Christianity and the Masonic Lodge: Are They Compatible? – Program 1

By: Bill Mankin, Dr. Walter Martin; ©1985
Does Masonry function as a religion? Does it fit the standard dictionary definition of a cult?

Is Masonry a Cult?

John Ankerberg: We’re glad that you joined us tonight. We have a man from Boise, Idaho, who belongs to the Masonic Lodge, and he’s going to be our guest on the program. He actually wrote to me and said that he objected to some things that we have said on a prior program. And I thought that might make an interesting program for everybody. Bill Mankin is also a Christian, He’s a 32nd degree Mason in the lodge in Boise. Bill, we’re glad that you’re here tonight. Right next to him is Dr. Walter Martin. Most of you folks are familiar with Dr. Martin. He’s the director and founder of the Christian Research Institute. He’s also the Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religions at Simon Greenleaf School of Law. Dr. Martin, we’re glad that you’re here tonight.
Bill, I think I’m going to come right to you, because you wrote the letter, you sent it to me, but it was actually addressed to Walter. And I thought, instead of me setting the discussion tonight, why don’t you tell the guy right next to you, right to his face, what you objected to that he said on one of our programs?
William Mankin: About last January, I believe, you did a series of programs on Mormonism. The upshot of it was, towards the end of the discussion there was a remark from Dr. Martin that this all stemmed from the cult of Freemasonry. My specific objection was to the use of the term “cult” on what I had always termed a fraternal organization that uses certain symbols. Masonry strictly defined is, our definition is, “A system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” Now, we don’t function as a religion. It’s a fraternal organization. And as such I objected to the use of the term “cult.” And that is in essence the subject of my letter to Dr. Martin, of which you did indeed get a copy.
Ankerberg: Okay, Walter, how in the world could you say a system of morality veiled in allegory is a cult?
Walter Martin: Well, the dictionary definition of a cult, from the Latin cultus, is: “A group of individuals devoted to a specific idea, or individual (gathered around that individual), or a set or rites or rituals,” qualifies as a cult. There are five different definitions given. And I was speaking in the functional definition of Masonry, which is that Masonry actually is a substitute faith and a very real religion and a rival of Christianity, even though it largely in its vocabulary projects itself as a fraternal organization. Also, I think that there are many Masons who are in the Masonic Order, my father having been one of them, who are very devoted to the noble ideas of promoting hospitals, caring for the sick and the aged, the charitable works of Masonry. There was no quarrel with that at all in my upbringing or my thinking and I observed it in my own father. But that, of course, has nothing to do with individual salvation, because in Christianity salvation is by grace alone through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it has nothing whatever to do with you working your way to heaven by any means whatever.
Ankerberg: I think we’ve got to stop here. I think, Bill, you are a Christian, aren’t you?
Mankin: Yes, sir!
Ankerberg: So you’ve got two fellow Christians sitting there and I think the point of our program is: Is Christianity compatible with the Lodge? And you are saying basically that it is?
Mankin: Certainly!
Ankerberg: Let me preface this, because there are many good things with the Lodge in terms of what Walter just mentioned, the hospitals and so on, the different functions, the charities, I think there’s no argument on that. We never argue with people on things that are right. But the discussion comes around – let me see if I can frame it for you – and that is that it’s not a religion.
Mankin: More than that. It’s not a religion. It offers no system of salvation. And I’m going to have to read from this certain point because this is very, very important and something that you should realize, because we have none of the marks of a religion.
Ankerberg: Okay, let it go.
Mankin: We have no creed, no confession of faith in a doctrinal statement. We have no theology. We have no ritual of worship. We have no symbols that are religious in the sense of symbols found in a church or a synagogue. Our symbols are related to the development of character, of the relationship of man to man. They are working tools to be used in the building of life. These working tools have been used from time immemorial to build buildings. And all we are saying is that if you as an individual adopt the principles represented, and we’ll get into some of that symbolism later on, that you will be a better person, not that you’re going to go to heaven.
