Christianity and the Masonic Lodge: Are They Compatible? – Program 4

By: Bill Mankin, Dr. Walter Martin; ©1985
Does the Masonic Lodge have any characteristics of a religion, as the dictionary defines the word?

Is the Masonic Lodge a Religion?

Ankerberg: Welcome! I’m glad that you joined us tonight. We’re talking about the relationship of the Masonic Lodge to Christian faith. Are they compatible or incompatible? And my guests are actually two Christians, Mr. William Mankin, who is from Boise, Idaho. He’s a 32nd degree Mason and also a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Bill, we’re glad that you’re here. And then, of course, Dr. Walter Martin from the Christian Research Institute, the Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religions at Simon Greenleaf School of Law. Dr. Martin, we’re glad that you’re here.
Guys, I want to come this week to you and start going back on this thing. Over and over again you hear that the Masonic Lodge is not religious, although, I have five authoritative books, including three encyclopedias, on Freemasonry that are relatively new that are all saying we have to quit saying that. It’s a religion. No way to get around it.
Bill, let me come to you. Doesn’t it seem, to anybody on the outside looking in: you have an altar in the midst of the lodge; you have a Bible on the altar; you have the first thing that a person has to agree to, to become a part of the lodge is they have to believe in a Supreme Being; you say prayers during your lodge meetings. In the oath that you read to us awhile back, you said that you are to consult the deity of the sacred book on a continual basis in everything that you do. If that’s not religious, how could it be?
Mankin: It’s not religious in the context of a religion. We are religious in the fact that we are devoted to God, but the principles of Masonry, and one thing that I haven’t really been able to mention tonight is the principles of governing your life by the working tools of a Mason, the historical working tools of a Mason, the Masonry that has existed since twenty centuries before Christ. A pupil of Confucius, Mencius, said,… Oh, I’ll have to look it up.
Ankerberg: Okay, while he’s looking it up, Dr. Martin, let me come back to you on this thing. Do you think that a person can swear his allegiance to a Supreme Being, the Grand Architect of the Universe, can say prayers to that Grand Architect, can govern his life in relationship to a holy book that can differ here in the United States compared to India or Africa, does that bother you as a Christian? Is that religious?
Martin: It would bother me. As a Professor of Comparative Religion, I would flunk any student who took my course who told me that it wasn’t a religion. It has every hallmark of a religion, every standard of religion. You can call it whatever you want to call it, but a religion it certainly is. I think we should invoke the law of contradiction also here. And that is, either all the religions of the world are wrong or one of them is right. And if we’re going to talk about the God that Masonry is talking about, and Bill just used the phrase “we” a minute ago. He really can’t say that, “we.” He can speak for himself. He cannot speak for Masonry in terms of other Masons, because there are Hindu Masons; there are Buddhist Masons; there are Zoroastrian Masons; there are Masons of Jewish persuasion who reject the biblical revelation of Jesus Christ and Christianity, who reject the cross, who reject the revelation which he and I both believe as Christians.
Ankerberg: Let me ask you this question here that I asked Bill just a moment ago, and then I’ll have his response. Masonry says point blank that it does not matter what idea or images you conjure up of God just so you believe in a god. Isn’t that contrary to Christian thinking that there is definite content to God?
Martin: This was my whole point before when I talked about contradiction. It’s senseless to talk about believing in the Great Architect of the Universe and the principle of nature, and the great creator, and everything else and thinking for one moment that the Mohammedan, and the Buddhist, and the Zoroastrian and the Sikh, and the Christian, and the Jew are all talking about the same God, because they’re not.
Ankerberg: Actually, that is a religious view, because we’ve had them on the program and you were our guest, if you remember back to the Baha’i. They said the exact same thing.
