Christianity and the Masonic Lodge: Are They Compatible? – Program 3

By: Bill Mankin, Dr. Walter Martin; ©1985
Masons claim there is nothing in the Lodge or its rituals that is contrary to Christianity. But is that true?

Is the Masonic Lodge Compatible with Christianity?

Ankerberg: We’re talking about the relationship of the Masonic Lodge to Orthodox Christianity. Should there be a relationship? And we have two fellow Christians on stage tonight. One, William Mankin from Boise, Idaho, who is a 32nd degree Mason in the lodge there. And then Dr. Walter Martin, who is the founder of the Christian Research Institute and Professor of Comparative Religions at Simon Greenleaf School of Law. Guys, we’re glad that you’re here. We left on a tough note last week, Bill, and that was the sense that we touched on a degree that you felt that we shouldn’t talk about and…
Mankin: Well, first of all, John, I’m going to interrupt for a second. You touched on a degree that I knew nothing about. Secondly, you touched on a degree, the 19th degree in the Scottish Rite, that I have not received directly and also mentioned things that, even had I received them, I would have been prevented from discussing because of my obligation.
Ankerberg: Okay, let’s talk about that obligation, because you’re sitting there holding two hats in a sense. You’re a Christian; you’re also a Mason. The fact is that what Walter was talking about, if this is true on the other side, that the Masonic Lodge is passing out the fact of the right of the Melchizedek priesthood – which Hebrews says that only Jesus Christ has; He is our only Savior and you hold that in your mind as a Christian – but in the other sense, I have to ask you, at that point when you come into conflict with your Christian belief, when you would say, “My Masonic vows tell me that I should not speak out on that. I should not talk about it. Even if I had an opinion I shouldn’t talk about that.” Doesn’t it sound like our allegiance on the Christian side of the fence, from our Christian audience that’s looking in tonight, doesn’t it sound like you fudged?
Mankin: No, because again, as I said, “A system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” Nobody is conferring any priesthood. They are symbolically giving a lesson. And that’s all it is. It’s a moral lesson, symbolic. There is no conferral of the priesthood. There’s a conferral of a degree.
Ankerberg: Walter, would you think that just by saying those words that it doesn’t mean anything?
Martin: No, I think this is a cop-out. I think it’s a cop-out for a Christian to belong to the Masons, because first and foremost our allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. He transcends Masonry by infinity. And therefore, to even for a moment consider Masonry to even be comparable in anything to the revelation God gave in Christ and to even countenance some of these things is to me reprehensible. But I really feel that Bill is sincere and I think that he should discuss those three rites that he’s an expert in and that we should respond to that because, after all, that’s what he came to do
Ankerberg: Okay, let’s pick one, Walter, and let’s go through maybe all three of them.
Mankin: I asked you earlier if I could give the charge to the first degree because I think it’s beautiful. It will just take me a couple of minutes to read it. This happens to every first degree Mason. This is published and this is part of the things that everybody should know about Masonry.
My brother, having passed through the ceremonies of your initiation, allow me to congratulate you on your admission into our ancient and honorable fraternity. Ancient, as it existed from time immemorial, and honorable, as tending to make all men so who are strictly obedient to its precepts. It is an institution having for its foundation the practice of social and moral virtues and to so high an eminence as its credit has been advanced, that in every age and country men pre-eminent for their moral and intellectual attainments have encouraged and promoted its interests. Nor has it been thought derogatory to their dignity that monarchs have for a season exchanged the scepter for the trowel, to patronize our mysteries and join in our assemblies.
As a Mason you are to regard the volume of the sacred law as the great light in your profession, to consider it as an unerring standard of truth and justice, and to regulate your actions by the divine precepts it contains. In it you will learn the important duties which you owe to God, your neighbor, and yourself. To God, by never mentioning His name except with that awe and reverence which is due from the creature to his Creator, by imploring His aid in all lawful undertakings, and by looking up to Him in every emergency for comfort and support. To your neighbor, by acting with him upon the square, by rendering him every kind office which justice or mercy may require, by relieving his distresses and soothing his afflictions, and by doing to him as in similar cases you would that he should do unto you. And to yourself, by such prudent and well-regulated discipline as may best conduce to the preservation of your corporeal and mental faculties and their fullest energy, thereby enabling you to exert the talents wherewith God has blessed you as well to His glory as to the welfare of your fellow citizens.
