Freemasonry and Christianity

Freemasonry and Christianity

by  Bro. Gordon Haynes
(Grand lodge of Alberta)


   Brethren,  I would like to take a small portion of your time tonight to
talk about the relationship between Christianity and Freemasonry,  and
particularly to the question whether or not Christianity and Freemasonry are
mutually exclusive.

   In doing this, I recognize that I am talking to a number of different groups.
First, there is the group that will view with amazement the prospect of a
Presbyterian clergyman getting up in front of a captive audience and
restricting himself to anything less than 45 minutes.  This group certainly
includes my wife at home, and probably includes those brethren here who attend
my church. A second group will be those of other faiths (or no particular
faith at all), who will hopefully view this talk with mild interest, but who
will wonder what all the fuss is about. To them, I apologize for restricting
myself to Christianity, but it is the faith group to which I belong, and it is
the one of which I am most knowledgeable.

   I think that we should also recognize the effect on Freemasonry if the
Christian Church becomes openly hostile.

   To focus on that effect, I would ask (with the Master's permission) if you
would all please stand up. Now, I would ask all those who attend, or are
involved with, a Christian church would sit down. To those who are left
standing, just imagine what this lodge would be like if all those who are
sitting were no longer here.  THAT is the effect of any friction between
Christianity and Freemasonry.

   But I digress.  There are two more groups that I will be speaking to this
evening.  The first is maybe the larger of the two, and includes most of those
that just sat down.  This group may be aware of some anti-Masonic feeling in
the church, but have not been greatly touched by it themselves. The final
group,  though, is the one that I truly want to speak to.  It may be small may not!  It is the group of masons that includes those who have felt
pressure from their church, or members of their church, to leave Freemasonry.
It includes those who perhaps are asking questions to themselves, wondering if
any of those attacks on the lodge is right.

       How bad can the problems be?

   In 1986 (I believe), the Methodist Church in England said that one could not
be a Mason and a Christian.  The Church of England debated a similar
resolution the following year. The Church of Scotland had a similar debate,
and sent the question off to a committee (who, I understand, have yet to
report). In 1987, the Presbyterian  Record, which is the national church
magazine for The Presbyterian Church in Canada, had a series of letters  over
several months that questioned whether one could be a Mason and an Elder in
the church at the same time.  I gather that the same debate has been held in
other church magazines in Canada and the United States.

   In 1987, I was asked to speak on the relationship of Christianity and
Freemasonry at the Grand Masonic Day in Vancouver.  After I had talked  for a
few minutes, I opened the time for questions. The results confounded me.
Masons got up to tell me that their minister had told them to stop being a
Mason, or stop coming to that church.  Others who we re elders, or deacons, or
wardens in their churches talked about how they had to hide their  ties to
Masonry around the church.  One young Mason even told me how his minister had
commanded him to leave the Craft, or risk damnation.

   Over the next year, letters continued to come to me telling me of the problems
being faced by Masons, including one from the Master of the Lodge of the young
Mason I had talked to, telling me that the young man had left Masonry.
  So having hopefully convinced you that there is a problem of Christian  Masons
being  confronted  with  a fair amount  of anti-Masonic feeling out there, let
me look at why this feeling exists. I would like to suggest that much of that
feeling comes from the world-view of the Christian Church, and whether it is
"inclusive" or "exclusive".  To that are three basic areas of irritation.

       "Inclusive" vs. "Exclusive"

   To begin, let me quote from a summary of a report given to the General Synod
of the Church of England  (as reported in the Masonic Bulletin of the Grand
Lodge of British Columbia):

   The report concludes that part of the Royal Arch ritual must be considered
blasphemous. [N.B.: A MISINTERPRETATION of the ritual].  It  criticizes
Freemasonry in general as syncretistic [i.e. attempting to unify or reconcile
different religions]; Gnostic [having its own spiritual knowledge]; Palagian
[providing salvation through works]; Deist [promoting natural religion, or a
religion without divine authority] and indifferent to the claims of
Christianity. It insists that Masonic ceremonies involve worship, and
complains that Christian references have been removed from familiar prayers.

