The Ecumenical Religion Of Masonry
Fletcher, North Carolina
It is well established that the Masonic Lodge is a religious institution. Many Masonic writers have admitted this truth including Henry Pirtle in The Kentucky Monitor who stated that "Masonry is a religious institution," and that "Masonry is a worship." Joseph Fort Newton, a Mason who wrote at least seven popular books on the subject of Freemasonry, entitled one of his volumes The Religion of Masonry.
Brother A.C. Grider, in an article written several years ago, pointed out the religious nature of the Masonic Lodge by quoting from three representative Masonic books, The Kentucky Monitor by Henry Pirtle, Morals and Dogma by Albert Pike, and the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Albert G. McKay. Grider showed from these three works that " 1. The Masonic Lodge is a religious institution. 2. The Masonic Lodge is open for religious purposes. 3. The Masonic Lodge has religious ceremonies. 4. Masonry produces a religious faith. 5. Masons engage in religious worship. 6. Masonry is a religion. 7. Masonry is worship. 8. The Masonic Lodge will lead to heaven. 9. Masonry fits one for immortal nature. 10. Masonry builds a spiritual temple. 11. The Masonic Lodge has a redeemer, a High Priest, a creed, an Altar, a Decalogue, and a crucifix. 12. Masons practice baptism, eat the Lord's Supper, Burn Incense, and keep Easter."
However, one ought not to conclude that the Masonic Lodge is merely a cult, a sect, or a denomination of religion that would be parallel to the Mormon church, the Roman Catholic religion, or the Moonies. The Masonic religion is far more subtle and far more dangerous than that. Its elaborate symbolism is derived from many ancient religious and occult sources. To a background of ancient Persian and Egyptian paganism is added a generous portion of Gnosticism (one of the first major heresies), a handful of Jewish Kabbalisin (a system of esoteric theosophy, based on a mystical interpretation of the Scriptures), and even a bit of medieval alchemy. None of this symbolism is to be taken literally, and it would be a mistake to suppose that Masons actually practice magic or give credence to any particular false religion through their ritual. Masonry seeks to be a religion that comprehends all of the so-called "great religions" and philosophies of the world. It teaches that the same basic truths, the only truths of eternal significance, are to be found in most, if not all, of the major religions of history.
The Masonic Lodge is a sort of extra-ecclesiastical ecumenical movement. It operates on the premise that adherents of all the differing religions, even those most diametrically opposed, such as Christianity and Hinduism, can meet on common ground in the Lodge and enjoy spiritual fellowship as brethren without sacrificing any of their sectarian convictions. As General Albert Pike put it: "In no other way could Masonry possess its character of Universality; that character which has ever been peculiar to it from its origin; and which enables two Kings, worshipers of different Deities, to sit together as Masters, while the walls of the first temple arose; and the men of Gebal, bowing down to the Phoenician Gods, to work by the side of the Hebrews, to whom those Gods were abomination; and to sit with them in the same lodge as brethren" (Morals and Dogma, p. 276).
William Hutchinson, in The Spirit of Masonry, expresses this thought well: "All Masons, therefore, Christians, Jews, or Mohammedans, who violate not the rule of right, written by the Almighty upon the tables of the heart, who do fear Him, and work righteousness, we are to acknowledge as brethren; and, though we take different roads, we are not to be angry with, or persecute each other on that account. We mean to travel to the same place; we know that the end of our journey is the same; and we affectionately hope to meet in the Lodge of perfect happiness."
Masonry does not accept the fact that God has revealed to man through the Holy Scriptures all spiritual truth that he is capable of receiving. Masonry is a quest for new religious truth. "Thus Masonry, so far from limiting the thought of God, is evermore in search of a more satisfying and revealing vision of the meaning of the universe, now luminous and lovely, now dark and terrible; and it invites all men to unite in the quest..." (Joseph Fort Newton, The Builders).
The Masonic Lodge requires faith in a supreme Being, but of the name or of the nature of that Being it asks for no agreement. As the Masonic poet Alexander Pope expressed it:
Father of all!
in every age,
In every clime adored,
By Saint, by Savage, and by Sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Masonry teaches the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, and this without condition and without the necessity of redemption through the blood of Christ. "For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, and even after death do us part, all men are held together by ties of spiritual kinship, sons of one eternal Friend" (Newton, The Builders).
Masonry teaches that its own philosophy is able to reform the world and to ameliorate what Christians know to be the effects of sin. "The Spirit of Masonry! Ay, when that spirit has its way upon earth, as at last it surely will, society will be a vast communion of kindness and justice, business a system of human service, law a rule of beneficence; the home will be more holy, the laughter of childhood more joyous, and the temple of prayer mortised and tenoned in simple faith" (Newton, The Builders).
According to the teaching of the Lodge, Freemasonry has been in existence since the building of Solomon's temple. Thus, if we accept the word of Masons, a system of religion that had been in existence at least a thousand years before Christ was born in Judea, has the power to reconcile sinners to one another and to God (if they, indeed, require the latter), to regenerate human society, and to point men the way to eternal life. This makes the sacrifice of Christ on the cross an unnecessary act and the shedding of His blood a wasteful mistake.
Masonry claims to bring about, or at least to make manifest, a spiritual fellowship between those who follow God's revealed will (the Bible) and those who reject it. Yet if we accept the Bible as eternal truth, we must conclude that such an idea of fellowship is utterly impossible, and has been so throughout all dispensations of religion. For this reason and others, Masonic writers of high standing always tend to view the Scriptures as allegorical. A literal interpretation of the Bible severs the very taproot of Freemasonry.
We live in an age that seems to be a fulfillment of Masonic predictions. Though there are more religious sects than ever before, and the differences in their doctrines are no less prominent, there seems to be an unwritten agreement among most of them that these differences are of no real importance and that sincere persons of all religions will meet in heaven. This attitude is seen in the modern ecumenical movement in which many Protestant denominations are seeking unity of all segments of the restoration movement without requiring any group to give up any sinful practice. There have for many years been some brethren who have joined the Masonic Lodge and have tried to reconcile this with their membership in churches of Christ. Masonry has undoubtedly had some influence upon the thinking of brethren; just how much it would be difficult to assess. It is unfortunate that some brethren cannot come to an understanding of the truth and terminate their membership in the Masonic Lodge. It is even more alarming when we see brethren, whatever their affiliations, begin to talk and to act as if they were being guided by the Masonic philosophy.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 5, pp. 131-132