Baptists and Freemasonry
Published by the Baptist Union of Scotland and endorsed by the
Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland
THE QUESTION RAISED
For several years past certain members of our churches have
expressed disquiet concerning the relationship between Freemasonry
and Christianity and the possible influence of the movement within
some churches. The matter has been raised on several occasions in
recent Assemblies and has been the subject of correspondence in the
Scottish Baptist Magazine. Although we have little direct evidence
that this constitutes as serious and widespread problem in Scottish
Baptist Churches, the Council considered the matter carefully and
originally agreed that the Doctrine and Inter-Church Relations core
groups should review available literature and compile a document
directing churches to sources of information, where it was felt
guidance was needed.
However, there were those who felt sufficiently strongly about the
question to continue to press the Council for firmer action, and at
the Council meeting of January 1987 it was agreed Òto appoint a
group to study the relationship between Freemasonry and
Christianity and to publish their findings in the form of a
Viewpoint booklet. They do this in the conviction that our people
need clear guidance in this area.
Membership of the group comprised four members of the Doctrine and
Interchurch Relations core group, plus four others, under the
chairmanship of Rev. A.T.Peck. It was intended that two might be
sympathetic towards the Freemasons and two against. From the outset,
we were unable to discover anyone within or outside our churches
who would be willing to put the Freemasons point of view within the
group. We had to depend mainly on published accounts of the
principles and practices of Freemasonry. A good deal of material
is available both from Masonic sources and also from writers
critical of the movement. The major standard encyclopedias also
carry useful articles. Some of the books listed in an appendix
contain extensive quotations from Masonic literature. We found it
somewhat paradoxical that although so much of their practice and
ritual is shrouded in secrecy and protected by secret signs, so
much is available in various publications, some from Masonic
What is Freemasonry?
It is generally accepted that Freemasonry evolved from the guilds of
stonemasons and cathedral builders of the Middle Ages. As cathedral
building declined, some lodges of working masons began to accept
honorary members. This led to the development of symbolic or
speculative Freemasonry. Some Masonic historians maintain that its
origins go back much further, to the ancient Egyptians and their
Book of the Dead, or the sacred mysteries of the Mayas, or even the
building of SolomonÕs Temple. There is evidence that there were
Masonic lodges in Britain from the 14th century onwards. But it
seems to be generally agreed that modern Freemasonry dates back to
1717 with the formation in England of the first
Grand Lodge, an association of lodges. Since then it has spread to
many other countries. The Grand Lodge of Scotland was founded in
1736. There are estimated to be some two million Freemasons in the
world of which nearly one million are in the British Isles.
The stated ideals of Freemasonry are, Universal Brotherhood,
tolerance of diverse religious “denominations and persuasions” and
avoidance of political controversy.
Freemasonry follows an elaborate mythology and complex rites,
involving oaths of secrecy. Elements in these are drawn from many
sources, including the Bible, other religions, ancient religious
orders and chivalric brotherhoods.
These are often used symbolically in a way which bears little or no
relation to the original context. The three basic degrees of
Freemasonry are, entered apprentice, fellow of the craft, and
master mason. Most Masons earn only these three. Beyond these,
there are many more advanced degrees, each with its own rituals and
secrets. At each stage, further secrets are revealed, safeguarded
by solemn oaths. Masons of the lower degrees may often be quite
unaware of the nature and wording of these advanced rituals. Some
aspects of the movement which are of the greatest concern to
Christians are to be found in these higher degrees. Although the
Grand Lodge of Scotland regulates Freemasonry only within the first
three degrees, the questions raised are still implicit in the
movement as a whole.
There are certain differences between Freemasonry in Scotland and
the movement in England or America. The Grand Lodge of Scotland
which regulates some 1100 lodges is the largest of six groups. The
Royal Arch chapter is an administratively separate group in
Scotland. The Grand Lodge informs us that certain of the other
groups will admit only professing Trinitarian Christians.
Freemasons are known for their generous giving to charitable causes.