Ankerberg: I have taken this from the state of Tennessee. This is the Tennessee Craftsman, the monitorial work for the state of Tennessee for the Lodge. Okay? Now in the one that I’m holding right here, I’ve got the whole book with me, there are prayers at the front that are used as examples to open up the meetings of the Lodge and so on, to close, I suspect, the meetings of the Lodge. Would you agree with this prayer? This is the first one on the page here, okay: “Most merciful God, Supreme Architect of heaven and earth, we beseech Thee to guide and protect these brethren here assembled and fulfill at this time that divine promise. Bless and prosper us in all our laudable undertakings. And grant, O God, that our conduct may tend to Thy glory, to the advancement of Freemasonry, and finally to our own salvation in that blessed kingdom where the righteous shall find rest.” Do you agree with that prayer?
Mankin: One thing we have to realize here is that I have to speak to you as an Idaho Mason. We don’t use that prayer in Idaho and I’ll be happy to give you the one that we do use. Each jurisdiction has its own ritual, although it varies in principle.
Ankerberg: Would you agree with that prayer, though?
Mankin: I see nothing wrong with it in context, in the context of the Great Architect of the Universe. Ours says, “In Thy name we desire to proceed in all our doings.” In essence you’re saying the same thing.
Ankerberg: Wouldn’t you say, though, that a prayer addressed to “most merciful God, Supreme Architect of heaven and earth,” and “that our conduct may tend to thy glory and finally to our own salvation,” isn’t that religious?
Mankin: As religious as the prayer that prefaces each opening of the Congress of the United States.
Ankerberg: Okay, but is then our conduct as a Christian, just take these lines, “…our conduct may tend…”
Mankin: I don’t think it says “Christian” in there.
Ankerberg: I don’t think it does either. That’s what I’m getting to: “our conduct may tend to finally give us our own salvation in that blessed kingdom.” Aren’t we talking about salvation here?
Mankin: They might be, but here again, you come back to…
Ankerberg: Let me just stop you right there.
Mankin: We’re going to talk about this all night long. You’re talking about something that is…
Ankerberg: Okay, I just want to follow through on the first prayer I’ve got in the book right here in our state…
Mankin: That is symbolic. It is symbolic in nature. We are not offering a system of salvation. We are not!
Ankerberg: Well, if we’re asking God to help us in our conduct so we can finally get our own salvation, I would say that’s a pretty solid piece of religion.
Mankin: Can I read you a prayer?
Ankerberg: Yeah.
Mankin: I got this out of the Masonic library: “As we lift up our heads, our Father, may we also open the doors of our hearts that the glory of thy spirit may come in and dwell with us, helping us to render a true service to thee and a faithful service to the fellowmen working under the banner of truth, justice, and love. May we lead our people beyond the limits of differences and divisions to the heights of unity and peace. For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
Ankerberg: Okay. In order for us to define terms, because the questions I’m going to ask you on the two prayers that we’ve read, have to do with what God are we talking about; who is the Great Architect, the Supreme Architect of the Universe? Now, how do we figure that out? What is your authority? When you have a question on the Masonic Lodge, who do you go to?
Mankin: I go to the ritual.
Ankerberg: And where does the ritual come from?
Mankin: The ritual, that’s… the monitor portion of the ritual, is spoken. What deals with the obligation and the doings of Masonry is the portion that is secret. That, and unfortunately, you’re not privy to that unless you ask to be privy to it.
Ankerberg: Did the branch in Idaho originate there in a vacuum?
Mankin: No.
Ankerberg: Is there a tradition?
Mankin: You will receive a dispensation from another lodge to conduct proceedings.
Ankerberg: And where did it all go back to?
Mankin: It all comes back to the Grand Lodge of England in 1717.
Ankerberg: Okay, and when it came to America, where did it come to first in America?
Mankin: I’ve got to look.
Ankerberg: Where is the home base?