As a citizen you are enjoined to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties by never proposing or countenancing any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society, by paying due obedience to the laws under whose protection you live, and by never losing sight of the allegiance due to your country. As an individual you are charged to practice the domestic and public virtues. Let temperance chasten, fortitude support, and prudence direct you, and let justice be the guide of all your actions. Be especially careful to maintain in their fullest splendor those truly Masonic tenets: brotherly love, relief, and truth.
Finally, be faithful to the trust committed to your care and manifest your fidelity to the principles by a strict observance of the constitutions of Freemasonry by adhering to the ancient landmarks of the fraternity and by refusing to recommend anyone to a participation in our privileges unless you have a strong belief that by similar fidelity he will ultimately reflect honor on our ancient institution.
Now what’s wrong with that? That’s a noble purpose.
Ankerberg: I would say that as a Christian I wouldn’t join, knowing that two states over when they refer to the fact that in everything that you do consult the deity, in all things that you do, that they’re talking about a different deity than you are.
Mankin: Not in this country. Maybe in another country.
Ankerberg: Two states over. Right in Utah.
Mankin: I don’t know who told you that the Book of Mormon is on the altar in Utah, but that’s absolutely… there is an antagonism in Utah from Masons and Mormonism because, as you probably know, there are some parallels in Temple Mormonism and the Masonic ritual. There is a great deal of antagonism in Utah regarding that. I know for a fact there have been cases where….
Ankerberg: I’m just saying that if that’s the same thing that’s presented all over the world, is that the same thing or do you change it state by state?
Mankin: That’s the Idaho Monitor. That’s the only thing I can speak to, but I have a hunch that if you will look in the Tennessee Monitor you will find something not much different from that.
Ankerberg: Okay, so I would assume that I’d find that in India; I’d find it in Indonesia; I would find it in Africa.
Mankin: With the inherent translation differences.
Ankerberg: That’s what I’m saying. How is it that you as a Christian can say, “I will go with that,” if they are saying that you should support and uphold and believe in that holy book which you as a Christian, coming in and looking at that, realize that if you went to any of those lodges in those countries or went into Utah that you would have to say, “No, I don’t want you to follow the allegiance of that holy book and pray to that God.”
Mankin: No. You’re talking, John, about an individual thing. This is an individual thing. I don’t change my beliefs by going into another lodge. I don’t change my beliefs. I don’t deny God. Neither does any other Christian.
Ankerberg: So you don’t see any problem with being part of a world-wide fellowship that can change their belief in whatever lodge that they’re in. You can simply join up because you in your part of the woods….
Mankin: You don’t change your beliefs. You don’t change your beliefs.
Martin: John, I think that we ought to get to the bottom line in this entire thing. He read the charge of the first degree. I think we also ought to approach this, as we’re both Christians, from the perspective of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scripture says that we have an obligation first to Christ. He’s our Lord and that obligation commands us to go to the Scripture and Christ as our final authority. We cannot afford to have any view that is contrary to the view of Christ as recorded in Scripture on any subject. Whatever He says is the final word for us, if we’re honestly Christians.
Now, in your three levels that you were talking about before, you also in your Blue Lodges have to swear specific oaths. Your books which have been published give those oaths. In the first degree you receive, “On the point of a sharp instrument pressing your naked left breast, which is to teach you, as this is an instrument of torture to your flesh, so should the recollection of it ever be to your mind and conscience should you attempt to reveal the secrets of Masonry unlawfully. Each novice enters alone after passing the test of fear, a knifepoint symbolically at his breast, and is bound hand and foot.”
Mankin: Again, that’s not part of our ritual.
Martin: It’s the apprentice Mason’s ritual.
Mankin: Well, that’s somebody’s apprentice Mason’s ritual. The problem is, with most Masonic ritual as it has been printed, it has been printed by malcontents and what you have is something that is essentially true. And granted there is a portion of that that is essentially true. But the purposes behind it, you’re taking it out of context.
Martin: I’m in context now, okay? “Binding myself under no less penalty than that of having my throat cut…”
Mankin: We’re discussing the obligation , and I told you that I didn’t want to do that and I would not do that. I will not discuss the obligation.
