In the twelve years I have been a Christian I have had the privilege of studying the Bible with five men who were active Freemasons. I know that throughout the UK as the church continues to surge forward and multiply more Freemasons will be met and willing to study the Bible.
I hope this article firstly assists in giving a broad introduction to the World of Freemasonry and secondly clarified areas that need special attention when one studies the Scriptures with a Mason.
The day I was to be initiated into the ancient group called the Freemasons finally arrived. I can remember the 25th March 1987 with great clarity; I was terrified! All the stories about goats and sacrifices the unknown and the hidden frightened me but there was something different about this kind of fear; it was encouraged!
I had waited patiently for two years since my provisional meeting and application. My boss and work colleague were both Masons. I had to approach my boss and ask him to be my Proposer and my work colleague to Second me. I was taken on and my name added to the growing list of applicants. About six months later I was called to Freemasons Hall in Hastings East Sussex and questioned on a number of issues. Fortunately I had been forewarned as to their content and made aware of the "correct" reply.
The first question was "Do you believe in the Supreme Being?" Now at that time (which was three and a half years before becoming a Christian) I did believe in God but was not sure how or even what or who God was. Provided I had a belief in A Supreme Being I would satisfy my questioners. (This Supreme Being could be any idol not just the God of the Bible) To whatever I was asked my answer was "Yes".
Next came "What do you hope to get out of Freemasonry?" Now if I had said fame fortune or an increase in my business deals the meeting would have terminated there so on cue I delivered a punchy and confident "I only hope to get out of it what I put into it". The truth is that for the majority of candidates-elect there is a burning desire to belong to something special different secretive and clandestinal. I wanted to get all I could out of it and was prepared to work hard to put all I could into it to reach this goal.
Various questions followed and a statement was read about giving to charity by completing a Deed of Covenant. I pledged to give £30........a year! (Most Masons now give in the region of £100-£150 per year. There are currently 750 000 Masons in the UK so many millions of pounds are collected and distributed to various charities both within and outside masonry). I liked the idea of giving money on a regular basis to charity; it made me feel good about myself.
Lodge (the meeting place for Masons) procedure dictated that my name was posted and each Mason had the opportunity to file an appeal against my proposed election with a suitable explanation. If there were no dissenters during this part of the proceedings then the membership of the chosen Lodge voted using the "blackball" system. Each person was given two balls one black the other white. If at the end of the voting two black balls were found in the box then I would have been rejected. (Because the vetting procedure is tight this rarely happens although I did witness one blackballing during my three years as a Mason.)
When I received notice of my acceptance and the date for my initiation I needed to buy a black suit black tie black shoes white shirt and white gloves. The day arrived. I left work at 3pm and went home to change. On my way to the Lodge I became very apprehensive. I was suitably prepared for the initiation ceremony by the Tyler (a Mason who remains outside the door of the Lodge guarding the entrance) in the Lodge s anteroom. I was blindfolded slipshod trouser leg rolled up sleeve rolled up shirt undone a noose placed about my neck and divested of all money and possessions. The whole thing was very unnerving. The door opened my hearing sensitised due to my enforced blindness. A dagger was held to my chest........the first degree initiation ceremony had begun.
It lasted about one hour during which time I was led around the lodge and introduced to various objects and lodge personnel and had the significance of each explained to me. The truth is you don t really take much in; it's just a buzz. I was presented with my first apron...I had become an Entered Apprentice. I was now on the first rung of the Masonic ladder.
Over the next three months I progressed through two further ceremonial rituals the first was Fellow Craft and the second that of Master Mason. It is not until this third degree that you are considered to be a Freemason. The regalia that come with this degree are very colourful and worn only during Lodge or special electoral meetings. I was enjoying the feeling of being different and secretive especially about where I was going every first Wednesday of the month.....although I m sure everyone knew!
My desire to learn more about the history of Masonry led me to be initiated into subsequent degrees. I joined Holy Chapter (which is a completion of the third degree where you have revealed to you the true name of the Supreme Being) Mark Royal Ark Mariners and Knights Templar. There are many others each requiring covenants joining fees miscellaneous contributions and the purchase of special regalia. (It starts to become very expensive as you join more Lodges.)
