The Masonic Lodge: What Goes On Behind Closed Doors? – Program 3

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Jack Harris; ©1986
Our guests reenact the Hiram Abiff legend and explain what Masons are being taught through this ritual.

The Working Tools of Masonry

Introduction

Tonight, John Ankerberg presents, What Goes on Behind the Closed Doors of the Masonic Lodge? In our prior program, a 32nd Degree Mason met with a Christian scholar to find out whether or not Christianity and the Masonic Lodge were compatible. In that program, our Masonic guest said the Ritual was the authoritative source for all Masons. But what is the Ritual for the first three degrees of Masonry? What does it teach? Tonight, you will find out. Mr. Jack Harris, a former Worshipful Master from the state of Maryland, will reenact small parts of the ritual from the first three degrees and explain what he taught in the Lodge.

In Program 1, you will be introduced to the primary symbols in all Masonic Lodges and watch how a Candidate is received upon his being initiated into the Entered Apprentice Degree of Masonry.

In Program 2, the former Worshipful Master will explain to us the meaning of the Three Great Lights and Three Lesser Lights of Masonry.

In Program 3, what is the significance of the working tools of Masonry? What is the meaning of the white apron, and the Rough Ashlar, and the Perfect Ashlar?

In Program 4, how binding is the obligation taken by any Candidate initiated into the first three degrees of Masonry?

In Program 5, you will see the actual ceremony used at a Masonic funeral.

In Program 6, both sides will comment whether Masonry is a religion, whether or not it promises eternal life in the Celestial Lodge Above, what a Mason must do in this life, and whether Masonry holds the Bible’s teachings to be authoritative.

In preparation for this program, letters were sent to the Grand Lodges in all 50 states, asking them which Masonic authors and books they would recommend as the most authoritative commentaries concerning the teachings of Masonry. We will report to you what they said. Then we will compare the commentary of their recommended authors with some of the teachings of biblical Christianity to answer the question, Is Christianity compatible with the teachings of the Masonic Lodge? Please stay tuned.


Program 3

Ankerberg: Good evening. This is our third program in our follow-up series concerning the Masonic Lodge. The reason for tonight’s program is that many of you have asked, “Are the teachings of the Masonic Lodge compatible with biblical Christianity?” Well, as our custom is, we allow others to present their own position. So to set the stage tonight, I’d like you to listen to Mr. Bill Mankin, a 32nd Degree Mason, who, on our previous series, told us about how in the third degree, or the Master Mason’s degree, each Candidate takes part in being led through the legend of Hiram Abiff. Now, who was Hiram Abiff? He was a man, a laborer in the Old Testament, who worked on the temple under King Solomon. That’s about the extent of the knowledge that we have from the Bible about this man. The rest of what you will hear and see tonight was added by the Masonic Lodge as legend. The question is: What is the meaning of what was added? What do Masonic authorities say? Is it in direct conflict with the teachings of the Bible? Well, let’s listen to Mr. Bill Mankin, a 32nd Degree Mason, and what he has to say about the deeper meaning of the legend of Hiram Abiff in the third degree of Masonry.

(Excerpt from former series)

Ankerberg: If you were to come back and you take a look at Albert Pike, who says, “The Blue Degrees [which is what you wanted to discuss] are but the outer quarter portico of the temple.” That’s the Lodge. “Part of the symbols are displayed there to the initiate, but he is intentionally misled by false interpretations. It is not intended that he shall understand them, but it is intended that he shall imagine he understands them.” Is that you, Bill?
Mankin: No. What he’s describing there is the legend of the first, second and third degrees where this all takes place in King Solomon’s temple. You are told that, but it is a Masonic legend. We can’t really suppose that there were really Masons at the building of King Solomon’s temple. King Solomon’s temple was built largely by conscripts.
Ankerberg: It says you are intentionally misled by false interpretations.
Mankin: Yes, but that’s an oversimplification. The fact is, of what you’re saying is that we have an allegory here.
Ankerberg: And the real allegory has not been told then at those degrees. “It’s not intended that he shall understand them. It’s intended that he shall imagine he understands them.”
Mankin: There again that’s what he says. That’s not what I would say. What I would say is that you go into the deeper meanings of the degrees and you read and you put into it and you will get out of it.

Ankerberg: We wanted to find out more about the meaning of the legend of Hiram Abiff, so we asked a former Worshipful Master, Mr. Jack Harris, to come and reenact part of the Ritual tonight exactly as he did it in his Lodge. After you see the reenactment of the Ritual, he will explain what Masonic authorities say is the deeper meaning of the legend. Please listen.