Ankerberg: What can we discuss then, Bill?
Mankin: I will discuss an obligation with you in general.
Martin: Let me be specific in this one, okay?
Mankin: Why read that? There’s no point.
Martin: This is the point. The point is, you said, “What’s wrong with what I just read to you?” That’s the question you asked.
Mankin: That’s right. I didn’t read what you just read.
Martin: I’m about to tell you what’s wrong. Let me tell you. You don’t even have to comment. I just want to show you what’s wrong, okay, from a Christian perspective. “Binding myself under no less penalty than that of having my throat cut from ear to ear, my tongue torn out by its roots and buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark where the tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 hours, should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this my solemn oath and obligation as an entered apprentice Mason. So help me God and keep me steadfast in due performance of the same.” Jesus Christ had something most interesting to say in this area. And since He is the Sovereign…
Mankin: I have read Matthew.
Martin: I wasn’t going to read that. That was coming second. I was going to read the Epistle to James to show that it was still in force in the New Testament, what Jesus was saying.
Mankin: And who was James speaking to?
Martin: If I can finish, okay, in James 5 we find these words: “Above all, my brothers, do not swear. Not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your yes be yes and your no, no; or you will be judged.” [Jas. 5:12] Now, in the degrees of Masonry, the first three that you are expert in, you are swearing oaths in diametric opposition to Holy Scripture. The Lord Jesus in Matthew 5 was very clear: “Swear no oath at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair either white or black. Simply say yes, yes or no, no. Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” [Matt. 5:34-37] Now, that’s Christ on swearing oaths and you are in there in that temple swearing to God to pull out your tongue, bury you in the sand. This is your own oath.
Mankin: Give me a chance! The obligations are symbolic. The obligations have always been symbolic.
Martin: But you’re swearing.
Mankin: When Christ was speaking to the Hebrews as James quotes and as Matthew quotes, He was saying, because He was correcting perversions that existed at the time. At the time a Jew didn’t have to tell the truth unless he was placed under oath. And, further, if that oath was not in proper context, he still didn’t have to tell the truth even though he was under oath. In essence what He was saying was, and I quote, from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, and also from Alfonse Cerza, that “Oaths are permissible to Christians as shown by the example of our Lord in Matthew, when Caiaphas said, ‘I adjure thee by the living God. Tell me if you are the Son of God’.” [Matt. 26:63]
Martin: Christ didn’t swear; the high priest did.
Mankin: He was placed under oath.
Martin: The high priest said, “I command you in the name of the living God.” But Jesus didn’t swear anything; He answered.
Mankin: Peter took an oath denying that he even knew Christ. He denied Christ through an oath.
Martin: But it was accompanied with a curse.
Mankin: No, not in my Bible.
Ankerberg: And he also repented of it.
Martin: That’s a Masonic Bible. That explains it.
Mankin: As I said, in 72, “And again he denied with an oath, ‘I do not know the man’.” The third time he began to curse and swear. [Mark 14]
Ankerberg: But let me ask this question though, is the Bible pointing that out as right behavior?
Mankin: Well, it’s that the judicial oath is permissible.
Ankerberg: I think that he swore, no doubt about that, but the thing is, isn’t that what he asked the Lord to forgive him about?
Mankin: In 2 Corinthians…
Martin: Look, let’s get through this one quick, okay?
Mankin: There is swearing. Swearing existed.
Martin: The answer is this, okay, it’s very simple. If Paul swore an oath; if John swore an oath; if Peter swore an oath, it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus said, “Don’t do it.” Disobedience is disobedience, no matter who does it. It’s as simple as that.
Mankin: No, it depends on the interpretation.
Martin: This is not interpretation. This is a simple phrase: “Do not swear at all.” Now you tell me what that means. Interpret it for me. Don’t read that, just tell me.
Mankin: He is interpreting it to mean that because of the problems that existed at the time. He was not saying never swear.
Martin: That is what a commentator said. I want you to tell me, sitting here…
Mankin: I’m giving you my opinion.
Martin: No, no. You’re giving me a commentator. I read it before you did. I’m telling you what it says. I want you to tell me what you think this means.
Mankin: No, you didn’t read the part from the Davis.
Martin: Not Davis. I have the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. It says, “Do not swear at all.” What does that mean to you?