Mankin: There is no home base.
Ankerberg: Okay, when it came in and George Washington was a part of it and Jefferson and so on, it must have been up there in the eastern states. You have the Grand Lodge now in every state. Is that correct?
Mankin: That is correct.
Ankerberg: Okay, now the Grand Lodge for Idaho is what? Is that yours?
Mankin: That is our jurisdiction.
Ankerberg: So, do you have connection, is there a fraternal organization in the sense that you agree with the beliefs of some of these other organizations, these other states?
Mankin: The basic philosophy of Masonry.
Ankerberg: So would Philadelphia be that much different from Idaho?
Mankin: Not in content.
Ankerberg: Would New York be that much different from Idaho?
Mankin: Not in content.
Ankerberg: Okay. Now let me ask you this…
Mankin: Not in principle, I should say. Occasionally in content.
Ankerberg: Let me ask you this. In terms of authorities, let me just ask you a couple here. Right in my hands I have a New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. Do you accept what Arthur Edward Waite has written in here?
Mankin: I have not read that.
Ankerberg: That was put out now, as far as I know, in 1982. Here you have the Encyclopedia of Masonry. Here is The Meaning of Masonry, by W. L. Wilmhurst. He is listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica as one of the chief Masonic writers in English Masonry. Okay? It was reprinted by command of the Grand Lodge of New York. The curator and the librarian had this republished to set forth the meaning of Masonry. Would you accept that?
Mankin: I will accept that as opinion, not as an official doctrine of Masonry.
Ankerberg: Okay. How about Duncan’s Ritual of Freemasonry?
Mankin: I’m not familiar with the book.
Ankerberg: This is just the basic manual, it says, “To the three symbolic degrees of ancient York Rite.” Just seems like it has the basic outline. Seems like it is found in every lodge that I’ve ever asked.
Mankin: And there again, John, you’re going to run into these situations where that’s not necessarily true. As I said, the work varies from state to state.
Ankerberg: But then when we asked two lodges – one in Philadelphia, the Grand Lodge there – we asked, “Who would you recommend that would give an authoritative account or would give the best account of Masonry?” And they gave us the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Mackey. You’re acquainted with that?
Mankin: Yes, sir.
Ankerberg: Would you say that’s a good representation?
Mankin: I would say that’s a good representation of most of what Masonry is about, but it is still Mackey’s opinion and that’s what we’re involved in.
Ankerberg: And finally, I would say most of the people who are part of the Lodge are familiar with Morals and Dogma of Freemasonry, by Albert Pike.
Mankin: Albert Pike specifically directs, there’s a very small portion of the book that speaks to the first three degrees, or Blue Lodge Masonry. The balance of that book, and by far the lion’s share, speaks to the fourth through 32nd degrees.
Ankerberg: You’re familiar with the fact that the very phrase that you used in your letter to me comes from Albert Pike’s book?
Mankin: The definition of Masonry is pretty much universal. I can show you another one that came from the German handbook that says essentially the same thing.
Ankerberg: I just want to suggest that we’ve done our homework in terms of trying to define the words as not presented by Ankerberg or Martin or anyone else, but what people that are in the lodges, what they are saying: “This is the best we’ve got in terms of representing us.”
Mankin: As long as you deal with it in the terms of symbolism and allegory, you’ll get no argument from me.
Ankerberg: Dr. Martin, you want to pick it up there in terms of these prayers then?
Martin: I think that we should cut through this one important language barrier which we have right now. And that is that whatever source you quote, our brother is going to say that’s not authoritative if it disagrees with what he thinks.
Mankin: That’s true.
Martin: Therefore, the inevitable court of appeal is what he thinks and not what any Masonic authority writes. Would you say that’s true?
Mankin: No, Dr. Martin, I don’t say that’s….
Martin: Well, I mean, John was very careful to give you the outstanding authorities on the subject and you said, “Yes, insofar as… insofar as.” What is the “insofar?”