After each meeting we would all have a meal together in a restaurant sometimes owned or run by a Mason and toast various auspicious members of the Masonic hierarchy and hear some memorable speeches.
One of the challenging aspects of Freemasonry is that all the ritual performed within the Lodge is spoken from memory....nothing apart from announcements is read. From the time you are initiated you begin to memorise chunks of ritual....every day! The aim for each Mason is to rise up within the Lodge and to fill various "offices" for one year until he reaches the office of Worshipful Master (the head man in the Lodge for that particular year). It should take between seven and ten years to reach that position by which time you would be expected to know the complete book of ritual by heart (about 180 pages).
Six people were initiated the year I joined which meant it would have taken me fourteen years to get to the Chair. I started to study the history in depth and presented a short lecture on the subject within the Lodge. Then my moment of triumph....I proposed my friend from work into the Lodge and was given the opportunity to deliver the Charge after Initiation. This meant learning five sides of ritual and presenting it in front of all the Lodge members and visitors. It was a great honour to do this Charge as I had only been a Mason 10 months. I had been fruitful as a Freemason!
I continued to be one of the more dedicated members of the Lodge and was given more and more responsibility. That was until one day in June of 1990 when my ex-wife called to say that she had become a Christian. I went along to see what she had got herself entangled in only to be personally confronted with the truth of the Scriptures. The question begged "Can I be a Disciple and a Freemason?" It was a cost I had to count. The decision for me was very clear.......the two are incompatible. But why?
Following is a summary of the main points that reflected my decision. I hope that this will serve as a guide to disciples who may study the Bible with Masons in the future as there can be no middle ground or grey areas when it comes to salvation issues.
In some denominations a significant number of church members are Freemasons. Their numbers vary from congregation to congregation. Some are currently active in Freemasonry. Others are no longer active yet they still maintain their lodge membership. Many Masons serve as Sunday school teachers elders deacons and even pastors. All the members of churches who are Freemasons state that Masonry is compatible with Christianity. Many claim that Masonry has made them better Christians. Masons are involved in a host of good works which provide service to society. They feed the poor provide medical care for injured children and even send pastors they are trying to influence on tours of the Holy Lands.
Some within these denominations oppose the Masonic Lodge and believe that Masons who will not renounce Freemasonry should be expelled from the church. There are many others who seem to be stressing the importance of church unity. They believe that they are opposing the efforts of misguided individuals who may destroy unity within the church. They fear that if the attitudes of the opponents of Freemasonry are embraced by a significant number division will result. Their worst fear is that their congregation will be involved in a church-spilt.
So this is the perspective of many denominations. Within my Lodge of sixty members four were members of the clergy and one the local church deacon and organist. Many of the membership attended some local church and claimed to be Christian. The whole concept of religious values within Freemasonry is that it claims to be trans-denominational i.e. it spans the whole spectrum of denominational doctrines and practices and welcomes them with open arms. (All this whilst further claiming not to be a religion itself and not pushing any kind of religious manifesto.) (Some degrees such as the Knight s Templar insist that you must believe in the God of the Bible to be initiated.) The claims of not being a religion itself are particularly interesting.
After a man completes his Master Mason degree he is considered as much a Mason as he will ever be. Each of the degrees contains teaching which is revealed through ritual. Within each degree the individual concerned takes an active role. In the Master Mason degree the new Master Mason portrays Hiram Abiff. In that portion of the ritual known as the Legend of the Third Degree Hiram is unjustly murdered buried and then raised from the grave. At the close of the ritual the following summary of the meaning is spoken:
Then finally my brethren let us imitate our Grand Master Hiram Abiff in his virtuous conduct his unfeigned piety to God and his inflexible fidelity to his trust -- that like him we may welcome the grim tyrant Death and receive him as a kind messenger sent by our Supreme Grand Master to translate us from this imperfect to that all-perfect glorious and celestial Lodge above where the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides.
The meaning of the ritual is clearly explained: Masons are to imitate Hiram Abiff that they may welcome death and be translated into heaven.