   In  response  to this report, the United Grand Lodge  of  England said:

   Many such charges have been made against Freemasonry before and can be
answered simply. Freemasonry has no theology. It offers no sacraments and it
cannot provide a way to salvation. It began in the hands of devout Christians
and was adapted by them, not to deny Christianity, but to make Freemasonry as
a system of morality acceptable to men of other religions "who  must otherwise
have remained at a perpetual distance." Freemasonry is not a religion and does
not attempt to combine religions. It would cheerfully admit to being
indifferent to the claims of Christianity --in the sense of being impartial.
Its prayers are but a small part of the ceremonies and are in no sense formal
or liturgical worship. (Masonic Bulletin, October 1987, page 14)

   Although they seem to be addressing the same topic, in reality the two bodies
were not even in the same ballpark. To read the two statements together makes
me wonder if they were talking about the same thing, and indeed they were not.
They were talking past each other, with each body having their own world view
blinding them to the position of the other.

   To try to explain this problem, I need you to follow me through a bit of a
Gordon Haynes' abridged history of the world, back to the middle and late
1700's. Europe had seen a lot of religious war. The church was facing a lot of
change in a short period of time. Many of the brightest of the thinkers of the
time had been affected by the Enlighten ment. These conditions caused
so-called "free-thinkers" to seek to apply reason to everything -- even their
spiritual life. The response, in broad terms, was "Deism".

   The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology says of Deism:

   "Etymologically this word (from the Latin "deus") is parallel to "theism"
(from the Greek "theos"), and would seem simply to indicated belief in the
existence of a god or gods. ... Although in  the seventeenth century the words
were sometimes used interchangeably as the contrary to "atheist", in practice
they have come to have separate connotations . "Deism" is now used to refer to
belief in the existence of a supreme being who is regarded as the ultimate
source of reality and ground of value but as not intervening in natural and
historical processes by way of  particular providences, revelations and
salvific  acts. [Theism, meantime, is a belief in the existence of a supreme
being who is regarded as the ultimate source of reality and ground of value and
intimately and ultimately involved in God's creation and with his people, by
way of miraculous events and his incarnation] ... The deists may be said to be
those at this time [the late 17th, and 18th Centuries] who apply the principles
of the Enlightenment, and especially the canon of reason  to religious belief
in a critical way in order to establish what it is and what it is not
reasonable to believe about God.  As a consequence they tend to stress the
importance of following reason, the sufficiency of natural religion and the
need for toleration.  Negatively they are likely to express doubts about belief
in mysteries such as the Incarnation and the Trinity, in the reality of
immortality, revelations and miraculous interventions, and in the authority of
the Bible and of the priesthood." (The Westminster Dictionary of Christian
Theology, page 149)

   Deist thinkers were everywhere, from the Universities to the pulpits of the
church. And so, as Freemasonry sought leadership on putting together its ritual
and mythology, it turned to a leadership both within the church, and without,
that  was predominantly Deist. The qualities brought by this leadership were a
search for common ground among people who differed in what they  believed (a
consequence of many years of  sectarian violence), a belief in rational thought
(a consequence of the Enlightenment) and a strong attachment to ethical
development. At the same time, the search for a mythology turned to the
mysticism of pre-Enlightenment time. The result was a combination of rituals
influenced by the symbols of medieval and renaissance occultism, and content of
a deistic and ethical character. Freemasonry was not alone in its acceptance of
some of the beliefs of Deism. Over the years, the Church itself made use of
some of the gifts of deism, while not accepting its full implication. After
all, Deism: ... established an ideal of liberty and toleration that all
right-thinking men might endorse. It promoted an improvement in public morals,
and as a corollary of its rejection of revelation, it emphasized the value of
scholarship as an aid to a purer religion. The monumental Biblical studies of
the 19th Century followed as a direct consequence.

