooted out (Short, 1990:46-49) and even before 1717 lodges would scarcely have an operative Mason in them — the acceptance of non-operative members was the chief means of survival for the remaining lodges. Non-operative Masons could be accepted into a lodge, and men with Rosicrucian, Hermetical or Kabbalistic interests seemed especially eligible (McCormick, 1984:26; Short 1990:49). Morey (1993) contends that Freemasonry was originally Christian, and obviously Masonry's environment was clearly Christian — although that still leaves room for occultic roots.

The developments after 1717 have been more accurately charted, but even if there was secret Freemasonry before that time, the semi-secrecy still stifles research — compounded by the fact that the movement —almost literally— exploded over England and Europe in the eighteenth century, with hundreds of different —especially higher— degrees in operation, and many orders being devised. An important schism developed between the English lodges and the lodges on the continent, notably those in France where the lodges became increasingly atheistic in their outlook, in the end forsaking one of the original landmarks of Freemasonry: the belief in a Grand Deity. This led to an excommunication of sorts in 1877, where members of French lodges —under the supreme command of the Order of the Orient— were no longer welcome in the British and North-American Lodges — even until today. In France, there had been an even stronger influence of Rosicrucianism —and through that of Kabbalism— together with an early condemnation and subsequent persecution by the Roman Catholic church. This in particular has led to the fact that in most countries where the Roman Catholic faith is dominant the lodges are strongly atheistic, (grand)fathered by the French, Italian and Spanish Lodges. The Roman Catholic Church condemned Freemasonry rather strongly, starting in 1738 (McCormick, 1984:100), probably stimulated by Masonic political involvement —especially in Italy and France— and by the increasingly anti-Christian attitude and Hermetic belief systems within the Continental Lodges. But the Vatican might also have been more sensitive to indications of blasphemy and universalistic claims (Hannah, 1963:67-69), and the spirit of Deism and Reason that pervaded the movement. Interestingly, the Anglican church has been rather Mason-friendly (Hannah, 1963), and membership of a Lodge could be regarded as an asset for clergy as they migrated upwards through the church hierarchy. Later, Freemasonry in Britain was thoroughly universalised and de-Christianised in 1813, when all formal —and surely informal— prayers were no longer to be offered in the name of Jesus (Hannah, 1957:32). Eventually —in 1987— Freemasonry was officially found to be incompatible with the Anglican faith by a dedicated Working Group composed of both Masons and non-Masons (Short, 1990:84-89). In the last decades of the twentieth century, membership figures have obviously been dwindling, and an attempt has been made to shed some of the secrecy by allowing tours through Lodges for the general public in an attempt to attract some positive interest. Freemasonry in the United States has largely been influenced by the British lodges, although developments there have been largely autonomous since the nineteenth century. Also here anti-Christian sentiments rose —under the leadership of Pike— as a result of the anti-masonic movement in 1826-1836 following the execution of an ex-Freemason who had revealed Masonic secrets, which led to an evangelical Christian revival. At the beginning of the twentieth century, when Freemasonry went through another growth spurt — especially in America. A large number of worldwide denominations condemned the movement, the Orthodox churches, most Presbyterian churches, and many others. The United States had been through several waves of anti-Freemasonry sentiment with each Christian revival. Freemasonry mainly responded to persecutions by clarifying misunderstandings about its teachings, practices and character, and by disassociating itself further from its Christian heritage — also an attempt to become less offensive to potential members of other religions.

Freemasonry theory and practice

Masonic Theology

Salvation in Freemasonry is described as "being accepted into the Celestial Lodge Above". The belief in the immortality of the soul is seen as very important, and hence its abode in the afterlife, although there is never any mention of hell. The soul is expected to be accepted by purity of life and conduct, and by the willingness to abide by the teachings of Masonry a favourable judgement before the throne of God is hoped for. There is no complete assurance of salvation, although keeping a spotless record in this life —symbolised by the Mason's white lambskin apron— is almost a guarantee. There is no direct mention of sin in Masonic ritual, although it is clearly hinted at, and no mention of grace to do away with it — sin has to be kept within bounds and diminished through self-improvement by the works of the Lodge, clearly a notion of salvation through works. Vicarious atonement is rejected, and Jesus is seen as the exemplar of Christianity, like Hiram Abiff is the exemplar of Craft Masonry, paving the way for men to save themselves. Consequently, all religions lead to the same goal, and any claims of singularity —like Jesus's (John 14:6)— should be de-emphasized or discarded. Mormonism has borrowed much of its temple ritual from the Craft degrees, as its founders were Masonic initiates (McCormick, 1984:95-99). As such, it can serve as a model for compatibility of Christianity and Freemasonry, showing how they might be combined into one religious system, although the idea of men becoming gods is beyond the authors of the Blue Lodge rituals. Short (1990:85) lists ten heresies that Freemasonry could be charged with.

As to the question about the Masonic authoritative writings, one has to take into account that Freemasonry is a nondogmatic institution as a matter of principle. What is regarded as most authoritative are the rituals themselves, they describe what Masons go through on their various initiations. The ritual for the Craft degrees was written by Anderson together with Desaguliers in 1723; they do get revised every once in a while by special committees, but it is deemed desirable that they keep being comparable internationally. There have been quite a number of masonic encyclopaedists, notably Mackey, Coil, Waite and Hall, but the paganising influence of Pike on —especially American— Freemasonry has been most substantial, as he rewrote the most influential post-Blue Lodge order of the Scottish Rite. His influence only began to expand some decades after his death, in the beginning of the twentieth century, but was counteracted by an influx of conservative Christians around the same time (Morey, 1993:31).