Who is Hiram Abiff?
When a man is raised to Master Mason he is given a small book called Ritual (or Monitors in the United States). Ritual books are produced for each county and distributed at the direction of the authorities of Freemasonry The Grand Lodges. In the 1946 editions of some Monitors used by Lodges in the States the identity of Hiram Abiff is revealed in a discussion of various religions:
All believed in a future life to be attained by purification and trials -- in a state or successive states of reward or punishment -- and in a Mediator or Redeemer by whom the Evil Principle was to be overcome and the Supreme Deity reconciled to His creatures. The general belief was that He was to be born of a virgin and suffer a painful death. The Hindus called him Krishna; the Chinese Kioun-tse; the Persians Sosiosch; the Chaldeans Dhouvanai; the Egyptians Horus; Plato Love; the Scandinavians Balder; the Christians Jesus; Masons Hiram (pages XIV-XV).
The meaning is perfectly clear. Masonry teaches that Jesus is not unique. Jesus is a saviour for Christians and Krishna is a saviour for Hindus while Hiram Abiff is a saviour for Masons. The Meaning of Masonry by Lynn Perkins clarifies the teaching:
Therefore Masonry teaches that redemption and salvation are both the power and responsibility of the individual Mason. Saviours like Hiram Abiff can and do show the way but men must always follow and demonstrate each for himself his power to save himself to build his own spiritual fabric in his own time and way. Every man in essence is his own saviour and redeemer; for if he does not save himself he will not be saved. The reader who succeeds in getting back to real teachings of the masters including Jesus of Nazareth will find unanimity of thinking on this matter (page 95).
The fact that Masonry teaches redemption and salvation is also documented on page 96 of Manual of the Lodge by Albert Mackey. Mackey s book has been adopted virtually without alteration as the Monitor of the Grand Lodge of several states in America. In Monitor form the book is known as the Ahiman Rezon:
It was the single object of all the ancient rites and mysteries practised in the very bosom of pagan darkness....to teach the immortality of the Soul. This is still the great design of the Third Degree of Masonry. This is the scope and aim of its ritual. The Master mason represents man when youth manhood old age and life itself have passed away as fleeting shadows yet raised from the shadow of iniquity and quickened into another and better existence. By its legend and all its ritual it is implied that we have been redeemed from the death of sin and the sepulchre of pollution....and the conclusion we arrive at is that youth properly directed leads us to the honourable and virtuous maturity and that the life of man regulated by morality faith and justice will be rewarded at its closing hour by the prospect of eternal bliss.....the important design of the degree is to symbolise the great doctrines of the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul; and hence it has been remarked by a learned writer of our order that the Master Mason represents a man saved from the grave of iniquity and raised to the faith of salvation (pages 141-142 1947 Ed. Ahiman Rezon).
In the 1993 Monitor and Freemason s Guide the meaning of the Third Degree is explained. It confirms the universality of the Hiramic Legend in Masonry:
The Legend of the Third Degree
This is the most important and significant of the legendary symbols of Freemasonry. It has descended from age to age by oral tradition and has been preserved in every Masonic rite practised in any country or language with no essential alteration (page 41).
The Hiramic Legend is the glory of Freemasonry (page 158).
Freemasonry has a saviour named Hiram Abiff. Freemasonry teaches that Master Masons have been redeemed from the death of sin and represent those raised to the faith of salvation. Each Mason has portrayed Hiram Abiff in a ritual in which he was murdered buried and raised from the dead. That ritual mocks the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The ritual of the third degree directly states that by imitating Hiram Abiff Master Masons may get into heaven.
As we can see from these extracts the Masonic teaching is redemption thorough Hiram Abiff. The truth is that most Freemasons do not know are unaware and don t really care that this is the case. It is the draw of Freemasonry as a secret society that makes an individual go through all the rituals. In the three years that I was a member I never once saw or heard a member question what they were doing. Everyone was too involved with learning the ritual and climbing up the ladder of office. Therefore it would be incorrect to assume that because the Masonic doctrine is thus stated that every Freemason is aware of the implications.