In 1986, it is estimated that donations from British Freemasons
totalled some 12 millions pounds, and benefited a wide range of
organizations, including schools, old peopleÕs homes and a private
hospital. Although most of these are set up from the benefit of
Masons themselves and their families, the Grand Lodge of Scotland
supports the work of a number of charitable organizations outside
Although Freemasonry is an exclusively male society, women may join
the order of the Eastern Star. This contains similar rituals and
symbolic elements to Freemasonry and its members share in the
charitable work of the Brotherhood.
Whether Freemasonry is itself a religion may be a matter for debate.
Masons themselves deny that it is. To them it is a society of men
concerned with spiritual and moral values or a brotherhood with
religious overtonesÓ. Whatever they may say, the movements bears all
the marks of an organized religion, with its own theology, worship
and rituals and its demand for irrevocable commitment. The fact
that religion is never discussed is neither here nor there. The
whole movement is shot through with religious and mystical elements.
The lodge is a model of a temple, masonic hymns are sung, and the
volume of the sacred law is open and prominent. There is a
chaplain and an altar. Prayers are offered, though not in the name
of Jesus Christ. It is the religious elements in the movement,
some of which are felt to be inconsistent with the Christian faith,
which most of all concern those who have pressed for an enquiry.
The following are the main points which have emerged in the course
of our enquiry.
In Craft Freemasonry, God is the Great Architect of the Universe
(their code word TGAOTU). It is a concept of God which can be
accepted by people of many religious who are free to interpret it
as they will. This is not the understanding of God, His nature and
purpose, as revealed to us in Jesus Christ and through the
Scriptures. Modern Freemasonry owes much to the thought of the
18th century, and this concept of God reflects the prevalent Deism
of that period,in which God is the Supreme Being, the Creator who
has set the world in motion, laid down His moral laws for men to
obey, but does not continue to act personally in the world in mercy
or in judgement. To Christians, this is a wholly inadequate
concept of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover,
the name of the Great Architect is revealed in the rite of the Holy
Arch as JAHBULON. This is a composite name comprising the Hebrew
God JAH (Yahweh), the Syrian deity, BUL (Baal) and ON (Osiris, the
ancient Egyptian god of the underworld). This syncretistic view of
God is quite incompatible with the God who has been revealed
supremely and uniquely in Jesus Christ.
The Grand Lodge representatives were unwilling to admit knowledge of
this name, since they regulate only the first three degrees, and
the Royal Arch is controlled by a separate lodge in Scotland.
Whatever individual masons may believe about Jesus Christ,
Freemasonry itself does not accord Him a unique place as Son of God,
Saviour and Lord. Prayer is not offered in His name and His name
appears to have little or no part in the proceedings. He is put
side by side with other religious teachers such as Confucius,
Mohamet or Zoroaster who seem to be regarded as subordinate deities.
Some ministers who have agreed to conduct Masonic services have
been requested to omit the name of Jesus Christ from their prayers.
This is not invariable practice, certainly in Scotland. We were
assured by a minister who is a Masonic chaplain that would refuse to
conduct any service in which he could not offer prayer in the name
of Jesus Christ. Despite that, we seriously question whether a
committed Christian could accept what seems to us to be a wholly
inadequate view of Jesus Christ for the purposes of his Freemasonry.
The Bible is one of a number of “volumes of sacred law” used in
Freemasonry. For Christians the Bible is uniquely inspired as God’s
word for mankind and is the record of His unique revelation through
Israel and in Christ. Parts of the Bible are used in Freemasonry in
ways that Christians find unwarrantable. This is especially true
of the mystical and allegorical use made of items from Solomon’s
Temple and of certain Old Testament characters (e.g. Zerubbabel,
Joshua and Haggai, and the mythical figure of Hiram Abiff for whom
there is no basis in the Biblical account). The Bible seems to be
regarded mainly as a source for Masonic symbolism rather than the
Word of God, though we were assured that this would not be true of
those Masons for whom the Bible is personally authoritative.
Freemasonry teaches much about moral righteousness but almost
nothing about sin and repentance. There appears to be no need for
the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God through the shed
blood of Jesus Christ. Masons are encouraged to become involved in
charitable causes, and in the minds of many these good works may be
their idea of earning salvation. There is another strand in
Freemasonry which implies salvation through enlightenment, after the
manner of the ancient mystery religions. In the first degree, the
candidate is referred to as “a poor candidate in a state of darkness,
humbly soliciting to be admitted to the privileges of Freemasonry”,
but the light offered is not Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.