Martin: This is known as religious syncretism, in which you bring all of them together. It’s sort of a homogenization in which you say, “Well, there’s one big ‘G.’ Okay? And that one big ‘G’ is the God of everybody, the Supreme Architect of Nature.” And it doesn’t make any difference whether it’s Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish. Now that’s Masonry. But this is Christianity: Christianity says there is only one living and true God. He sent His Son to the world to die for our sins. He rose from the dead. He is the only Savior. Now, that’s the difference. That’s what separates us from classic Masonry. Not from a Christian Masonic Lodge; not from a Christian Mason; but from Masonry as a religion.
Ankerberg: Bill, does that ring a bell that the very view that is the dogma that we’re starting with here, that belief, and the fact that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe in God, that is a religious view? I mean, do you understand that?
Mankin: Yeah, oh sure, it’s a religious view. And that’s why we say we are religious but not a religion. You run into semantic differences here.
Ankerberg: Run that by me again.
Mankin: I can religiously believe in skin diving. I can be religious in my belief of skin diving.
Martin: Can I ask him a question at that point?
Ankerberg: I think you’d better.
Martin: How can you be honorable without having honor? You can’t.
Mankin: Yes, you can.
Martin: Now, wait a minute. Let’s go through that one again.
Mankin: Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about the “right honorable” person. It’s a title.
Martin: No, no, no. I’m talking about the actual term itself. I say, “John is an honorable man.” But John has no honor. You would look at me and you would say, “That’s crazy.”
Mankin: You’re using the terms interdependently, and they are not interdependent terms. That’s what I said.
Martin: How about “religion” and “religious?”
Mankin: I can be religious. I can be religious as a Mason. Masonry can be religious in its belief of God.
Martin: But it uses the name of God.
Mankin: Is Congress a religion because Congress opens every session with prayer?
Martin: But it recognizes that.
Mankin: Which, incidentally, the prayer I read in the first program was in fact a prayer read before Congress. It did not invoke the name of Christ. It’s a prayer. It’s a prayer allowing us to proceed with God looking over us in our doings, and we’re entitled to that.
Martin: The argument that I just used on you is the argument Coil, your greatest authority on Masonry, uses.
Mankin: Coil is not the greatest authority on Masonry.
Martin: I don’t know. Talk to your lodges outside of Idaho; they think he is.
Mankin: He is an authority on Masonry. There is no greatest authority on Masonry.
Martin: I don’t know.
Ankerberg: Let me read from Coil right here at that point: “Freemasonry certainly requires a belief in the existence of, and a man’s dependence upon, a Supreme Being to whom he is responsible. What can a church add to that?” Coil asks.
Mankin: That’s Coil’s opinion. I find my….
Ankerberg: I think that’s pretty logical. Can you tell me how you would differ? What does a church do that’s different than that?
Mankin: The church, in my particular case, as a Christian, the church offers me salvation, the belief in Christ. That’s not something I get out of Masonry. Masonry is not going to save me. Masonry is going to make me a better man. Not that Christianity doesn’t do the same thing. But I find in Masonry the things that I want to find, the belief in the principles, the principles that this country was raised on. Thirty-two of the 55 members of the first Continental Congress were Masons. You sat here on the first program with D. James Kennedy and Representative Buchanan discussing Christianity and the government of this country. The only person that you quoted that first evening that wasn’t a Mason was John Adams. There is a Masonic symbol on the dollar bill. Almost half of our presidents have been Masons.
Martin: Which proves what?
Mankin: It proves that Masonry is involved in the construction of this country, that it has been prevalent in it. The very freedoms that we enjoy today came out of Masonic philosophy.
Martin: No, sorry about that.
Mankin: I’ll argue that till the day ends.
Martin: The great freedoms that we enjoy in this country today came out of moral and biblical principles enunciated by the deists and the theists, because the men that you are quoting as Masons were almost universally deistic, and they recognized the existence of a supreme being; theists or deists. They based it upon the Bible. That’s why in the Constitution of the United States it specifically states that it rests upon the Creator and nature’s God. Not nature and God, the same. Nature’s God. And that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights… life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This part of the Constitution was written and biblically based. The Bible antedates Masonry. The Bible antedates Masonry!