In order to understand the inner workings of Freemasonry it is important to know some of its history:
When King Solomon decided to build the Temple of the Lord he assembled a massive workforce and solicited the help of Hiram King of Tyre in what turned out to be an excellent public relations exercise. This workforce consisted of labourers (carriers) and the stonemasons (stonecutters). These men were experts in their craft and shaped and moulded the stones in the quarry so no sound of chisel or shaping tool was heard at the Temple site.
Solomon gave orders to build a temple for the Name of the LORD and a royal palace for himself. He conscripted seventy thousand men as carriers and eighty thousand as stonecutters in the hills and thirty-six hundred as foremen over them. (2 Chronicles 2:1-2 NIV)
Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workmen. At the king s command they removed from the quarry large blocks of quality stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple. The craftsmen of Solomon and Hiram and the men of Gebal cut and prepared the timber and stone for the building of the temple. (1 Kings 5:15-18 NIV)
In response to Hiram King of Tyre s ambassadorial role with Solomon he sent Huram*-Abi a skilled master craftsman in Bronze. So far this is all Biblical and it must be noted here that Masonic ritual is "Biblically based" to a point and that point has now been reached.
* N.B. Hebrew Hiram a variant of Huram
I am sending you Huram-Abi a man of great skill whose mother was from Dan and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained to work in gold and silver bronze and iron stone and wood and with purple and blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and with those of my lord David your father. (2 Chronicles 2:13-14 NIV)
King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali and whose father was a man of Tyre and a craftsman in bronze. Huram was highly skilled and experienced in all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him. He cast two bronze pillars each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits around by line. He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars
each capital was five cubits high. A network of interwoven chains festooned the capitals on top of the pillars seven for each capital. He made pomegranates in two rows encircling each network to decorate the capitals on top of the pillars. He did the same for each capital. The capitals on top of the pillars in the portico were in the shape of lilies four cubits high. On the capitals of both pillars above the bowl-shaped part next to the network were the two hundred pomegranates in rows all around. He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz. The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed. (1 Kings 7:13-22 NIV)
He also made the basins and shovels and sprinkling bowls. So Huram finished all the work he had undertaken for King Solomon in the temple of the LORD: the two pillars; the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars; the two sets of network decorating the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars; the four hundred pomegranates for the two sets of network (two rows of pomegranates for each network decorating the bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars); the ten stands with their ten basins; the Sea and the twelve bulls under it; the pots shovels and sprinkling bowls.
All these objects that Huram made for King Solomon for the temple of the LORD were of burnished bronze. (1 Kings 7:40-45 NIV)
It's at this point that Masonic legend takes over. Hiram Abiff the very same Huram-Abi is believed to have been the Chief Architect of the Temple. He organised the workforce into teams and ensured a smooth running operation. Much like today there are many "Cowboys" in the construction industry and it was apparently the same in Solomon s time. The stone masons were being "muscled out". The finished product however was of sub-standard quality. At the end of the week when the wages were given out the cowboys would be there queuing up to receive money that should rightly be going to the professionals.
As a result of this outside interest Hiram organised Lodges of Stonemasons each with its own identity secret passwords handshakes and signs. When the wages were next given out only the experts knew the secret signs to get the cash thus distinguishing the cowboys from the professionals.
A group of fifteen Fellow Craft conspired to demand the secret signs of the third degree from Hiram. When it came to the crunch only three stood by this plan of action and they ended up killing Hiram as he would not reveal the secrets to them. They then buried him in a quickly dug grave. King Solomon was alerted to this situation and ordered fifteen loyal Fellow Craft to split into three parties and search for Hiram. The first party returned unsuccessful but the second party stumbled upon the grave. They uncovered it to reveal Hiram. They covered it up again and marked the place with a sprig of acacia at its head. They reported back to King Solomon who ordered that Hiram be raised on the five points of fellowship (a Masonic ritualistic sign.) They then returned to the site and unearthed Hiram and the Fellow Crafts eventually raised Hiram from the grave (a symbolic raising which is repeated during the third degree). The third group heard noises in a cave and found the three rebels. They were executed by Solomon for their heinous deeds.
