The Masonic Lodge: What Goes On Behind Closed Doors? – Program 4

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Jack Harris; ©1986
Our guests explain the vows that every Mason takes as he passes through the first three degrees of the Lodge. The question is, should a Christian take these vows? Is there anything that conflicts with the Bible?

The Obligations of the First Three Degrees of Masonry


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 4

Ankerberg: Tonight, what about the vows of every man who becomes a Mason must swear. In each of the degrees of Masonry there is a vow that the Candidate must make in order to pass that degree. What does he promise? How binding is his vow? Is it a vow that Jesus Christ would want His followers to make? Well, tonight, you will hear a Candidate in a reenactment of the Ritual take the vow of the Master Mason degree. I want you to be able to decide for yourself. But to set the stage tonight, I would like you to listen to Mr. Bill Mankin, a 32nd Degree Mason, and Dr. Walter Martin, a Christian scholar, who on our previous program discussed this issue.

(Excerpt from former series)

Martin: In James 5:12 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.” 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 5:34-37 was very clear. “Swear no oath at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne: by earth, for it is his footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply say, Bill, “Yes, yes; No, no.” Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” 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…
Mankin: Enough! Give me a chance, alright?
Martin: I mean, this is your oath.
Mankin: This is symbolic. The obligations are symbolic. The obligations have always been symbolic.
Martin: But you’re swearing.
Mankin: No. When Christ was speaking to the Hebrews as James quotes, and as Matthew quotes…
Martin: Yeah.
Mankin: …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.

Ankerberg: So tonight, should a Christian take the vows of Freemasonry? In order to answer that question, I’d like you to watch right now as we reenact a Candidate taking the actual obligation of the Master Mason Degree. Please listen.

Harris: We will now continue with the presentation of the rituals of Freemasonry by going into the third degree obligation of a Mason. Behind me, to the left, is where the Worshipful Master sits. I am the Worshipful Master of the Lodge and over his head is a symbol, the letter “G.” And here we have the three lesser lights of Freemasonry. Before us we have an altar and the altar is the color “blue” because it represents fidelity to the Masonic order. To the right of me we have the Candidate for Freemasonry in the third degree. He has a blue uniform on which also represents fidelity. He is hoodwinked with a cable tow about his neck. In case he decides he does not want to keep the secrets of Freemasonry or continue with the obligation, he can be led or dragged out by use of the cable tow. He also is kneeling upon an altar with both knees naked, a symbol of the third degree of Freemasonry. Both breasts and both knees naked. To my left is an officer of the Lodge who will administer the obligation of the third degree. In the middle of the altar we have the Holy Bible, the square and the compasses — the three great lights of Masonry.
Senior Deacon: Mr. Smith, repeat your name and say after me, “I,”
Candidate: I… (give your name).
Candidate: I, Mr. Smith…
Senior Deacon: “…of my own free will and accord…”
Candidate: …of my own free will and accord… (From this point the Candidate repeats the obligation, phrase by phrase, as directed by the Senior Deacon.)
(Obligation continues):
“…in the presence of Almighty God…and this right worshipful Lodge… erected to Him…and dedicated to the holy Saints John…do hereby and hereon…solemnly and sincerely…promise and swear…I will always hail…forever conceal…and never reveal…any of the secret arts…parts or points …of the Master Mason Lodge…which have been…may now…or shall hereafter…be communicated to me…and charged as such…to any person in the world…except it be…to a true and lawful…Brother Master Mason…or in a legally constituted…Master Mason Lodge…and not unto him…nor them therein…until after due trial…strict examination…or lawful information…I may have found them…legally entitled…to receive the same…. I furthermore promise and swear…I will stand to and abide by…the rules and regulations of the Master Mason Lodge…of which I may be a member…as also the constitution…resolutions…rules and edicts… of the Grand Lodge…to which I may be…beholden…if within the length of my cable tow… – That means, my brother, if I’m able to do so – …I furthermore promise and swear…I will aid and assist…all poor distressed Brother Master Masons…their widows and orphans…wheresoever dispersed… I knowing them to be such….I further promise and swear…I will answer and obey…all due signs and summonses…sent me from a regular Master Mason Lodge…or handed me…by a Brother Master Mason….I furthermore promise and swear…I will keep the secrets of a Brother Master Mason…when communicated to…and received by me…and charged as such…murder and treason…alone excepted…and these left to my election….I furthermore promise and swear…I will not cheat…defraud…my brother Master Mason… speak evil of his good name…or that of his family…or allow the same to be done by others…if in my power to prevent….I furthermore promise and swear…I will not violate the chastity of a brother Master Mason’s wife… mother…sister or daughter…nor suffer the same to be done…by others… if in my power to prevent….I furthermore promise and swear…I will not be at the making…of a woman a Mason…an old man in his dotage…a young man under age…a fool…a madman…or suffer the same to be done by others…if in my power to prevent….I furthermore promise and swear…I will not sit…in a clandestine…Lodge of Masons…nor hold converse…upon the secrets of Masonry…with a clandestinely made Mason…nor one suspended or expelled…from a regular Lodge…I knowing him to be such….I furthermore promise and swear…I will not communicate…the grand Masonic word…except in the way and manner…in which I received it…and then only in a low breath. To all of which…I solemnly and sincerely…promise and swear…to keep and perform the same…without any equivocation…mental reservation…or secret evasion of mind…in me whatever…binding myself under the no less penalty…than that of having…my body severed in twain…my bowels taken thence…and with my body burned to ashes…and those ashes scattered…to the four winds of heaven…so that there might remain…name…trace…nor remembrance…no more forever…of so vile a wretch…as I would be…should I ever willing…or knowingly…violate this…my most solemn obligation…as a Master Mason. So help me God…and keep me steadfast…in the due performance…of the same.
Senior Deacon: Mr. Smith, as an evidence that you took this oath freely and of your own will and accord, please kiss the book before you three times. It is the Holy Bible.
Harris: What you have seen here is the obligation of a Candidate in the third degree of Freemasonry, the exact obligation given in every Lodge in the United States of America. We would like to look at the obligation from a Christian perspective and examine some of the points that this Candidate took in his ritual.
First, his hand was upon the Holy Bible, the square and the compasses. According to the teachings of Freemasonry, the Holy Bible, square and compasses encompass all the teachings of Freemasonry that he has obligated himself upon. But, according to what we have learned earlier in our broadcast, the Holy Bible can be substituted by the sacred Scripture from any religion in the world, whether it be the Koran, the Veda, the Old and New Testament, or just the Old Testament, he is obligated upon. And, as a Mason, he is committed and bound by obligation to anyone who has taken an obligation upon any sacred Scripture in the world recognized by Freemasonry.
From a Christian perspective, I have problem with this obligation from several points of view. First of all, this Christian, saved by grace, has been released from the law of bondage, of sin. By taking this obligation, he has placed himself under the law of “I will” and “I will not” and a system of promises, which we believe, as a Christian, he should not commit himself to.
Second of all, there are very questionable things in the obligation we believe that this Candidate should not have taken. One in particular would be, “I promise and swear I will keep the secrets of a brother Master Mason, when communicated to me, murder and treason alone excepted, and these left to my election.” If he kept the secret of a Mason in treason or murder, he would be violating not only God’s law, but the law of the land.
The third point I would like to talk about would be the penalty, which means that this Mason will allow other Masons to mutilate his body upon the penalty of the revelation of the rituals that he will now be given to in this degree. We believe, and the Word of God says in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and as such it belongs to God. And we are not given the prerogative to tell the Masons that if we reveal their secrets that they can take our body and mutilate it. I believe these points, along with maybe many others that you could think of, is objectionable to the Word of God as a born again Christian.
Ankerberg: Now, while you’re thinking about the Masonic vows, please turn your attention to some of the other things we have heard the last few weeks.