Ankerberg: We’ve got a question out here.
Audience: I’d like to ask Bill Mankin, as an ex-32nd degree Mason in the Scottish Rite – saved by the grace of God now, I’ve come out of it – I’d like to ask you a question: What would be your feelings toward me as a Christian and what would be your feelings toward me as a Mason?
Mankin: I’m sorry that you feel that your Christian beliefs are incompatible with your Masonic beliefs. And I think it’s a great loss. I think that the single greatest enemy Masonry has today is what I have to describe as the Christian new right. The people who belie the tolerance of Christ for different ideas, for the fact that we’re not trying to be a religion. We’re not trying to take the place of God. And there’s nothing that you saw in Masonry that should indicate that.
Ankerberg: Let me ask him, why is that you left? You were a 32nd degree Mason.
Audience: When I got saved and started reading the Word of God, it conflicted with everything Masonry had to say.
Ankerberg: Can you give me one example?
Audience: Well, as a Christian now, would be the swearing. You had to swear. And, of course, you know, I went through a lodge here in Chattanooga. And that would be one thing. And, of course, being in there with people that don’t even believe in a god at all.
Mankin: Well, as I said, there’s nobody in my lodge and I’ve never met a Mason that did not believe in God. And I don’t know any Masons that are not Christians.
Audience: I’ve heard them take the Lord’s name in vain before.
Mankin: I’ve heard Christians take the Lord’s name in vain.
Ankerberg: Neither one of it is right.
Mankin: Correct. Absolutely. There’s no question. But Masonry does not bestow godhood on a person. You can’t say you’re going to… as a Mason, there is no system of salvation. This is not going to grant you salvation. And if you’ve read Kipling, you know that it’s not particularly going to make you a better man. You’re going to get out of it what you put into it.
Martin: Can it bestow immortality in any way?
Mankin: Doesn’t want to.
Martin: When you have the funeral service and you commit people as a Mason, as a brother, you commit that individual to the Great Lodge in the sky and his spirit…
Mankin: It’s symbolic. Dr. Martin, that is symbolic.
Ankerberg: What is it symbolic of?
Mankin: It is symbolic of the belief of resurrection. That’s one of the landmarks.
Ankerberg: Isn’t that a belief, a religious belief?
Mankin: It is a symbolic belief. It is an allegorical belief.
Martin: Well, is religion… now wait a minute. I’m confused here. Is resurrection an actuality or is resurrection a symbol?
Mankin: Resurrection is an actuality, but as it is portrayed in the Masonic funeral service it is symbolic.
Martin: So they don’t believe in resurrection.
Mankin: Don’t change my words. I didn’t say that.
Martin: Well, I’m just saying, I asked you, first of all, if it was reality or symbol. You told me it….
Mankin: Resurrection exists.
Martin: Okay, now, you said to me, “Yes, for me it’s a reality.” Now, how about for the Masons, for the lodge, or for the funeral service and so forth? And you said, “Well, it’s symbolic.”
Mankin: It is symbolic as it deals with that particular aspect of the ritual.
Martin: Then if it’s symbolic, it isn’t reality. It portrays a concept.
Mankin: It is not man’s right to grant resurrection; and what you’re seeing is a symbolic…
Ankerberg: Is it holding out a hope of resurrection?
Mankin: I would think so.
Ankerberg: Is it a false hope?
Mankin: No. In terms of symbolism, no. In terms of the acting master in a Masonic funeral, he’s not empowered to grant that resurrection. You’re dealing in symbols and allegory.
Ankerberg: Nobody’s saying that. The fact is that you are talking about that. Would anybody standing around in the Masonic Lodge get the idea that as being part of the lodge, having the Masonic funeral, because we did all this, because we had all this, because we followed the very tenets and symbolism of the lodge, that the symbolism that I put into it, namely resurrection, the Great Lodge in the sky. According to your Christian teachings, that’s not how you get to heaven.