Such is the speculative history of Stone Masonry with its signs passwords and handshakes. It remained a society for stonemasons for centuries until the Middle Ages when non-masons were first admitted and the society became the Freemasons. All the tools a stonemason would use are given new meaning within the lodge to signify a particular moralistic code or behaviour.
The chisel is emblematic of discipline and education the plumb rule denotes justice and uprightness of life and actions whilst the mallet curbs ambition teaches to restrain from envy to moderate anger and to encourage harmony and brotherly love. Probably the most well known of emblems within Masonry are the Square and Compasses. The square teaches regulation of life and actions by Masonic line and rule and to harmonise conduct by the precepts of virtue. The compasses teach to limit desires in every station of life that rising to eminence by merit a person may live a respected life and die regretted.
A note here is worthy concerning the Bible. In a lodge in a "Christian" country the Bible will be open at 2 Chronicles 6 and it is on this Bible that each candidate takes his obligation to the Masonic faith. In every step up through the ranks the Bible is used as the "unerring standard of truth and justice". It is termed the Volume of the Sacred Law (VSL) by Masons and is held in the greatest regard. However in a Muslim country the Koran being the volume of the sacred law would be open; similarly in a Hindu environment we would find the Bhagavad-Gita. A statement in the United Grand Lodge of England Constitutions concerning God and religion states:
"A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art he will never be a stupid atheist nor an irreligious libertine. He of all men should best understand that God seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh at the outward appearance but God looketh at the heart. A Mason is therefore particularly bound never to act against the dictates of his conscience. Let a man s religion or mode of worship be what it may he is not excluded from the order provided he believe in the glorious architect of heaven and earth and practise the sacred duties of morality. Masons unite with the virtuous of every persuasion in the firm and pleasing bond of fraternal love; they are taught to view the errors of mankind with compassion and to strive by the purity of their own conduct to demonstrate the superior excellence of the faith they may profess. Thus masonry is the centre of the union between good men and true and the happy means of conciliating friendship amongst those who must otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance" (The Charges of a Freemason 1984 pg. 3).
Comparisons with Discipleship
It can be seen that there are some obvious parallels between Discipleship and Freemasonry and it is the supposed "similarities" that can make it difficult to see through:
1. The Sovereignty of God is the main focus within Christianity and Masonry. The difference is that there is no accountability with Masonry and the God of the Bible is not necessarily the God that an individual recognises as his God.
2. There is a birth death and resurrection: of Jesus in the Bible Hiram Abiff in Masonry.
3. Money is given in both instances: for the poor and needy as well as for the running of the Church in Christianity; whilst within Masonry for charitable organisations both within and outside the organisation.
4. The Church meets together as a body encouraging friends and visitors to come and hear the message whilst Masons meet together as a Lodge or Craft and is open to members only.
5. The Bible is present within the meetings of Christians and Masons. However it is as an embellishment or piece of furnishing within Masonry whilst in Christianity it is the daily applied spiritual map for every Christian s life. Depending what the major religious direction of a country or area is will dictate the type of holy book that is opened during Lodge meetings.
6. Rising up within the Lodge is encouraged to attain a higher office. Rising up within Christianity is not about position but about serving and sacrifice.
7. There is a concept of being fruitful within Masonry when someone asks to be a Freemason and you become his proposer whilst within Christianity it is everyone s commission to preach the Word to the lost and God will determine whether an individual is fruitful or not.
Christianity was never designed to be secretive. The Truth of the Gospels is open to every person on the planet each person equal in God s sight. Masonry is for a select few usually middle-class and is a society with secrets. Substitutional words are used for God the Bible and many other Christian ideals. Considering the whole misguided ritual surrounding Hiram Abiff and the ready acceptance of multi-denominational practices with no accountability or consistency it is my opinion that no true disciple can be an active Freemason. As a part of his counting the cost to become a Christian a Mason should be encouraged to resign from each Lodge with whom he is a member before he can declare "Jesus is Lord" and become a disciple.