   The deist's attempts to reconcile religion with science, as well as with
many other intellectual currents, set a precedent for all subsequent
reconstructions in religion.  (The  Westminster Dictionary of Church History,
page 262)

   In the same way, the church also accepted Freemasonry with its emphasis on
ethical conduct. It often cooperated closely with it, and many church leaders
were also influential Masons.

   This is what I referred to earlier as the "Inclusive"  world view.  The
church, influenced by Liberal theology, appalled by the social condition, and
seeing itself led by "The Great Commission" of Christ, started many
organizations that sought to improve "mankind" by education and reason. These
organizations were open to all, and intended to do the church's work away from
the church. The YMCA, the SPCA, the Bible Societies, and the Red Cross are but
a few of these organizations.  They were not intended to be the church, but
they were supported as fellow travelers.

   I believe that this was the view of the mainline church for many years
regarding freemasonry. I remember preaching in a church in Niagara-on-the-Lake,
Ontario a few years ago that had the same type of tassel in each corner of the
sanctuary as we have here. I also remember being told that being a Mason was a
great advantage for becoming the Minster of a particular Presbyterian Church in
Niagara  Falls.  The tie between the church and Freemasonry was secure as the
Church took the words of Christ seriously, "Whoever is not against me is for

   In recent years, however, the church has felt under attack in ways that it
has not felt since the time of the Enlightenment. Certain elements of the
church have found the answer to this attack to be a return to a non-questioning
Theism, and a type of "circle the wagons" mentality. Christ's other statement
is remembered: "Whoever is not for us is against us," and so fences are set up
around the church, defining who is a Christian, and more importantly, who is
not. This is an "Exclusive" attitude, and is a direct result of an unease in a
changing world. Things that, in the past, would have been accepted as part of
the diversity of the faith are now seen as being "anathema" or "cursed".

   The battleground chosen by this "exclusive" position had to do with three

1. The uniqueness of the Christian Message.

2.  The question of Salvation, and whether we, as humans, have any part in

3. Symbolism.

   However, the real underlying current that feeds these tensions is how the
Church sees itself. As the church responds to the needs of God's world in an
inclusive way, it will welcome the ethical and rational grounding of
Freemasonry; as it responds in an exclusive way, it will concentrate on what is
decidedly not Christian, and renounce Freemasonry.

           The Uniqueness of the Christian Message:

   It is in this context of whether the Christian Church seeks to be tolerant
or not of conflicting faiths, that this question of the uniqueness of the
Christian messages is raised.  After all, I believe strongly in its uniqueness,
but that does not mean that I do not respect other faiths, or mean that I want
to have no contact with other faiths. To one Christian, the inclusion of other
faiths is a sign of strength and tolerance in Masonry;  to another, it is a
threat to the Christian faith. The uniqueness of Christ is not the question; it
is the mindset, or world view, of the observer.


   One of the major complaints against Freemasonry is that it teaches that Man
can earn salvation through good works. This is tied to the ethical aspect of
our craft, and again seems mostly to be a cry that Christ is not given a part
in our salvation plan as outlined by Masons. Of course, this idea that mankind
can do anything -- even earn its own salvation -- is a central part of New Age
theology, which excite Christian critics even more.

   Now, an important part of Reformed theology is that we are saved by faith,
not by works. But Calvin, whom nobody could claim was a "New Age kind of guy,"
said that we were "Justified" by Christ, and that then we were engaged in
"Sanctification" for all the rest of our lives. This was our working out of our
salvation in the world, and meant seeking to be "righteous" -- or, in more
modern terms, ethical or moral. As a Christian and a Mason, I have never had
any doubts on where my Salvation comes from (It comes from Christ), but I have
seen the emphasis on the ethical in Masonry as an aid in my Sanctification. And
so, again the question becomes one of whether you see the ethical progressi on
in Masonry as man's "self-Justification" or as a part of God's plan of
Sanctification. And this, brethren, again starts with your world view.


   Critics of Freemasonry often point to the many symbolic parts of our Craft
as an indication that it is really another faith on its own.  It points to our
having Temples and Alters, of the symbol for God in the center of our lodge
rooms, of the use of prayers and ritual, of the use of the Sun and Moon in our
decorations. Before we reply to these criticisms, we must be aware of the power
of these things we use.