Mankin: That’s why I’m saying that this is in fact a symbolic act, because there’s no man who is going to resurrect anybody.
Ankerberg: Alright, so what you’re saying is you have a symbolic act that you’re holding onto that has no content.
Mankin: It has content in its symbolism. It is a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. We’ve got to come back to that.
Ankerberg: So it means nothing, again. It’s just the fact…
Mankin: It is a symbol. That’s it.
Ankerberg: Does it stand for something?
Mankin: It’s symbolic in a ritualistic context.
Ankerberg: I think that’s what religion is.
Mankin: I would argue that.
Ankerberg: I know you do, but I’m still saying that I can’t get away from the fact that when you say, “We are holding to this concept,” you call it symbolism, and it has the word resurrection attached to it, and yet you won’t put any content other than the fact of resurrection. Resurrection by definition means certain things. It’s a religious view. But you won’t tell people how to get there; and yet your Christian view, which does have content, says specifically, you don’t get there just by hoping you’ll get there. You don’t get there just by holding it out to people. You need to tell them something: that you have to go to a Savior, namely Jesus Christ. That’s the problem. Walter?
Martin: I’d like to just quote a very famous theologian. “Suppose I should start an organization here in this church with secret work and several degrees. The first three degrees would eliminate the name of Jesus Christ and demand that every candidate confess a god named G.A.O.T.U. We would accept Christians, Jews, Mohammedans, Buddhists, etc. After they had passed the first three degrees we would say, ‘Now, if you Christians want to get together and confess your Christ, go up in a room by yourselves. You Mohammedans do the same, and so forth, but don’t drag your peculiar views into these three degrees.’ That is precisely what Masonry does. What a pitiful sop to throw at the blessed Lord Jesus Christ.” The quotation, “There is nothing in it [Masonry] to offend the Jew.” “Nothing in it to offend the Jew.” The Jew…
Mankin: That’s McClain, isn’t it?
Martin: The quote was from the Encyclopedia . “Nothing in it to offend the Jew.” What’s interesting is that that important statement tells you everything: offend. The Scripture says that’s what the gospel is; it’s an offense. We’re supposed to go outside the gate bearing the offense of the cross. We’re supposed to take the cross and suffer as Christians, bearing the fact that our Lord is the way, the truth, and the life. That’s what we’re supposed to do. And in Masonry there’s nothing in it that will offend the Jew, the Muslim, the Zoroastrian, the Buddhist or anybody else. Won’t offend them at all. It’s not compatible with Christianity because Christ by definition is offensive. Either He is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.
Ankerberg: Okay, we’ve got a question right here.
Audience: In an exposé of Freemasonry I read that when one attains the 32nd degree they are told that God and Lucifer are one and the same. Is this true?
Mankin: Patently false.
Audience: Dr. Martin?
Martin: There are books in print, literature in circulation, which claim this. The Masons have steadfastly denied this for a very long time, and I have no reason to suppose that our brother is lying. And, therefore, I would like to see more documentation rather than repeat something like that.
Mankin: In Oregon, there is an Episcopalian minister, retired, by the name of Clarence Copp. He’s 92 years old, still does work in lodge. And Clarence Copp wrote a definitive …and it is the one jurisdiction in the 32nd degree where he is still allowed to give this talk. And let me tell you that there isn’t a person in this room that does not know and believe everything that is contained in a 32nd degree that I know of.
Ankerberg: Gosh, we can’t talk about it, so I’m not sure how we go there. Another question here.
Audience: I was a Master Mason before I got saved and, as you know, if you are a Master Mason, and you know that the Master Masons, from what I got out of it in the oath, that they promote fornication and adultery. Is that right?
Mankin: Not true.
Audience: Do you want me to quote some of the oath you took and I took?
Mankin: No. It’s not…
Audience: Because it’s in there.
Mankin: I know the reference you’re saying and that’s one of the “will nots.” And that particular reference, there is nothing that says that you should go out and do it. It just says… The obligation pertains to all people.