Mankin: In context of what we are dealing with at that time. You have to deal with it…
Martin: Supposing I just say to you, “Don’t walk out that door at all.” What does that mean to you? The context is this room. There’s the door. You’re sitting here. I said, “Don’t walk out the door.” What does that mean to you? It means very simply don’t get up and walk out the door. Now, I don’t care what the context is; you don’t do it. Jesus said, “Don’t swear at all.” And then to be explicit He said, “Don’t swear by the throne of God. Don’t swear by the temple in Jerusalem. Don’t swear by the earth itself. Don’t even swear by the hairs of your head. Let your yes be yes and your no be no, because everything else comes from Satan.” [Matt. 5:34-37]
Mankin: My Bible also says from evil. It doesn’t say from the evil one.
Martin: It’s in the Greek, “evil one.”
Mankin: I’m sure it is…
Martin: The devil is the author of oaths. God says He doesn’t want them, forbids them. You go into a courtroom. Even our government recognizes this. You do not have to say, “I swear by Almighty God.” When you go in for conscription in the service of the United States, you can say, “I affirm.”
Mankin: Oh, incidentally, there are two jurisdictions that permit you to make an affirmation.
Martin: Sure.
Mankin: One of them is not Tennessee. One of them is not Idaho.
Martin: Federal law exempts you from ever swearing the name of God if you want. The First Amendment of the Constitution exercises the rights of freedom of religion.
Mankin: And yet the judicial oath, I feel the judicial oath is recognized lawful. When Paul said, I’m paraphrasing, “As God as my witness,” he said “I’m speaking the truth.” [Rom. 1:9; Phil. 1:8]
Martin: Well, James told you, too. James says, “Don’t swear at all.”
Mankin: He was speaking to the twelve tribes. He was dealing specifically with this particular problem.
Martin: Would you be willing to say that the Epistle of James was just addressed to the twelve tribes?
Mankin: Of course, that’s what it said.
Martin: Or to the church?
Mankin: Well, of course, obviously. But it was specifically dealing with that problem.
Martin: But if it’s obvious that it’s the twelve…
Mankin: James also said, “Faith without works is dead.” [Jas. 2:17, 20, 26]
Martin: He’s right! He’s right! So faith without works is dead. He’s right. I agree with you. But he’s also right when he says, “Don’t swear at all; you’ll be judged for it.” And you’re swearing and I want you to be judged. So biblically you are not on sound ground.
Ankerberg: See, what the rub then, Bill, is, are you disobeying a direct command of Jesus Christ?
Mankin: I don’t see it as disobeying a direct command of Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: What would Jesus have to have said for you to think He was saying don’t swear at all?
Mankin: You would have to take it in the context of saying….
Martin: What would He have to say, though? What would convince you that you were not to swear any oath at all? What would He have to tell you?
Mankin: I don’t know.
Martin: I do. “Swear no oaths at all.” [Matt. 5; Jas. 5] It’s simple.
Mankin: As I said, we have discussed it on that basis. There were conditions existing then that do not exist now. And in ordinary speech, in trifling in profane matters, don’t swear at all. But the judicial oath is lawful.
Martin: In other words, Jesus said, “Do not swear by anything at all by heaven, by earth, by the hairs of your head…” [Matt. 5:34-37]
Mankin: Caiaphas said to Jesus, “I adjure thee by the living God. Tell me if you’re the Son of God.” [Matt. 26:63] And Jesus said, “You bet your sweet bippy I’m the Son of God.”
Martin: That’s a great theological term. (Laughter)
Mankin: I’m not a theologian.
Martin: Let’s just keep in mind that this is not biblical theology, and it’s very contradictory to it. But you know, in the conclusion, as long as we’re concluding this thing, one thing did impress me. Masonry is not a religion, but at the consecration of monuments and funerals you sing this hymn, the Master Mason’s Hymn, a verse of which I read: “The future sons of grief shall sigh, while standing round in mystic tie, and raise their hands alas, to heaven, in anguish that no hope is given.” To which I respond unto Masonry, “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, of all men we are most miserable. But now has Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.” [1 Cor. 15:19-20] And thank God He’s alive, because Masonry is dead.
Ankerberg: We’re going to close on that. We’re going to come back with questions from the audience next week, so please join us.

Read Part 4

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