SHOULD A CHRISTIAN BE A FREEMASON?
W. Bro. The Rev. Norman Lea JP BA
The question which this paper seeks to address has, over recent years, assumed an importance and a relevance that older generations of Freemasons would not have thought possible. This has occurred because various Church governing bodies — The Methodist Conference, and the General Synod of the Church of England — have declared the two to be incompatible. It is the basic and overriding contention of this paper that there is no theological or doctrinal, moral or social reason why a Christian should not be a Freemason.
It is necessary, first of all, to attempt an outline of what the Christian faith teaches. It is necessary, because it is essential to know what is meant when a person calls himself a Christian.
The Christian is one who believes in a God who is the Creator God, Creator of 'all things in heaven and earth'. The 'crown' of Creation, according to the Bible, is Man, created 'a little lower than the angels', having within himself the means to respond to and acknowledge God. Indeed, the Bible stresses that Man is only truly Man to the extent in which he does, through worship and deed, respond and acknowledge God to the fullest possible extent. It is at this point that the picture becomes distorted. We do not, individually or collectively, respond to or acknowledge God. In fact, our human condition is such that with unrelenting application, we seem to go headlong in the opposite direction to that which providence and destiny point us. To the theologian this state of affairs is know as Sin, sin that seems part of our nature, and sin that we actively commission in our failure to be what God intends us to be.
God intended us to be not only creatures created out of love, but beings who could respond to that love. His eternal Love is such that he cannot and will not abandon us, His creatures, to our own fate. The Old Testament is really the beginning of this story of God's relationship with us His people. It is the bitter sweet account of this loving relationship, the constancy of God's love and the prodigality of that of His people. The Old Testament at its best looks forward to the time when God will 'bring His people home', when He will give us the means to come back to Him and to fulfil our true role in His scheme of Creation. The New Testament is the realisation of this vision. The Birth, Death and Resurrection of Jesus is the fulfilment of all that the prophets, and the aspirations to which the Old Testament had looked forward. Here, finally and irrevocably was the means to bridge the gap between humanity as a whole and God, its loving Creator and Sustainer. The Christian will not and cannot compromise on this basic truth.
But this truth of what God has done for us in the person of Jesus, is not a mere cerebral truth demanding only intellectual assent, it is a truth that demands various responses from those who would be part of it. By means of the Church, or the Sacraments, or the life of Prayer, or the inspiration of Holy Scripture, the Christian feeds off the Redeeming work of Christ as displayed on the Cross and the Empty Tomb. It is by these 'instruments' of Redemption that the Christian knows it is possible to begin a relationship of love with God, and by personal sacrifice and dedication, to allow that relationship to grow and mature. It is an all embracing relationship, open ended to see the whole world and everything in it as within the scope of Redemption. Once it becomes exclusive and introverted its power is negated and its saving strength diminished.
Freemasonry does not challenge or seek to challenge anything that has been said above. It does not set itself up as a rival or even a parallel religion, to do so would mean that it would be impossible for a Christian to acknowledge let along practice Freemasonry. Masonry does not offer a 'system' of Redemption, it does not seek to enhance or provide a means by which the Mason is expected or encouraged to see his Masonic activities as being acts of worship. A Masonic Lodge is not a church, but a group of men who seek to implement certain worthy, upright and highly desirable common basic ideals, which can but add to the richness and variety of life and living.
The Masonic world, is a world rich in symbolism and high ideals. Its principle symbol is that of the Temple, built by King Solomon in response to God's command. The story of its construction, quite naturally, receives a great deal of poetic license in Masonic ritual. Part of that poetry is the vision of giving life to the symbol by identifying the Mason with the process of construction. The Masonic ideal is to construct within the individual the virtues of brotherly love, relief for those less fortunate than oneself and the search for truth and personal integrity. The symbol of 'skilled craftsmen' chosen originally for their expertise and skill for the great work in hand, is Masonically the skill of shaping from the raw material of each member of a Lodge a deeper understanding of the concept of brotherhood and the sharing of common concerns. The Masonic Lodge is the 'workplace' for both the demonstration and the teaching of such skills.
Solomon called upon God for help in the great endeavour he had undertaken. So likewise, the Masonic Lodge calls on God for help in its endeavours. This is no empty, ritualistic gesture, but a 'corner-stone' that underpins all Masonic activity. It would seem quite natural, in this context, for the symbolic 'builder' — the Mason — to refer to God,in the symbol of the Architect, and to do so without in anyway diminishing the concept of God or indeed to create another deity which the Christian could not acknowledge or countenance.
The Craft is precisely what it says it is. A Craft for building a moral structure centred upon those who seek to participate in its activities. It seeks neither to challenge or rival the claims of faith made by the Christian. Masonry cannot and does not diminish the Lordship of Christ, or replace His Redeeming and Saving Power. This paper has tried, within its limits, to affirm wholeheartedly the Christian standpoint and to outline the Masonic view, and to see no challenge from the Craft to those who wish to practice and uphold the Christian life.