Fundamentalist and Freemason


Fundamentalist & Freemason

AUGUST 1994 / THE NORTHERN LIGHT 

Author of new book defends fraternity against The Boy Who Cried
Wolf'.

By RICHARD P. THORN, 32d

Both sides of my family are fundamentalist Christians. Our family
activities centered around Sunday school and morning worship,
evening youth fellowship and evangelistic services, Wednesday
prayer meeting, Thursday choir practice, and Friday men's
fellowship.

Then suddenly, in 1943, church-related activities no longer seemed
important to me. The city of Akron had emerged from the depression
into a wartime economy. War-related industry provided jobs for
thousands who came to Akron to find work. East High School was on
a split schedule to accommodate the influx of new students. My
classes were scheduled from 7:30 a.m. until noon, to allow me to
work at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company from 2:00 to 10:00
p.m. I bought new clothes, a watch, and a car, and found new
friends at work. Then I began to rebel against my parents' rules
concerning my choice of friends and a midnight curfew hour.

At school I was studying Old Testament Literature as an elective.
The teacher was an atheist who used the classroom to "debunk the
myths of the Bible." He told us that Abraham's willingness to offer
Isaac on the altar proved that the ancient Hebrews practiced human
sacrifice; that Moses couldn't have written the first five books of
the Bible because writing hadn't been invented yet; and that the
Bible itself says there is no God. Becoming an atheist made it easy
for me to justify a new life-style, as I told my parents to look at
the difference between what Christians said, and what they did. To
me, God was only an adult version of Santa Claus.

In 1945 I enlisted in the army, and served as a paratrooper and a
medic with the 82nd Airborne Division. After discharge from the
service, I married a Christian girl, returned to church, and
studied pre-med at the University of Akron. In zoology class the
professor compared and contrasted the story of creation in Genesis
with Darwin's theory of evolution. When I asked my pastor how to
reconcile the two, he lent me a book that argued against Darwinism
as it was taught in the 1890's. Instead of focusing on current
issues, the book had set up a straw man and attacked it.

No man, and I counseled with many, showed me that there can be no
conflict between the Bible and true science, because God is the
Author of both! Instead, each tried to prove that his particular
view was right, and that the other view was a lie. Because all of
the clergymen I talked to had obvious gaps in their knowledge of
the scientific method, I came to believe that God was only an
Ideal, created by man, and often used to exploit others; I became
a militant atheist.

After graduating from the Ohio State University College of
Medicine, I returned to Akron to serve my internship. While working
with Dr. Forrest Crocker, a resident at Children's Hospital, I saw
true Christian love and personal peace in action, as he ministered
to his patients. As a result of his living witness, I accepted
Jesus Christ as my personal savior, August 16, 1958. For the first
time in my life, I experienced a very real personal peace and a
love for other people. The continuing daily experience of peace and
love changed my life so deeply that I felt called to share that
experience with others.

I served as a medical missionary with the fundamentalist Christian
and Missionary Alliance Church in Congo (now called Zaire), West
Africa, doing surgery and obstetrics, teaching in the nursing
school, and preaching the Gospel.

In preparation for the mission field my pastor tutored me in
theology, using William Evans' The Great Doctrines of the Bible as
a textbook, so that I could preach the Gospel, as well as serving
the mission as a medical doctor. The study of theology became a
lifelong hobby; a burning passion to find answers that respected
the validity of both science and the Bible. I know obedience to God
produces profound changes in the lives of men and women; and I also
know that science improves the quality, the comfort, and the length
of their lives.

As I study the Bible, I still use Evans' book as my guide to
doctrine and theology, and Mickelsen's Interpreting the Bible to
learn how the Bible should be understood today; taking into account
the differences in time, place, language, logic, and culture; as
well as the differences between God's covenant with Abraham, and
how we should relate to God through Jesus Christ in this
Dispensation.

After returning home in 1965 because of my wife's health, I
continued in Christian service as a Sunday School teacher; as a
regular participant and board member of a fundamentalist television
Bible-study program; and as a speaker and member of the board of
the Cleveland Chapter of The Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship
International.