We find it hard to understand how a committed Christian could
honestly be the subject in such a ritual.
Masons believe in the immortality of the soul, but the hope appears
not to be in Christ, but through the moral example, re-enacted by
the initiate, of the mythical brass-founder, Hiram Abiff. Some
Masons deny that this is so, and regard it as a misunderstanding of
the meaning of the ritual. However, the hope is expressed in non-
Christian terms as “when we shall be summoned from this sublunary
abode we may ascend to the Grand Lodge above, where the world’s
Great Architect lives and reigns forever.” This is not the
Christian hope of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ the
crucified and risen Lord.
Masons themselves emphasize that the movement is not a secret
society but a society with secrets, since there is no attempt to
hide the identity of members. However we feel that the strong
element of secrecy and the use of secret signs which characterize
the movement are inconsistent with the openness of Christian faith
and witness. We also seriously question whether it is permissible
for Christians to commit themselves to a course of action the nature
of which is a yet concealed from them, as happens in the rites of
initiation. It is difficult to avoid the judgement that there is a
strong element of deception in this practice.
The extravagant nature of the solemn oaths to safeguard the secrets
is also a matter for concern. They smack of the kind of vain
swearing which is condemned in the Scriptures (cf. Matt.5:33-37).
Although the bizarre penalties of mutilation and death which are
attached to the oaths may never be literally carried out, they and
the oaths imply a degree of commitment required of the candidate
which appears quite incompatible with a ChristianÕs supreme
commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord. It is difficult not to see a
very real conflict of loyalties for any Christian who takes
seriously his commitment to the Brotherhood.
POSSIBLE OCCULT ASSOCIATIONS
Some Christians are convinced that the are occult or even diabolical
elements in Freemasonry. Their grounds for this appear to be
1) The use of names. The name of the god Baal occurs in the
composite name for God. In the Bible this is the fertility god of
the Canaanites and later the name became an appellation of the
devil. In the ritual of some of the higher degrees the names of
Lucifer and Abaddon are used as revelations of the Masonic deity.
Both have evil associations in the Bible. Although they may simply
have been taken from the Bible out of their original context and
used in the first place with any evil significance, some Christians
believe that they carry their evil associations with them and that
those who share in the rituals may be in danger of exposure to
2) Some ministers and other pastoral counsellors have had the
experience of dealing with Masons who have testified to their need
for spiritual deliverance, feeling spiritually bound until set free
Certainly the whole complex of words and ideas inherent in
Freemasonry bears close similarities to forms of occultism and is
in strong contrast to the purity and simplicity of the Gospel and
would appear to be inconsistent with the Christian’s walking in the
INFLUENCE IN SOCIETY
Whilst this is not strictly within the groupÕs remit, it would be a
matter of Christian concern if there were strong evidence that
Freemasonry exerts an undue and detrimental influence in certain
areas of our national life (e.g. in the professions, industry,
local government, Civil service, police). Allegations of unfair
advantage, of the distortion of justice and even of corruption, have
often been made and as often strenuously denied. Because the
movement works largely in secrecy and uses secret signs and code
words, it is often difficult to pinpoint specific instances. Some
who have recently investigated some of the allegations at depth
appear to be convinced that they have some foundation. For example,
Sir Kenneth Newman in his guidelines issued to the Metropolitan
Police leaves no doubt that in his view Freemasonry and police
service are incompatible. Stephen Knight (in The Brotherhood) gives
detailed records of his own investigations in various areas.
We feel that there is a great danger that the Christian who is a
Freemason may find himself compromising his Christian beliefs and
his allegiance to Jesus Christ, perhaps without realizing what he
It may be that some entered the movement as young men with a view to
possible advantages it appeared to offer or through family
connections. It may be that they accepted the strange rites of
initiation largely as a means to an end. It could well be that the
religious aspects of Freemasonry did not greatly concern them.