Mankin: I didn’t say that in regards to the Tennessee Monitor. That’s an actual document used in the lodge.
Martin: Let’s take the other ones then, Mackey and Pike.
Mankin: But Mackey is not used in a lodge anywhere. It’s opinion.
Martin: I’m just saying, I mean, I’m trying to get down to the bedrock of this thing. The bedrock is the authoritative source in Masonry for you is what you read yourself and deduce from it and believe.
Mankin: No. The authoritative source for Masonry is the ritual. The ritual, what happens in the lodge, what goes on.
Martin: So there are some basic things then that are universal to Masonry?
Mankin: Yes.
Martin: And that you would agree with and that all Masons would agree with?
Mankin: Yes.
Martin: Okay, now we have established that there is a basic foundation upon which all Masonry rests. Alright?
Mankin: Yes.
Martin: Now, let me go to some of these and find out if this is accurate. “Masonry reverences all the great reformers. It sees in Moses, the lawgiver to the Jews, and Confucius, and Zoroaster, and Jesus of Nazareth, and in the Arabian iconoclast, great teachers of morality, and eminent reformers, if no more; and allows every brother of the order to assign to each such higher, and even divine, characteristics as his creed and truth require.”
Now, I’m a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Confucianist, a Zoroastrian, and I reject Jesus Christ flat out as the Savior of the world. I reject Him as God incarnate. I reject His teaching of the cross, of salvation, His bodily resurrection, His virgin birth, everything connected with Him except the fact that He was a reformer and a moral teacher. I reject all that. I’m your brother Mason?
Mankin: Yes.
Martin: And I’m going to be saved?
Mankin: No, no. And therein lies the rub. You’re not dealing with a system of salvation.
Martin: I’ve got to back this up.
Mankin: You’re not going to be saved because you’re a Mason. You’ve got to be saved by grace.
Martin: Let’s back this up. You’re speaking as a Christian?
Mankin: Of course I’m speaking as a Christian.
Martin: I’m trying to ask now for the Masonic view worldwide. The Zoroastrian believes, they all believe they’re going to be saved by their own brotherhood?
Mankin: No, they don’t. They believe that your choice of how you are going to be saved is up to you. I am a Christian, but there is nothing in Masonry to keep you from becoming a Mason if you belong to another faith, if you choose not to believe that.
Ankerberg: Okay, let me just turn the coin on that. I had the privilege of speaking in Salt Lake City just a couple of weeks back and when I was there I checked and I found out that instead of the Bible being on the altar of the Masonic Lodge we had the Book of Mormon. When I was in Indonesia, instead of the Bible being the book that they swore by, it was the Qur’an. And when I was up in India, it was the Bhagavad-Gita. And in other parts of the United States it’s the Bible.
Mankin: Who told you that the Book of Mormon was on the altar in Salt Lake City?
Ankerberg: I asked. I wanted to know. I asked.
Mankin: I don’t know of a case where that would be.
Ankerberg: Let me quote from Pike: “The Bible is an indispensable part of the furniture of a Christian lodge [I’ve heard that in almost all the books. Next line] only because it is the sacred book of the Christian religion. The Hebrew Pentateuch in a Hebrew lodge, the Koran in a Mohammedan one, belong on the altar. And one of these and the square and the compass properly understood are the great lights by which a Mason must walk and work.” Now why? “The obligation of the candidate is always to be taken on the sacred book or books of his religion, that he may deem it more solemn and binding, and therefore it was that you were asked of what religion you were. We have no other concern with your religious creed.”
Mankin: To ask a Mohammedan to swear on the Christian Bible would be ludicrous. It would be sacrilegious.
Ankerberg: So then the Bible is not the authoritative book of the Masonic Lodge? That’s what Walter is saying.
Martin: That’s what I’m saying.
Mankin: When I wrote you the letter I said, “In the United States the Holy Bible is the rule and guide of our faith.” Yes, I said that.