            One definition of Signs and Symbols is as follows:

   Signs are physical objects, events, or human actions which point beyond
themselves in such a way as to express some further reality, occurrence, or
human conception. They may be linguistic or non-verbal;  they may include
natural phenomena or human artifacts, activities, gestures, or bodily postures.
Verbal signs may include speech or writing.... Symbols are often said to
function at a deeper level than signs ... some claim that symbols draw not
simply on interpretive conventions, as signs do, but on pre-conscious processes
and experiences. At the very least, the symbol is more closely and deeply
associated with what it symbolizes, often resting on historical or collective
experiences which pre-date conscious recollection.

   There is too little time tonight to go through all the problems with signs
and symbols.  I think that we, as Masons, must recognize that many of the terms
that we use have great significance to the Christian Church, and much of their
power goes beyond the mere words or actions that are present. It may be that we
have been at times a bit too cavalier in the way we have used symbol and
allegory, but I have never found the symbolism to be any more misused than at a
meeting of Gideons. However, to some our use of symbolism is such that they see
us as a totally separate faith, divorced from its Christian roots.


   Where does this leave each Christian who is a mason?  Well, in reality it
means that the final decision has to be a personal one.  The young mason I
mentioned at the beginning wrote a paper to explain why he left. I disagreed
with his reasons, but I note that I wrote at the top of the paper when I
received it, "It is an act of personal perception -- it cannot be changed by
facts. I must respect his personal choice." In truth, I must conclude with the
same words I used in that paper I gave 6 years ago:

   Any examination of this relationship should raise questions in the mind of
the man who is both a Christian and a Mason.  It should require that he examine
the ritual of the Lodge to see if any part is indeed in conflict with his
faith. It should raise questions about how we use words, and whether we can
sometimes offend a believer because of the way we use a particular term. And it
should raise questions in both Freemasonry and the Christian Church about how
different faiths can relate to one another ... I believe that there is no
complete answer about the relationship  between  Christianity  and Freemasonry.
The relationship is dynamic. Each time I enter the Lodge as a Christian, I
re-examine that relationship, and the questions that come with it, and I
re-evaluate if anything  I do there interferes with my faith. I suppose if I
ever came to the conclusion that there was no healthy relationship between my
faith and the Lodge, I would have to leave. But I am still here, because I
believe the inclusive tolerance that was brought into Freemasonry in the
beginning, and continues today, is right, and the relationship of Christianity
with Freemasonry is strong and vital.

   Six years ago, I said, " ... if I ever came to the conclusion that there was
no healthy relationship between my faith and the Lord, I would have to leave.
But I am still here ..." Six more years have passed. Six more years of living
as both a Christian and a mason. Six more years, and I am still here. There is
a tension between being a Christ ian and being a Mason, but I believe that it
is a creative tension that strengthens both.



   I have had the privilege of reading the paper by Bro. G.D. Haynes which I
found in the reading room.  Without any motivation to become involved in false
flattery or exaggeration, I suggest that if one can "download" a paper of this
quality from  M.B.L., the Bulletin Board has justified its existence.  Bro.
Haynes as a Presbyterian Minister brings focus and clarity to the present
conflict between certain segments of the Christian Church and Freemasonry which
Freemasonry's leaders have failed to elucidate. No useful clarification comes
from reading the writings of those opposed to Freemasonry since in almost every
case they are trapped within their own particular philosophical outlook and
therefore are unable to critique Freemasonry in a manner which in the
thoughtful Freemason's eyes would have validity.  Bro. Haynes, in his concise
article, brings the doctrinal difficulties between certain factions of the
Christian Church and Freemasonry to the surface.

   If there is a criticism of the article, [and this is not really a criticism
since I recognize that Bro. Haynes was giving a lecture in Lodge and therefore
under the usual time constraints] it is that the conciseness of the article
makes it difficult for the reader who is unfamiliar with such concepts as
"Faith through salvation alone" versus "Faith through good works" to gain a
true appreciation of the cogency of Bro. Haynes comments.