Senior Deacon: Worshipful Master, I’d like to introduce Brother Smith. Brother Smith, this is our Worshipful Master.
Worshipful Master: Brother Smith, one might suppose from the jewel you wear about your neck you were a Master Mason, acquainted with all the secrets belonging to this degree. But it is my duty to inform you, such is not the case. You have a rough and dangerous road to travel, as a test of your fidelity in keeping secret that which has been communicated to you. In your travels you will be beset by ruffians, perhaps murdered; an instance has been known. You will therefore suffer yourself again to be hoodwinked [blindfolded] and conducted to the altar where you may offer up your devotions either mentally or orally, and when you have finished, you will signify the same by rising, remembering, he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
(Candidate is hoodwinked, kneels at altar briefly, and is then conducted by the Senior Deacon as follows.)
Senior Deacon: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. While the sun…”

Ankerberg: In this portion of the ritual of the third degree of Freemasonry, the Candidate has symbolically become Hiram Abiff. His walking around the altar symbolizes his journey through life and he is hearing Scripture from the book of Ecclesiastes. In a moment, the Candidate will encounter ruffians on his journey, who will threaten and eventually kill him, the meaning of which will be explained later by former Worshipful Master, Mr. Jack Harris.

“…and the almond tree shall flourish and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.” [Eccl 12:1-7]
First Ruffian: Grand Master Hiram Abiff, I’m glad to meet you thus alone. You have long promised us the secrets of a Master Mason. Behold, the temple is almost completed and we have not yet received them. Give me the secrets of a Master Mason.
Senior Deacon: This is an unusual way of manner of asking. Neither is it the time nor place. Wait until the temple is finished and then, if worthy, you will receive the secrets.
First Ruffian: Give me the secrets of a Master Mason, or I will take your life!
Senior Deacon: I cannot; neither can they be given except in the presence of three: Solomon, King of Israel, Hiram, King of Tyre, and myself.
First Ruffian: Give me the secrets of a Master Mason, or I’ll take your life upon this spot!
Senior Deacon: My life, but not the secrets.
First Ruffian: Then die! (Ruffian strikes the Candidate)
(Journey around the altar continues)
Second Ruffian: Grand Master Hiram Abiff, give me the secrets of a Master Mason!
Senior Deacon: I cannot.
Second Ruffian: This neither is satisfactory. Give me the secrets of a Master Mason, or I’ll take your life!
Senior Deacon: I will not.
Second Ruffian: Give me the secrets of a Master Mason or I’ll take your life on this spot!
Senior Deacon: My life, but not the secrets.
Second Ruffian: Then die! (Ruffian strikes the Candidate)
(Journey around altar continues)
Third Ruffian: Grand Master Hiram Abiff, give me the secrets of a Master Mason.
Senior Deacon: I cannot.
Third Ruffian: Give me the secrets of a Master Mason or I’ll take your life!
Senior Deacon: I will not.
Third Ruffian: Give me the secrets of a Master Mason, or I’ll take your life on this spot!
Senior Deacon: My life, but not the secrets.
Third Ruffian: Then die! (Ruffian strikes the Candidate)
Second Ruffian: Companions, what horrid crime we have committed. We have murdered our Grand Master, Hiram Abiff. What shall we do with the body?
Third Ruffian: Let us take it a westerly course, and bury it at the brow of a hill, dug six feet, due east and west, and six feet perpendicularly, at the head of which we will plant the sprig of Acacia that the place may be hereon known.
First Ruffian: Let us make our escape!
Worshipful Master (as King Solomon): O, Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow’s son! Brother Senior Grand Warden, take the body by the Entered Apprentice’s grip and see if it can be raised.
Senior Deacon: Most worshipful King Solomon, the body cannot be raised by the Entered Apprentice grip. The skin slips from the flesh.
Worshipful Master: Take it by the Fellow Crafts grip and see if it can be raised.
Senior Deacon: For reasons already assigned it cannot be raised by the Fellow Craft grip. The flesh cleaves from the bone.
Worshipful Master: In this our extremity, what shall we do?
Senior Deacon: Let’s pray.
Harris: At this point, we will eliminate the prayer. At the end of the prayer, we will take the body by the strong grip of a Master Mason, or the lion’s paw, and raise it upon the five points of fellowship.
Worshipful Master: Brother Smith, you have now been raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason, and the word which I have just communicated is the grand Masonic word, which you promised in your obligation never to communicate except in the way and manner in which you have received it. You have been raised by the strong grip of a Master Mason, or the lion’s paw. And upon the five points of fellowship, which are – follow me – “Foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back and cheek to cheek or mouth to ear.” Give me the word. (Candidate whispers the word to Worshipful Master.) Which are thus explained: “Foot to foot” that you will be ever ready to go on foot and out of your way to assist a worthy brother. “Knee to knee” that you will remember a brother’s welfare as well as your own. “Breast to breast” that you will keep the secrets of a brother Master Mason when communicated to and received by you in charge as such, as inviolable as they were in his breast as they are in yours before being communicated. “Hand to back,” that you will be ready to stretch forth your hand and assist and save a fallen brother. “Cheek to cheek or mouth to ear” that you will whisper good counsel in the ear of a brother, remind him of his error, and aid him in a reformation.