Hence, they have never been acutely aware of any serious
incompatibility between their Christian faith and membership in the
However, the clear conclusion we have reached from our enquiry is
that there is an inherent incompatibility between Freemasonry and
the Christian faith. Also that commitment within the movement is
inconsistent with a Christian’s commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you,
that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. I we say we
have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do
not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, and
he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the
blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7
OUR BASIC CONVICTIONS
These and the nature of our Christian commitment are summarized in
our Baptist Union Declaration of Principle, which is itself firmly
based on New Testament truth. There it is stated that the basis of
our Union is,
1. That the Lord Jesus Christ our God and Saviour is the sole and
absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice,
as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each church has
liberty to interpret and administer His laws.
2. That Christian Baptism is the immersion in water unto the name of
the Father,the Son and the Holy Spirit, of those who have professed
repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ Who died
for our sins according to the Scriptures: was buried and rose again
the third day.
3. That it is the duty of every disciple to bear witness to the
Gospel of Jesus Christ and to take part in the evangelization of
Stated or implicit in this declaration are the following
1. There is One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Who has revealed
Himself supremely and uniquely in His Son Jesus Christ, Who through
His death and resurrection has brought us forgiveness of our sins
and a share in the eternal life of God.
2. Jesus Christ as Lord is the sole and absolute authority in the
loves of Christian believers and within the Church.
3. The Bible is uniquely the Book of God’s revealed truth, through
which God in Christ speaks today to the Church and the world.
4. Salvation is solely through repentance and faith in the Lord
5. In believer’s baptism we affirm our prior commitment to Jesus
Christ our living Lord and Saviour and the Head of the Church, and
to our share in His mission for the world for which He died.
WHAT MASONS SAY OF THEMSELVES
Information For Candidates (from The Universal Book of Craft
Freemasonry consists of a body of men banded together to preserve
the secrets, customs, and ceremonials handed down to them from time
immemorial, and for the purpose of mutual intellectual, social and
moral improvement. They also endeavor to cultivate and exhibit
brotherly love, relief and truth, not only to one another, but to
the world at large.
Freemasonry offers no pecuniary advantages whatever, neither does
there exist any obligation nor implied understanding binding one
Mason to deal with another, nor to support him in any way in the
ordinary business relations of life.
Freemasonry has certain charities, but it is not in any sense
whatever a benefit society, nor is it based on any calculation
which would render this possible. The charities are solely for
those who having been in good circumstances have been overtaken by
misfortune or adversity, and they are quite insufficient to meet
even these demands now made upon them.
Freemasonry distinctly teaches that a manÕs first duty is to himself,
his wife, his family and his connections, and no one should join
the Order who cannot well afford to pay the initiation fees and
subscriptions to his Lodge as well as to the Masonic charities, and
this without detriment in any way to his comfort or that of those
who have any claim on his support.
Freemasonry recognizes no distinctions of religion, but none should
attempt to enter who have no religious belief, as faith in a Deity
must be expressed before any can be initiated, and prays to Him
form a frequent part of the ritual.
Freemasonry therefore demands that everyone offering himself as a
candidate should be well assured in his own mind:
1) That he sincerely desires the intellectual and moral improvements
of himself and his fellow creatures, and that he is willing to
devote part of his time, means and efforts to the promotion of
brotherly love, relief and trust.
2) That he seeks no commercial, social, nor pecuniary advantages.
3) That he is able to afford the necessary expenditure without
injury to himself or connections.
4) That he is willing to enter into solemn obligations in the sight
of his God.
REPORTS FROM OTHER DENOMINATIONS
Most of the reports and comments available tend to strike the note
of quiet pastoral concern, rather than indulging in wild, dramatic
claims. Certain basic concerns are common to all, and it is surely
not without significance that enquiry groups set up by Christians
from differing traditions have arrived at very similar conclusions
to our own.
The Church of Scotland Panel on Doctrine (1965) concludes, “In our
view total obedience to Christ precludes joining any organization
such as the Masonic movement which seems to demand a whole-hearted
allegiance to itself, and at the same time refuses to divulge all
that is involved in that allegiance prior to joining…The initiate
is required to commit himself to Masonry in a way that a Christian
should only commit himself to Christ.” (They are instituting a fresh
enquiry following discussion in the 1987 Assembly)
The Free Church of Scotland report concludes, “in the minds of the
committee, according to their interpretations of Scripture,
membership of Freemasonry…is inconsistent with a profession of
the Christian faith.”