   The other point which could possible be made is that Bro. Haynes conclusion
does not assist Freemasonry in coming to grips with the constant criticism by
certain segments of Christianity who are mounting ever more vocal criticism of
the Craft.  He, as I understand him, suggests that the conclusion as to whether
or not Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity is a personal decision.
In the final analysis, I am of the opinion that he is quite correct. After all,
the Christian Faith is a highly personalized faith and the diversity of
Churches attests to that fact.

   Having made the foregoing points, I would like to emphasize that the
complexity of the subject could not possibly be dealt with in a paper given to
the Lodge.  The time constraints make this impossible.  It is hoped that
Reverend Haynes will find the time to extrapolate on the whole issue in a more
extensive paper.  The subject deserves a entire book and if the paper serves as
a preludes to his thoughts we can anticipate a book which is more lucid and
more articulate than anything the Grand Lodge of England said during their
recent controversy with the Church.

       The Importance of the Issue.

   As indicated by Reverend Haynes, the issue is one of great importance to the
Craft because we have so many members who are practicing Christians.
Additionally, the issue is important for two other reasons, namely:

   [a]  this highly vocal group of Christians who are anti- masonic in their
outlook are creating an image in the minds of the public about Freemasonry
which is very detrimental to the Craft.  No doubt it is having a detrimental
effect on our ability to attract members of the very kind and quality which we
need to attract.

   [b]  this highly vocal group of Christians who are anti- masonic in their
outlook are having [in my opinion] a detrimental effect within our lodges.  In
an effort to combat their criticisms [particularly their criticism of our
symbolism] we are making ad hoc and sometimes ill-conceived changes to a ritual
which has heretofore remained largely unchanged for centuries.  It is highly
questionable as to whether these changes are beneficial or merely detract from
the ritual in ways which in years to come will be seen as detrimental rather
than beneficial.

   These effects have resulted, in my opinion, from the failure of the Craft to
have a clear understanding of the doctrinal disputes which exist between
Freemasonry and Christianity. Until the leaders of the Craft sit down and
understand doctrines such as "Faith through salvation alone" and the dilemma of
"exclusiveness vs. inclusiveness" and the difference between "Deists" and
"Theists", we will continue to blunder along to our detriment.  Answers such as
"Masonry has no theology" are, [as Bro. Haynes points out] no answer at all to
the Christian objections.  They miss the mark.

           Coming to Grips

   Is seems to me that the first thing that Freemasonry has to do is gain an
articulate understanding of some of the landmarks {here I use this in the
non-technical sense} that over the years the Craft has developed.  Only when we
have gained a clear understanding of these doctrines can we hope to deal
adequately with the criticisms of that certain segment of Christians who oppose
Freemasonry.  I do not propose to make an exhaustive list of those doctrines,
but the following may be illustrative of the problem.


     All thoughtful masons are familiar with the concept that Freemasonry is
universal in nature.  "Our lodges stretch from East to West, from North to
South, from the centre of the earth and even as high as the heavens."  From
this we have developed the vague and uncertain concept that Freemasonry is a
universal science and from there we have extrapolated it to the incorrect view
that Freemasonry is broad enough to encompass all theological doctrines. The
latter part of this proposition, I suggest, will not bear up under scrutiny.

     Freemasonry is universal in the sense used during the Enlightenment in
that it is intended to be tolerant of all faiths. This, however, is not to say
that men of all different theologies should be accepted into Freemasonry. If a
man's theology precludes him from tolerating the religion of another man, he is
by definition unsuitable building material.  We cannot have it both ways.  If
we are to be true to our ethical principles, we must tolerate the intoleration
of others.  However, that does not mean that we should ballot in their favour.
To do so, serves neither the Petitioner or the Craft.  To place a man in the
position of taking the Degrees of Freemasonry whose Christianity is "Exclusive"
of other faiths puts him into a moral dilemma. We are challenging his faith and
in the final analysis putting him in a position whereby he must choose between
his Church and the Craft.  This we should not be doing and yet I doubt whether
our Investigation Committee's ever explore this vital dimension in sufficient
depth to be able to report to the lodge.  What, I ask, will be his moral
dilemma when he is taught in the retrospect "to look beyond the narrow limits
of any particular institution, whether civil or religious" if he chooses to
think about those words in any depth.