Ankerberg: Alright, after watching the legend of Hiram Abiff being displayed in the Mason Lodge room, Jack, we all want to know, what was it that you were teaching and what was the meaning that was given to you and what did you pass along as the Worshipful Master in the Lodge?
Harris: Okay, as far as a Candidate is concerned, John, he was impressed with the fact that the secrets of Freemasonry, which he was going to learn and had already learned up to this point, were to be kept secret. That’s the only thing that he would receive from that trial and tribulation he went through from the first, second and third ruffians. Now, when he was killed, symbolically, and put into the canvas and then raised to represent Hiram Abiff, as far as he is concerned, he is to represent Hiram Abiff as a workman of the temple in his own life to build his spiritual temple to be pleasing to God.
Ankerberg: Who in the world was Hiram Abiff?
Harris: Hiram Abiff, in 1 Kings 7, was a master builder on King Solomon’s temple. Scripture does not record his death. The legend was added by Masonry in order to give it meaning for their doctrinal beliefs.
Ankerberg: Okay, so what does killing Hiram Abiff have to do with Masonry, then?
Harris: According to Freemasonry, if you remember, at the door on the first program we spoke of Albert Mackey. He said the Candidate is looking for the new birth. The new birth is represented here in the slaying of Hiram Abiff. But the true meaning of all that takes place is this, according to Masonic authorities: When he is hit by the first, second, and third ruffian, that represents trials and tribulations he goes through in his life, and then when he is symbolically murdered and raised up again to represent Hiram Abiff, he will then be pleasing to God and gain immortal life by obeying all the teachings of Freemasonry along his path of life from manhood to old age.
Ankerberg: So this is what you actually taught in the Lodge.
Harris: This is what we actually taught. Now, we have a book here put out by the most contemporary writer in Freemasonry today, his name is Allen Roberts. He says in the first chapter, “Let There Be Light,” “You have entered a new world. Symbolically and spiritually you have been re-born. This started the moment you were prepared to become a Freemason. As you progress in Masonic knowledge, your vision will broaden. You will become more vitally alive than ever before. You will become more aware of your fellowmen, your family, your church, and your country. Your whole philosophy of life will become richer. This will take place, but only if you become Masonically educated” (Allen E. Roberts, The Craft and Its Symbols). So according to Freemasonry, all that Hiram Abiff went through deals with his being born again into the teachings of Freemasonry, which we have shown from previous broadcasts, deal with his own efforts, preparing his temple according to his teachings, not according to the Word of God, to prepare him for eternal life.
Ankerberg: Okay, what do Masonic authorities and what did you teach in the Lodge concerning the state after all that had taken place? Now what does he achieve by becoming a Master Mason?
Harris: By becoming a Master Mason, he is now as much a Mason as he ever will be. All other degrees of Masonry of Scottish and York Rite are actually side degrees. They are not really elevations in knowledge and wisdom, they just continue the story that he went through in the first three degrees. But in the very beginning, in 1717, when these degrees were first put together and formulated, there were only three degrees, plus the Royal Arch Degree. There were no other degrees in Freemasonry.
Ankerberg: Okay, how many years did you teach this in the Lodge?
Harris: Eleven years.
Ankerberg: One day you were watching Christian television and you heard the gospel for the first time. You knelt down and invited the Lord Jesus Christ to come into your life and then you realized that the Word of God, the Bible, was the authority for the Christian’s life. In reading the Bible, after you had been a Mason for all of these years, you came to realize that there was conflict in what you were teaching as compared to what you were reading in the Word of God. Tell us what the conflict was.
Harris: The first conflict is in John 3:3 where Jesus says, “Verily, verily I say unto you, Unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” And of course a born again Christian knows when Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about “born again” He’s referring to the sacrificial death which He [Christ] would suffer for the salvation or redemption of mankind. This is not what Masonry is talking about when they are talking about being born again. Also, in Romans 6:4, Paul talks about our death, burial, and resurrection to become a new creature in Christ. But it’s through the Person and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ that he is born again. In Freemasonry it’s through his own endeavors, the blessings of God, and the teachings of Freemasonry that he will gain immortal life.
Ankerberg: Is there anything else that you would say to a person that is a Christian that maybe entered the Lodge, went through these first three degrees and did not realize what they were doing? How can you help them in discovering what these meanings really are in Masonry?
Harris: I would say that for a born again Christian who is truly in the Word of God, he is saturating his mind with the Word of God each day, he will have no problem seeing exactly what we have gone through here with this Hiram Abiff legend that is contrary to Scripture. The person who will have a hard time, John, will be the Christian who is not into the Word of God. This is a problem. If he’s in the Word of God, he will have no problem seeing what we’re saying is true, because he knows his birth is in Christ, not in that Hiram legend.
Ankerberg: Where does the power come in Masonry to have the new birth? Where does the power come from? Is it within us?
Harris: Well, to the Mason, it’s within himself. He is constantly taught that by his own endeavors, a virtuous education, and the blessing of God, through the implements that are taught through the various temple-building instruments such as the square, the level, the plumb, which are used upon an operative temple, they apply moral truths to these implements and he is to use these to build a spiritual temple pleasing for God. But it’s through his own efforts, never through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: In the weeks coming up we’re going to talk about the Masonic funeral, and you Harris actually conducted many Masonic funerals. In the ritual that you gave at the Masonic funeral, what did you say about the future life? What hope did you hold out for Masons?
Harris: Now, the funeral that we gave was the same, whether he was a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Mohammedan, regardless of what faith he was, we said a universal service.
Ankerberg: Same one.
Harris: Same one. So thereby it was not exclusively Christian. It dealt with, “This Mason was true to all of our teachings, and the apron he now wears in the casket represents that purity of life and conduct by which he will now gain admission into the Celestial Lodge Above.” So, through Masonic teachings; never speaking about the Person or work of Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: So again, it’s a “works” system that you follow in Masonry, and because you do that, you are supposed to then hope for eternal life.
Harris: That’s correct, John.
Ankerberg: Alright. What final word would you leave with those that are Christian brethren that are in the Lodge?
Harris: I would say to those that are Christians, John, in the Lodge, that I would really pray that they would look into the Ritual that they actually went through in the third degree, especially, dealing with the raising. Maybe get the tape of what they have seen here tonight, look at it, and they will know that they actually went through this. It is something they cannot deny. Go to the Word of God, especially in light of John and especially in light of the book of Colossians. They are the two greatest books for convicting a Mason that what we have seen here tonight is absolutely biblically wrong for the born again Christian.
Ankerberg: Alright. Now you will have to decide yourself. You’ve heard Bill Mankin say, as a 32nd Degree Mason, that there is a deeper meaning to the allegory, to the legend of Hiram Abiff. You’ve seen that recreated tonight exactly the way it is displayed in the Lodge in most of the States. You decide what that deeper meaning is.