The Methodist report states, “There is a great danger that the
Christian who becomes a Freemason will find himself compromising his
Christian beliefs or his allegiance to Christ, perhaps without
realizing what he is doing. Consequently, our guidance is that
Methodists should not become Freemasons.”
The recently published report of the Church of England enquiry
points to a number of fundamental reasons to question the
incompatibility of Freemasonry and Christianity. They believe that
Christians who are also Freemasons face major difficulties in
reconciling the two allegiances, and that some of the Masonic
rituals are felt to be “blasphemous, disturbing and even evil.”
FOR FURTHER READING
From the literature consulted by the group, we recommend the
following for further reading.
Darkness Visible. Walton Hannah (Augustine Publishing Co.) Valuable
not only as a Christian appraisal of Freemasonry but also as a
source book of detail of Freemasonry ritual.
The Brotherhood. Stephen Knight (Granada) Not written from a
Christian standpoint but contains results of researches into the
influence of Freemasonry in areas of national life. The chapter
“The Devil in Disguise” is especially relevant.
Freemasonry – a Religion? John Lawrence (A C of E vicar) (Kingsway)
published in 1978.
Christians and Freemasonry. W.J. McCormick, distributed by McCall
Barbour, 28 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh.
The Question of Freemasonry. J. Edward Decker (obtainable from FREE
THE MASONS MINISTRIES, P.O. Box 1226, Issaquah, WA. 98027, USA)
Strongly polemical in tone, but valuable for extensive quotations
from acknowledged Masonic sources.
Freemasonry – of God or of the Devil? Sermon by Rev. A.W. Rainsbury
(C of E) (obtainable from Pickering and Inglis)
Guidance to the Methodists on Freemasonry. (obtainable through
Baptist Church House)
Report of the Church of England Working Group, (obtainable from
Church House, Westminster).
As stated in the document we had originally hoped for some
Freemasonry input into our enquiry. This proved not to be possible.
A written request to a local lodge for information resulted in a
phone call with a strong denial that there could be any
incompatibility between Freemasonry and Christianity and ending
with a flat refusal to give us any help. We were grateful for the
comments of a member of an English Baptist church who is a Mason,
on the areas of concern we raised with him. We also had comments
from an ex-Mason who has recently renounced his membership in the
We were concerned that we have no authoritative comment from
Scottish Freemasonry and eventually we approached the Grand Lodge
of Scotland. They willingly agreed to meet us and four members of
our group met with leading representatives of the Grand Lodge. We
were received most cordially and had a frank and full discussion on
the questions which concerned us. In some matters, we found an
openness we had not expected and some real appreciation of the
issues we raised, though at times we detected a definite holding
back. We were grateful for the meeting which helped to clarify
some questions concerning Freemasonry in Scotland.
We have also noted the published concerns of the Grand Secretary of
the United Grand Lodge of England on the report of the Church of
England working group.
In general, the reaction of Freemasons is a blanket denial that
Freemasonry is in any sense a religion or that there can be any
incompatibility with the Christian faith or in any sense a divided
allegiance. The important question is not whether Freemasonry is
itself a religion, but whether the undoubted religious elements in
it can be accepted by a committed Christian without the danger of
compromising the Christian faith.
The gist of their argument seems to be that even though Freemasonry
deliberately limits the concept of God to a common denominator
thought to be acceptable to me of all religious faiths, the
Christian Mason can bring into it privately all the richness of the
Christian revelation and supplement the inadequate worship offered
with his own worship of the Triune God. Moreover, that just as
Jesus Christ is implicit in the Old Testament, so he may be
understood to be implicit in Freemasonry without actually being
We do not find the argument convincing. The question arises, Why
should a Christian for whom Jesus Christ is the fulness of God and
who knows Him as Saviour and Lord wish to belong to a movement
whose members when they worship together do not offer Christian
And why should be wish to belong to a movement which demands of him
the kind of commitment that he should only give to Jesus Christ his
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