Atheism was a time of darkness in my life, because my mind was
closed to the truth of God's grace. Then, beginning in 1971, I
passed through a second era of darkened understanding because guilt
about divorce drove me to avoid church and fellowship with other
Christians. Marital problems had seemed so severe that I could see
no options but divorce or suicide, but divorce did not solve my
problems. It only provided the opportunity for a series of
disastrous relationships.

Then, in early March 1981, I walked into Huebner Chevrolet,
intending to buy a car. Before I could say a word, the salesman,
Bud Smith, was saying, "Hey, Dick, come here, I want to talk to
you. you know, Bill and Beth Urey, my preacher and his wife, have
a love for God I've never seen before." As he continued talking, my
mind went back to those years when a man's love, freely and openly
shared, had drawn me into an awareness of the love and grace of
God. As I recounted this, Bud sat back, scratched his white head,
and with a puzzled expression on his face, he asked, "What happened
to you, Dick?"

As I told him how I had fallen away from fellowship with the Lord,
he scratched his head again as he asked, "Don't you know God's
grace is sufficient for that?" The burden of years of guilt was
suddenly gone as the true significance of his words sank in. I left
Huebner's without remembering why I had come. I stepped into a
world literally made new again by a restored sense of the depth of
God's love and forgiveness.

In September 1982, I took a leave of absence from the practice of
medicine, to attend the Ashland (Brethren) Theological Seminary,
majoring in Pastoral Counseling at the Emerge Ministries campus.

I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, which means that I agree
with Evans that the Bible is "just as much the Word of God as
though God spoke every word of it with His own lips." But I do not
believe in the inerrancy of the interpretation of the Bible by
those who teach it. The problem is not just a difference in our
view of inerrancy, but in how men read and understand the Bible.
Some try to understand the Bible as though it were written in 20th
century America. Biblical scholars often differ in their
understanding of certain scriptural passages. (The Protestant
tradition of arguing about theology and Biblical interpretation is
why we have different denominations in the church today.) Scholars
are not always certain of the original meaning, and what those who
heard it, or first read it, understood it to mean, as well as how
its message might be phrased, if it were first preached or written
today.

Almost any word we use has three or more different meanings. When
we translate something from another language, we must decide which
meaning is appropriate and use its equivalent in English. A simple
example illustrates the problem: The preposition before can mean:
in front of, earlier, next to, of higher rank, and so forth. When
the Bible says David danced before the ark, the reader will
understand that this means David danced in front of the ark, not
that David danced first and then the ark did! But the original
meaning is not always that clear. This leads to an honest
difference of opinion among Bible-believing scholars when
translating or interpreting the Bible. But sometimes the problem
lies in someone using a passage of Scripture to prove a point,
instead of allowing the Bible to speak for itself. My atheistic
teacher told me, "The Bible said, 'There is no God.' " But when I
read the verse, I see that it really says, "The fool hath said in
his heart, 'There is no God.' " The atheist omitted some words to
make the Bible appear to say what he wanted me to believe, not to
understand what the Psalmist really meant.

It saddens me to hear a minister or Bible teacher ignore the
context of Bible verses to "prove" what he says the Bible teaches.
He might disregard the context, for the same reason my atheistic
teacher did: to make the Bible appear to say what he wants me to
believe.

But it grieves me even more to see someone twist the words of a
human author, and make his appear to say something he never
intended to say, because this is not ignorance. He knows it isn't
true because he made it up; he is like the fox in Aesop's fable who
could not reach a beautiful bunch of ripe grapes hanging high over
his head; so he walked off scornfully, saying, "Why should I wear
myself out trying to get a bunch of sour grapes?" He pretends to
despise, and belittles that which is beyond his reach or
understanding.

In February 1986, Shotty, an 81-year-old retired barber and a
member of our church, asked me why I had never become a Mason. I
said, "Because no one ever asked me to join." He explained that the
only way to become a Mason was to ask a Mason for a petition. I was
raised a Master Mason June 16, 1986, received the Knight Templar
degree Dec. 7, 1987, became a Shriner June 11, 1988, and received
the 32d in the Scottish Rite Oct. 19, 1988. I was elected
Worshipful Master of Carroll Lodge No. 124, Carrollton, Ohio, Nov.
5, 1990.