(Excerpt from former series)

Mankin: The fact of what you’re saying is that we have an allegory here.
Ankerberg: And the real allegory has not been told then at those degrees. “It’s not intended that he shall understand them. It’s intended that he shall imagine he understands them.”
Mankin: There again that’s what he says. That’s not what I would say. What I would say is that you go into the deeper meanings of the degrees and you read and you put into it and you will get out of it.

Harris: The Hiram Abiff legend in the third degree, sure, it’s allegory, sure, it’s symbolic. But what is it symbolic of? The Hiram Abiff legend in the third degree in all the Masonic books that you will read, books of authority such as Mackey, or Allen Roberts, the most contemporary Freemasonry writer today, says that all of this is a “rebirth.” Even at the door we talked about coming into Freemasonry. Albert Mackey explained, “When you come into Freemasonry you come in seeking the new birth.”
What is this new birth? This new birth, Masonry believes, is the Hiram Abiff legend. All that you learn in the first degree with the symbols and the aprons and the working tools, and in the second degree, all that you learn in the third degree comes to a conclusion in the Hiram Abiff legend which is to teach, “If you obey the rules, the regulations, and you believe the symbols and the allegories they put behind their working tools, which is, your own endeavors and the blessings of God and an education, which will, if you apply this to these tools and into your life, you will gain admission to the Celestial Lodge Above.” So the Hiram Abiff legend is teaching the Mason that if he practices what he’s taught in the first, second and third degree, which is “salvation by works,” that he will, when he is being raised up, stand before God and be able to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” But he’s doing it through teaching this man a salvation by his own endeavors.
The Word of God tells us, we cannot get into heaven by our own endeavors. It’s only through the Person of Jesus Christ, which is never mentioned at the raising of Hiram Abiff in the third degree.

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