Lodge Membership and the Christian Conscience


Lodge Membership and the Christian Conscience

By Reverend Charles H. Roberts, Jr.

No doubt a majority of Freemasons are aware of the recent controversies
in several Christian denominations regarding Lodge membership.  The
discussion among Southern Baptist has been the most visible, and
although the issue was more or less settled, Freemasons should not
assume that all is well.

An example of the continued rumblings by anti-Masons may be seen in a
recent issue of The Christian Research Journal, the official publication
of the California Christian Research Institute.  The winter 1994 issue
featured a cover with square and compass and the headline, "The Masonic
Lodge and the Christian Conscience," written by Dr. John Weldon,
co-author with John Ankerberg of the notorious, Secret Teachings of the
Masonic Lodge.  There is little doubt as to the direction the article in
question will take. Although the article by Weldon is basically a
critique of the failure of Southern Baptists to outright condemn
Freemasonry, it, nevertheless, provides the Craft with a further example
of the shoddy research and false arguments amassed by anti-Masons to
support their presupposed conclusions about Freemasonry.  A quick scan
of the footnotes to the article (there are fifty-eight of them) shows
that Weldon continues the unfortunate anti-Masonic practice of leaning
heavily on the purely personal-opinion writings of Pike, Hall, and
Wilmshurst, among others. So far as this writer is aware, neither Weldon
nor Ankerberg has responded to any of the research and rebuttals of
their work by our late Brother John Robinson.

Weldon's article contains a number of inaccuracies and illogical
statements.  He begins by saying that many Masons are proud to be a part
of a benevolent organization like Masonry and refers to our "worthwhile
causes, such as children's hospitals."   Most masons will immediately
recognize that the Shrine is the organization that runs the childrenís
hospital programs and the Shrine is not a Masonic body.  This is a minor
point, but it reveals the continued failure of the anti-Masonic writers
to be accurate in their writing. How would Dr. Weldon like it if I wrote
an article in which I said, "Christian are proud to be a part of an
organization that maintains many fine and beautiful church buildings
like St. Peter's in Rome."?  Since Dr. Weldon is not a Roman Catholic
but an evangelical Protestant (as is this writer), he might wish that I
had been more accurate in my statement and rightfully so.  Freemasons
ask for the same courtesy.

After chiding the Southern Baptists for failing to stack their
investigating committee with people who had already made up their minds
that Freemasonry should be condemned, Weldon proceeds to focus on
various references in our Blue Lodge rituals that he claims teach men to
expect salvation and entrance into heaven by doing good works and
engaging in moral behavior. As a Christian minister and pastor, I too
would share Dr. Weldon's concerns if they were true; but they are not.
Nowhere has Freemasonry ever hinted that its purpose is to teach men the
way of salvation, and, so far as this writer is aware, no Freemason is
ever told anything by any Grand Lodge or ritual that implies that the
way of salvation is through Freemasonry. The Craft certainly is
concerned about moral behavior and acts of charity, but no Masonic
organization has ever told this writer that as a Christian, some other
source of morality is better for me that what is found in the Bible.

Dr. Weldon next laments the fact that there may be Masons who believe
that their Masonic membership is sufficient for their salvation.   As a
Pastor, I am concerned about that, too, insofar as there are those who
actually believe it.

I am also concerned that there are Christians who believe that their
church membership or their tithing is sufficient for salvation, but I
recognize that for what it is:  a false belief on the part of the one
holding it.  Surely Dr. Weldon would not propose that all Christian
churches be closed because there are those who misunderstand and even
distort Christian teaching.

All candidates for the degrees in Masonry are explicitly warned that the
lodge is not a substitute for church or family.  If some Masons fail to
heed that warning that is not the fault of the Craft as a whole. Dr.
Weldon continues to set forth the argument that Freemasonry requires its
members to abandon their own religious convictions and worship a common
denominator deity, a generic god who is the same in all religions.

Such a sentiment may indeed be found the writings of some Masonic
authors like Pike or Hall, but Weldon and Ankerberg stridently refuse to
acknowledge the fact that none of these writings are "official" Masonic
"dogma."  As a matter of fact, the much maligned Morals and Dogma of
Albert Pike contains the following disclaimer by the author:  "Everyone
is entirely free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem
to him to by untrue or unsound."   In all the discussion about Pike and
his book, this very significant sentence is seldom, if ever, quoted by
anti-Masons and for obvious reasons:  it undercuts the basis of their
claims that Christians are either forced or tricked into following a
different religion. Weldon faults the Blue Lodge degrees for not
instructing its members in the truths of the Gospel. I have long
suspected the basic criticism of the Craft by men like Dr. Weldon is
that we are faulted because we are not a church.