Ankerberg: But then there must be something behind the Holy Bible, because it is not universal. It’s just for this square geographical area here, and over there, there is another authoritative book. That was where I think Walter was going.
Mankin: Well, it’s not whether or not it’s authoritative that is what’s meaningful here.
Ankerberg: That’s what he said.
Mankin: What you’re asking a candidate to do is obligate himself to the highest principles that he knows.
Ankerberg: According to what he thinks.
Mankin: According to his religion. There’s no point in having him obligate it according to Dr. Martin’s religion or according to my religion.
Ankerberg: Okay, Bill, how you like that in terms of truth?
Mankin: In terms of truth?
Ankerberg: Truth. Is truth that way?
Mankin: We’re not talking about theology. We are talking about a system of morality that is illustrated by the use of the square, by the compasses, by the level, and by the plumb.
Ankerberg: Walter, you want to pick that up here?
Martin: I want to pick up the idea that, and a very important idea it is too, that if there’s a Muslim or a Buddhist lodge in the United States, the Bible is not the center of that.
Mankin: That’s conceivable.
Martin: But you just said a minute ago that you wouldn’t have a Bible on a Muslim altar.
Mankin: There would be all of those. There would still be a Christian Bible in virtually any lodge in the United States.
Martin: In the Muslim lodge? And the Buddhist scriptures, and the Hindu Upanishad, and the Vedas, they would be there too?
Mankin: If it was so desired.
Martin: But the Bible is required absolutely?
Mankin: Yes. Can I quote you from ritual?
Martin: Yes, go ahead.
Mankin: “Every well-governed lodge is furnished with a Holy Bible, a square, and compasses. The Holy Bible is dedicated to God, it being His inestimable gift to man as the rule and guide of his faith.”
Martin: Great. Now if that’s true and if this is true: “The Holy Bible points out the path which leads to happiness and is dedicated to God because it is the inestimable gift of God to man.” If that’s true, what are you as a Christian doing in the light of the Holy Scripture which says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me,” [John 14:6] having fellowship with people who deny Jesus Christ as Savior?
Mankin: I am not having fellowship with them.
Martin: Sure you are. You’re in up to the 32nd degree of Masons right now.
Mankin: I don’t know a single Mason who is not a Christian.
Martin: I can introduce you to plenty of them. Plenty of them. No problem at all.
Mankin: I don’t know a single Mason who’s not a Christian.
Martin: I can introduce you to Masons who are devout Jews, who want nothing whatever to do with Christianity.
Mankin: Well, I don’t know any Jewish Masons.
Martin: Do you know any black ones?
Mankin: I know members of Prince Hall Lodges.
Martin: Are they members of your lodge?
Mankin: No.
Martin: Do the Masons allow black people in their lodges?
Mankin: Yes.
Martin: As members? In a white lodge?
Mankin: Yes.
Martin: That’s strange because I’ve got a document here…
Mankin: I know people that have sat in lodge with members of African lodges. The Prince Hall Lodges of the United States, it is true, have been declared clandestine. That has been a…
Martin: Clandestine! They’re racist!
Mankin: No! No sir!
Martin: Come on! Stop playing games with me.
Mankin: Dr. Martin, that is absolutely untrue. It has been at their choice and they chose not to.
Martin: Their choice? They weren’t welcomed. I already checked it out. Listen. You ready? “Freemasonry, the Shrine, the order of the Eastern Star, the Knights Templar, the Demolay, the International Order of Rainbow Girls and numerous others have thus far made no official attempts to admit non-whites to their fraternal membership rosters. Whether these groups will admit non-whites in the future remains to be seen.” This is Fraternal Organizations, Alvin Schmidt, the foremost authority in the United States on the Encyclopedia of American Institutions. Masonry denies the basic principle of the Bible, which is that you shall not have discrimination. In Jesus Christ there is neither barbarian, Scythian, slave, nor free. [Col. 3:11] They are all one body in Christ, and you’re in a racist organization.