Audience: It says you shouldn’t do it, “if you know them to be so.”
Martin: Can I quote something here?
Audience: If you don’t know that they are…
Ankerberg: I think Walter’s got the quote there.
Martin: The Masonic Handbook, page 74. Excuse me. Wait a moment.
Ankerberg: Take your time.
Martin: Yes. We don’t have that much time. I want to get the right page for the quotation. It does have extensive quotes.
Ankerberg: What’s the quote?
Martin: This is in the Master Mason’s Handbook, the Chastity Covenant of the Master Mason: “Furthermore, I will not violate the chastity of a Master Mason’s wife, mother, sister, or daughter, knowing them to be such. This gives you full permission, my dear sir, to do as you please outside the Masonic order but you must always respect the female relatives of Masons.”
Mankin: It doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say that anywhere in the obligations.
Ankerberg: Is that what you’re thinking of?
Mankin: It absolutely does not. That’s preposterous.
Ankerberg: Well, this is what this man said that he took.
Martin: It forbids adultery with the chaste wife, mother, sister, or daughter of 3rd degree Masons and above. It permits the Master Mason to commit adultery with the unchaste wife, mother, sister, or daughter of a Master Mason.
Mankin: To ascribe that narrow a view to a solemn obligation. If you look at everything it says that you do, that you treat your brethren, “To all mankind,” it says, in virtually every aspect of every obligation. It doesn’t say just, it says particularly your brethren in Freemasonry. But it also says that you treat everybody this way, and you do treat everybody. And anybody that truly lives Masonry is not going to go out and fornicate with somebody who just happens to not be related.
Ankerberg: That’s what it said, isn’t it?
Martin: That’s the problem. It’s what it says.
Mankin: That is not what it says.
Martin: I was only quoting from the book.
Mankin: That’s not part of the ritual.
Ankerberg: Alright, that’s what you understood it to mean, didn’t you? [To man from audience who asked question]
Audience: That’s right.
Ankerberg: I don’t know where we go from there. You have here in Tennessee…
Mankin: Well, I certainly did not understand it to mean that when I took an obligation that was very similar to what…
Ankerberg: Okay, let’s get a closing comment from each of you on this thing. Do you still want to stick by your guns, Bill, that you can have prayers; you can have the funeral services; you can talk about resurrection in a symbolic way; you can pray to the deity; you’re commanded to pray to the deity; you’re commanded to believe in a god, and that’s not religious?
Mankin: We are no more religious than Congress that prays at the beginning of each of their meetings.
Ankerberg: I don’t know if Congress demands that you believe in a deity, that you pray to that deity, that you hold to a resurrection. Does Congress hold that?
Mankin: All I’m saying is that we are no more religious than that. I have to ask you to judge us by our works, because you’re not judging us by the content of what we say.
Ankerberg: Walter? Final comment.
Mankin: Just give me another second here. We do a lot and who’s going to speak for the kids when the people like Dr. Walter Martin say, “No more Masonry. Don’t be a Mason.” Who’s going to spend the billion dollars that the Shriners have spent taking care of orthopedic hospitals and burned children? Who’s going to do it?
Ankerberg: Final comment?
Martin: The Masonic oaths, which our brother did not wish to discuss because he’s under obligation not to, call for the tearing out of the tongue, disemboweling, all kinds of things to be done to the body if one betrays the oath sworn under obligation to God. Christ has contradicted this flatly in Matthew 5. James confirms it in the 5th chapter of the Epistle of James. The Christian gospel clearly states that our prime obligation is to the Lord Jesus Christ and the church which is His body, not to the lodge. We are told to come out from among that which is idolatry. And nothing could be more idolatrous than to be in the midst of people who spend their time acknowledging that Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and all the rest of the religions of the world, when they use the term “God,” are speaking about the God of the Bible. This is totally opposite to historic Christianity.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re done for this week. We’re going to have one more week where we have questions from the audience. Please join us.

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