One wonders if Dr. Weldon is upset because circuit court judges and
magistrates do not instruct accused criminals that Jesus Christ is the
only mediator between God and man.

I find it amazing that in all his research Dr. Weldon has failed to
discover the York Rite of Freemasonry and the fact that a Mason must
affirm he is a strong believer in the Christian religion in order to
petition for the degrees {Actually, only the Knights Templar requires a
belief in Jesus Christ - Bill}.  I find it astounding that neither Dr.
Weldon nor Dr. Ankerberg have bothered to tell their followers that in
the Commandery, the Lord Jesus Christ, IS lifted up as the only mediator
between God and man!

Perhaps the most glaring example of the subterfuge to which Dr. Weldon
has resorted to "prove" his point is found on page 36 of the Journal
article.  Here Weldon quotes from Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia (He claims
the quote was written by Coil himself but there is no indication of
that; apparently Weldon is unaware of the fact that Coil had at least
three other scholars writing article for the Encyclopedia), to the
effect that Coil slander the God of Christianity (the Biblical God) by
calling Him a "partisan, tribal God..." and Weldon then goes on to
assert that Coil claims the Masonic concept of God is far superior, and
he quotes a statement seeming to imply just that.   Anyone who bothers
to read the article from Coil's will see easily enough the quotes in
question have been taken out of context and made to say or imply
something very different from the intent of the 12-page, double-
columned article from which they were taken.  These quotes were taken
from a general discussion on the "Nature and Name of Deity..." and they
are a part of a broad discussion of the history of religious and
philosophical investigation into that matter. What Dr. Weldon does not
tell his readers is that there are many seminary textbooks used to train
evangelical Christians from which similar statements could be found.
Wrenched from their context, they could easily be made to appear as
though the author or the seminary slanders the Christian God!  Whether
Dr. Weldon or I like it or not, there are so-called biblical scholars
who would use such terms to describe the biblical God.  The article in
Coilís is not a declaratory statement but a general reference to the
history of the nature of religious and philosophical discussion about
who God is.  Weldon's assertion that Coil is claiming superiority for
some supposed Masonic concept of God is simple.

At the close of this article Dr. Weldon "throws down the gauntlet" with
this statement, "The issue is, can Christianity and Masonry be logically
joined together without violation of scriptural teaching and Christ's
glory?"   Needless to say, Weldon has a negative answer to that
question.

The question is instructive for a number of reasons.  First, it shows
Dr. Weldon's ignorance of Masonic history.  The fact is that prior to
the writing of Anderson's Constitutions in the 18th century Freemasonry
was clearly Christian and Trinitarian. This much is obvious from the
surviving exposures and catechisms from the 16th and 17th centuries. The
Christian Freemasonry of those days is preserved today in the various
degrees of the York Rite. Secondly, the nature of Dr. Weldon's question
shows the problem inherent in trying to legislate for every man and bind
his conscience. I presume that given Dr. Weldon's background and
current associations he holds to a form of evangelical Christianity
known broadly as "Dispensationalism."  I will also presume that with
regard to the nature of salvation, the work of Christ, and the nature of
Man, Dr. Weldon is basically an "Arminian."

As a minister of the Gospel who holds strongly to the Westminster
Confession of Faith and thus a Reformed/Covenantal understanding of the
Bible, I would pose this question:  The issue is, can Christianity and
Dispensationalism (or Arminianism) be logically joined together without
violation of scriptural teaching and Christ's glory?  I would answer
with a resounding "NO!" but I would in no way seek to deprive Dr. Weldon
of conscience and freedom before God to seek out these matters on his
own.

Likewise, one would hope that Dr. Weldon would extend the same courtesy
to evangelical Christian Freemasons who are fully aware that no one has
ever told them that they had to stop being evangelical Christians in
order to be Freemasons.



From the August 1984 issue of Knight Templar Magazine.

This file courtesy of Bill Maddox in America.