Lodge Membership and the Christian Conscience
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 children�s 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]. 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 Coil's 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.