I have applied the same diligence in the study of Freemasonry that
I was taught to use in Bible study. I enrolled in the Grand Lodge
of Ohio's "The Exceptional Lodge Leader" study course and in its
Masonic Training Course, Series IV. I joined the Ohio Lodge of
Research and the Philalethes Society. I read numerous Masonic
publications. I have read many books by Masonic authors.

I have also read all of the antiMasonic literature I can get my
hands on, and viewed and listened to many of their video and audio
tapes. Without exception, all of them distort the teachings of
Freemasonry. Some of them are based on misinformation, or an honest
difference in interpretation, but others unmistakably demonstrate
a deliberate and misleading rewording of the works of Masonic
authors to make them appear to say things that they never intended
to say.

My father was asked to resign from Masonry in order to be
considered eligible for the office of elder in his church. He did
so because holding that office was more important to him than
Masonic membership. Dad is a devout man who sees nothing wrong in
Freemasonry. He says his church objects to the secrecy in Masonry:
"What are they trying to hide?" Nothing! "The secrets of
Freemasonry" is a term used in the same context as "the mystery of
the Gospel." No man can understand a relationship he denies. He
must be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to fully understand
what Jesus taught and he must be a Mason to understand the secrets
of Freemasonry.

Freemasonry is often attacked because it "leaves out Jesus Christ."
Those who say this believe that Masonry is a religion that teaches
men how to get to heaven through their good works. This shows why
the principles of interpretation are so important. Masonry says
that it is not a religion. An honest interpretation of the
teachings of Freemasonry will show that instead of teaching men
what to believe, men are simply asked to put the religion they
already have, when they become a Mason, into everyday practice.
People look at the difference between what Christians say, and what
they do. The ideal Mason will practice what he believes, so that
there will be no difference between what he says and what he does.

Shortly after I received the 32d in the Scottish Rite, a former
pastor handed me a copy of (Rev.) Ron Carlson's tape, and advised
me to listen to it closely. As I listened, I became horrified, and
wondered what I had gotten myself involved in. But as I continued
to listen, l realized that I had not heard any of the things that
Carlson says are taught in the higher degrees. All of my friends in
Scottish Rite agreed.

As I compared Carlson's tape with Albert Pike's book, Morals and
Dogma, I saw that Carlson was distorting Pike's meaning, context,
and purpose, in exactly the same way Adams had distorted Harris'
book.

Carlson's slander and false witness has fooled some of the people
for some time. He has forfeited the confidence of those who look to
him as Pastor Carlson. The title of pastor symbolized the Good
Shepherd, Jesus; but when those who look to him as pastor find out
they have been fooled, Carlson can never regain their respect and
esteem. They will show him the same contempt that was shown to the
shepherd boy who cried, "Wolf!" Liars are not believed even when
they speak the truth.

By tradition, Freemasonry never defends itself. That is one reason
misinformation about its teachings has persisted. This book was
written to correct false views of Freemasonry. It is true, as I
understand the truth, and the reader is free to reject or dissent
from my view, as he chooses.

Many people consider those of a different religion to be their
enemies. Jesus said to love our enemies. Freemasonry teaches us to
accept other people, and to respect their religious beliefs. It
does not teach that all religions are equal, only that we should
respect them. My religious concepts were formed long before I
became a Mason, but I consider Freemasonry to be a work of the Lord
Jesus Christ, raised up to emphasize that part of His teaching so
often neglected by the church: to love your enemy. Just look at the
strife between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, and the
struggle between the Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. Consider
the religious warfare in India, the former Yugoslavia, and Iran.
History tells us that heresy was considered the greatest crime in
medieval Europe - not murder, not lawless violence, not rape - but
heresy. Heresy was the only reason for the hideous tortures of the
Inquisition.

What delights me most about Freemasonry is to see its teachings
used to encourage Jews and Christians of all denominations to bond
together around the beliefs that they hold in common, and to live
and practice what they believe, instead of arguing about
differences in their belief. I have found the same love and
fellowship with some of my brothers in the lodge, that I have
shared with some of my brothers and sisters in church. The great
secret of Freemasonry is its teachings concerning Brotherly Love,
Relief, and Truth.