   Secondly, we are taught that Freemasonry is a "system of morality, veiled in
allegory and illustrated by symbols." Thus by definition we have established
some boundaries to the philosophical outlook of the Craft.   [If there were no
such definition of the boundaries of the Craft, we as a group in sociological
terms would not be a "group".]  By definition then we have chosen to use the
tool of symbolism to convey our philosophical notions and to seek answers to
those matters which lie beyond the realm of reason.  The point here is that we
should recognize that there are certain Christians and certain denominations of
Christianity who are so literal in their interpretation of the Bible that our
particular position would constitute an anathema to their beliefs.   Again, we
serve neither ourselves or the applicant be glossing over this dichotomy in our
views. What, I ask, will be his state of confusion when he is confronted with
the many many segments of the ritual which in a literal sense are historically
inaccurate or serve no useful purpose if merely taken literally.  Again, we
must recognize that Freemasonry is not universal in the sense that it can
incorporate every possible philosophical outlook.  It has a definitive set of
beliefs and modus operandi which separate it from some of the other ways of
looking at life.


     Thirdly, we should gain a clear understanding of this very pervasive
dilemma which Freemasonry has when it is confronted by the doctrine of
"Salvation through Faith alone".  I would defer to Reverend Haynes for an
articulate explanation of this central tenet of Christianity.  But for the
purposes of the reader, my awkward layman's explanation may shed some light.
The Mediaeval Church had roused the rath of the Reformers through its practice
of allowing people to literally buy their forgiveness for their sins by paying
monies as penance for their sins.  In the eyes of Luther and other reformers
this was at best hypocrisy and at worst commercial fraud. Luther's essential
point was that salvation could not be bought. If you move this a step further
and remove the element of paying money from the equation, it meant that
salvation could not be achieved by doing "good works" if they were not
performed and based on a genuine love of God but rather were merely performed
on the basis that by doing "good works" you would earn salvation irrespective
of what sins lay in your heart.   As the theology evolved during the
reformation, it was concluded that the sole path to salvation was through
faith.  In otherwords, without a genuine acceptance of Christ there was no
salvation irrespective of all the external good works you may perform in this
life.  This doctrine brought the criticism that would mean  that a person may
have faith and would be saved event though he did no good works towards his
fellow man.  This the critics said was absurd.  That is, as long as you
believed, you were saved irrespective as to what kind of scoundrel you were to
your fellow man.  The answer of the reformers was that if you were truly "born
again" or had found Christ, good works would follow axiomatically as evidence
of your faith.  The lack of good works would indicate that you did not have a
genuine or true faith in Christ but good works was not the causation for
salvation. [Here endeth my lesson in theology]

   For the Christian then the emphasis in Freemasonry on "good works" and the
continual evolution to perfection by the ever refinement of ethical and moral
conduct can be disturbing. What I understand Bro. Haynes to be saying in his
lecture is that the ritual can be seen as being in compliance with the doctrine
of Salvation through faith if one sees the ethical advancement and the charity
as evidence of a man's development of a more and more profound faith in Christ.
I am of the view that there is ample grounds within the masonic ritual to
support his view on that point.  We see in the ritual that we deliberately put
the candidate in the north east angle in a position whereby he cannot donate
worldly goods and therefore Freemasonry must be talking of some type of
internal charity.  And we see in the Junior Warden's lecture that portion which
speaks of Jacob's ladder where he teaches the candidate that the third and the
last rung being "charity, comprehends the whole and the mason who is in
possession of this virtue in its most ample sense may be justly deemed to have
arrived at the summit of Freemasonry"  And we must not forget that the very
first question a candidate has to answer is "where were you first made a mason"
and the answer is "In the Heart W.M.  My first two references to the ritual can
surely be legitimately understood by the Christian mason to reflect the
Christian viewpoint that the word charity when researched back to its Greek
meaning is intended to mean "love" as taught within the orthodox Christian
Churches.  And surely a Christian mason cannot be faulted for interpreting the
very first question a candidate is asked as being intended to exemplify in
capsulized form the development of the whole theological doctrine of "Salvation
by Faith alone."