Mankin: Not true! Absolutely not true!
Ankerberg: Alright. Guys, in my hands right here I have a Masonic Bible. In the preface of this Bible it says this: “Thus by the very honor which Masonry pays to the Bible it teaches us to revere every book of faith in which men find help for today and hope for the morrow, joining hands with the man of Islam as he takes oath on the Koran, and with the Hindu as he makes covenant with God upon the book that he loves best. For Masonry knows what so many forget: that religions are many, but religion is one. Perhaps, we may say, one thing.” Bill, is that what we’re saying, it’s Christianity?
Mankin: That particular statement is not in my Masonic Bible.
Ankerberg: It’s in this one.
Mankin: Is that a Holman?
Ankerberg: It’s a Holman.
Mankin: It’s not in mine.
Ankerberg: But it’s the same thing we’re talking about that Albert Pike had…
Mankin: There is a universality to Masonry. There is no question about that.
Ankerberg: What’s that?
Mankin: A universality to Masonry. We expect that, by the very nature of what we’re talking about. Masonry is universal. It hasn’t always been so; in fact, at one time was profoundly Christian. It was decided, not by me certainly, that it was necessary to do that. If you continue to look at it in terms of a theology, then you’ll come up against Christianity every time. We don’t do that. We look at it in terms of, again, a way of living, a way to build a life, not something that is going to grant you salvation.
Ankerberg: Is Christianity separate from your way of living?
Mankin: It’s not separate from my way of living.
Ankerberg: Walter?
Martin: You can’t separate Christianity from life. And as a Christian I would ask this question of you: namely, what can Masonry give you that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God can’t?
Mankin: Nothing. But I’m not in it to get something.
Martin: Why are you in there for this system of morals? Why are you in there for this effort for good works? Why are you in there for all of this if you have the Holy Spirit, if you’re a Christian, if you have Christ as your Savior, if you have Him who is Lord of all, and you’re in there with Buddha, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Confucius and everybody and his uncle Harry?
Mankin: I’d sure like to see some of those guys come to lodge.
Martin: Well, I know a lot of people that have them there in spirit.
Mankin: I’ve never seen anybody like that in lodge. Most of the people I see are just like we see in this room.
Martin: You know, you said something at the beginning of the program I think is tremendously interesting. You said, “Masonry is not a religion.”
Mankin: It is not.
Martin: We quoted Coil to you and you said Coil was a good source. May I quote Coil again? Masonic Encyclopedia, the gentleman who edited, Harold Van Buren Voorhis, 33rd degree Mason, he’s considered to be an outstanding interpreter of Freemasonry in America today. Under the topic, “Religion,” twelve pages were there, 15,000 words on the subject: “Coil defends Mackey, who called Freemasonry religion: ‘There is nothing to prevent one holding two or three religions which are not inconsistent.’ Coil displays a curious ignorance of the relationship between the Old and the New Testament,” and goes on specifically point by point to establish the concept that Masonry is a religion. He argues 15,000 words worth that it’s a religion.
Mankin: But that’s his opinion. That is not Masonic doctrine.
Martin: But he’s an authority, a world authority.
Mankin: There are a lot of authorities.
Martin: But you are nowhere near him, right?
Mankin: Do you agree with everybody that has written about Christianity? You certainly don’t. People write things in the name of Christianity every day that are not consistent with what you might read in the Bible.
Martin: That’s perfectly true, but the problem that we’re facing here is that you represent a fraternal organization which every time you are pinned down to give an answer to, you immediately walk away from it and say, “Well, that’s their opinion.” Yet, the basics of Masonry are opposed to the basics of Christianity. Masonry says that it’s possible to enter heaven by following the teachings of Buddha, Muhammad, Zoroaster, or Confucius. They say that. It’s in their books. They say that!
Mankin: It does not say that.
Ankerberg: Okay, let’s hold on to that. We’ll check it out next week, and we’ll get the books out and take a look at it. Please join us.

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