The Craft degrees

The initial contact with Freemasonry is usually through initiation into the Blue Lodge, unless someone as a child was part of a Masonic society —DeMolay for boys is particularly well known— or in the case of women, who can participate in degrees similar to the Craft degrees, like the Order of the Eastern Star. In those cases, both children and women must be related to a man who has been through the Craft degrees and is in good standing in his Lodge — for that reason, these adolescent and female rites are referred to as adoptive rites. A man who wants to be initiated into Freemasonry has to approach someone he knows is a Mason and ask to be proposed as a member — this needs to be seconded by another member; Lodges are officially forbidden to ask anybody to join, although this does increasingly happen. If the initiate is approved of by all or most members of the Lodge, he will be taken through the first degree, called Entered Apprentice, which establishes the initiate as a seeker of 'light'. The elaborate ritual that is performed and the paraphernalia that are used have several layers of meaning, and these are interpreted in various ways by Masonic authorities — whole branches of Freemasonry are dedicated to teaching about the first three degrees, therefore they can properly be called foundational. The author of the Blue Lodge ritual could not possibly have been aware of all the possible exegeses —or eisegeses— that would be done on his work. An interesting object that is used in all three degrees is the Bible — although this could be any book that is regarded holy in the applicable religious environment. The choice of the Volume of Sacred Law is usually not rigorously adapted to the initiate's original religious affiliation, although it is desirable that there be reverence for the particular scripture, because the oath to secrecy is sworn upon it. The penalties for breaking the oaths have been a main focus of criticism for their cruelty and unlawfulness; these penalties have been retracted in most counties in the last few decades (in 1986 for Britain — Short, 1990:53). There is a remarkable number of direct quotes from the Bible in the rituals, as well as the borrowing of many concepts. It generally does not take long for the subsequent two degrees to be attained, first the Fellow Craft degree, and finally the Master Mason degree, which enacts the Legend of Hiram Abiff. Set around the building of Solomon's temple, Hiram Abiff —the widow's son— is killed hastily buried because he did not want to reveal the secret word to his assailants; they get remorse, and Hiram Abiff is reburied. This is meant to teach the immortality of the soul, or perhaps the resurrection of the body (Tsoukalas, 1995:80). The pervading flavour of the Blue Lodge degrees is the pre-Christian Mystery Religions and the subsequent Gnosticism — most characteristics of the ancient mysteries can be identified in all degrees of Freemasonry (McCormick, 1984:86-94; Tsoukalas, 1995:86-90). The pomp —both in words and paraphernalia— of Masonic ritual is often brought up as being at variance with the teachings of Jesus, but the supposedly deeper meanings are those that the apostles Paul, John, Peter and Jude warn against.

Conclusion

From most Christian perspectives, the question of the wholesomeness of a Christian's initiation into Freemasonry is easily answered with a no. There are many books by explicitly Christian authors doing just that; indeed, one would be unlikely to find a book devoted to answering this question in an affirmative manner, as no author would bother writing it. From a Masonic perspective, a Christian's participation in Freemasonry would be commendable — the main paradigm would be integration rather than polarisation. Freemasonry seems to be designed to be compatible with Christianity — the works-oriented ethics, and the use of idolatrous imagery and allegory were not out of place within the Christian environment at the time of inception. Even the Hermetic elements were in vogue at a time where Kabbalistic philosophy became available to a wider public; Freemasonry can be viewed as a Gnostic reinterpretation of Christianity (Hannah, 1957:13; McCormick, 1984:86-94). In spite of the similarities between Christianity and Freemasonry, their mindsets conflict. Active Freemasons bring a divided allegiance and a slanted religious view into any Christian fellowship in which they would take part, while —in general— the participation in Lodges of earnest disciples of Jesus might conversely affect their loyalties and mainly serve to perpetuate the institution of Freemasonry. Participation in secret societies is contrary to the revelation of the Gospel: any truth worth knowing is worth sharing with the whole world. Christians should foremost have a loving attitude towards Freemasons —whether they claim to be Christian or not— and aim to bring down the barriers between them instead of erecting even more.

Bibliography

Ankerberg, J, & Weldon, J. The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge — A Christian Perspective (Chicago: Moody, 1990).

Colville Smith, P. Constitutions (London: United Grand Lodge of England, 1926).

Dewar, J. The Unlocked Secret — Freemasonry Examined (London: Kimber, 1966).

Finney, C.G. Character and Claims of Freemasonry (Chicago: NCA, 1948).

Hannah, W. Darkness Visible — A Christian Appraisal of Freemasonry (Chulmleigh: Augustine, 1963).

Hannah, W. Christian by Degree — The Non-Christian Nature of Masonic Ritual (Chulmleigh: Augustine, 1957).

Harris, J. Freemasonry: The Invisible Cult in Our Midst (Chattanooga, TN: 1983).

Knight, S. The Brotherhood (London: Granada, 1983).

La Fontaine, J.S. Initiation — Ritual drama and secret knowledge across the world (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985).

Lawrence, J. Freemasonry — a Religion? (Eastbourne: Kingsway, 1987).

McCormick, W.J.M. Christ, the Christian & Freemasonry (Belfast: Great Joy, 1984).

Morey, R. The Truth about Masons (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1993).

Robinson, J.J. Born in Blood — The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry (London: Century, 1989).

Short, M. Inside the Brotherhood (Glasgow: Collins, 1990).

Shaw, J. & McKenney, T. The Deadly Deception (Lafayette, LA: Huntington House, 1988).

Storms, E.M. Should a Christian Be a Mason? (Fletcher, NC: New Puritan Library, 1980).

Tsoukalas, S. Masonic Rights and Wrongs (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1995).


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