   It then is my suggestion that there is much in the ritual for the devout
Christian to find comfort in ... and in fact there is a solid foundation for
certain types of Christians to interpret the entire masonic ritual as a
dramatization and re-enforcement of their Christian beliefs.  These points
should have been directed to the various Christian Churches in England when
they were doing their so called investigations into the compatibility of
Freemasonry and Christianity.  Instead we chose to tell them that we had no
theology. On the other hand I emphasize my view that it is only certain types
of Christians who can find Freemasonry compatible and that is Reverend Haynes
essential conclusion. My essential point is that Freemasons should recognize
that there are doctrinal differences within the Christian community and that
some of those Christians are not compatible with the doctrines of Freemasonry.
Once we have this clear in our minds we can not only deal with the dilemma in a
more intelligent manner but that we will desist in attempting to make "recent
innovations" to Freemasonry which produces a loss for Christian and
non-Christian mason alike.

               "Recent Innovations"

     My last comment, no doubt, demands further extrapolation.

     The recent dilemma we found ourselves in when some of the Churches in
England raised questions about Freemasonry is a case on point.  The Grand Lodge
did two things:

   [a]  provide totally meaningless responses which did not hit the mark
because someone either did not understand the doctrinal dispute which was going
on in the Churches or chose not to respond directly to the criticism; [b]  they
began to water down and change the penalties in an effort to avoid criticism
about the "blood curdling oaths that Freemasons were required to take. It is to
this last "solution" which I now direct my attention.

     When I joined the Craft as a young man ... the phrase was "under no less a
penalty on the violation of any of them .......". This was then changed to be
"ever bearing in mind the traditional penalty on the violation of any of them
...... ".  The flurry of ill-informed criticism in England brought a further
dilution so that now we talk of "ever bearing in mind the symbolic penalty
........... ."

     I recall as vividly some 25 years ago the feeling I had at that time when
I knelt before the alter.  As time passed that had great significance in my
life.  It became the point in time when you made an unequivocal commitment to
righteousness.  You had crossed the Rubicon.  "There comes a tide in the
affairs of men, which taken leads on to fortune."  There comes a time in every
mans life where he "must put away those childish things."  It was the bond
which sub-conciously bound masons together in an indivisible commitment to that
which was perceived to be "right" and against that which was perceived to be
"evil".  For the Christian mason, it exemplified the whole concept of damnation
and brought it to the forefront of this mind in a manner which no other
institution had ever done.  There was no ifs, buts, or, ands, it was a question
as to whether you could and would make the commitment.  Freemasons, unlike
those who were not in the Craft, were confronted with a situation in which
their "courage was put to the sticking post" and having proceeded through the
ceremony they learned a very important thing about themselves.  Like a soldier
who suffers doubts about how he will perform in battle and who later goes
through battle with dignity and courage and does not take flight in fear, the
Freemason learned something about the little spark of courage which exists
within us all, when put to the test.

    That test has now been lost for Christian and non-Christian mason alike.
Why has it been lost?  The changes were not made because of internal dissension
within the Craft.  I have yet to hear any extensive criticism among practicing
Freemasons of the obligations.  They all in their own way had come to
understand them as being symbolic.  So, in essence we changes OUR RITUAL to
accommodate the criticism of a certain brand of Christians who by virtue of
their "exclusive" view of Christianity would not be suitable candidates for
Freemasonry in any event.  Why did this occur????   I suggest it is because the
leaders of the Craft lacked both the intellectual skill and the in depth
understanding of both Freemasonry and Christianity which is evidenced in Bro.
G.D. Haynes brief article.  Hopefully we will see a book by this author in the