(Excerpt from former series)

Mankin: I think that the single, the single greatest enemy Masonry has today is what I have to describe as a “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. There’s nothing that you saw in Masonry that should indicate that.

Ankerberg: Let me ask you, do you think that the Bible teaches the concept of the Fatherhood of God, so that all men are automatically the sons of God? Or do you think that the Bible teaches that God is so loving that when a man dies, no matter what he has done, God will give him eternal life? Or do you think that the Bible teaches that God will only reward those who deserve it, those who have lived a good life?
Well, the Bible does not teach any of the above, but Masonry does. For example, during the ritual of the first three degrees, every Mason swears his belief in the Fatherhood of God. The prayer in the manual states, “Vouchsafe thine aid, Almighty Father of the universe.” The Candidate is told again and again that God will be gracious and reward those who build their character and do good deeds.
Let me document where Masonry teaches this. Every Masonic manual explains the symbol of the All-Seeing Eye, one of the symbols for God, with these words: “The All-Seeing Eye, who pervades the inmost recesses of the human heart, will reward us according to our works, our merits.” What is the reward man will get because of his good works? Masonry teaches God will reward man with eternal life in the Celestial Lodge Above.
This can be documented in the Masonic manual under the explanation concerning the lambskin or white linen apron. There it says, “He who wears the lambskin as a badge of a Mason is thereby continually reminded of purity of life and conduct which is essentially necessary to his gaining admission into the Celestial Lodge Above.”
Another place this is taught in the manual is in the explanation concerning the sprig of Acacia where it says, “This serves to remind us there is an imperishable part within us which will never, never die. Doubt not, that on the glorious morn of resurrection our bodies will rise and will become as incorruptible as our souls.”
Another place this is taught is in the charge to the Lodge during the third degree of Masonry where we read, “Let all the energies of our souls and the perfection of our minds be employed in attaining the approbation [approval] of the Grand Master on high, so that when we come to die, with joy we may hail the summons of the Grand Warden above to repair from our labor here on earth.” Now this is what Masonry teaches and men in the Lodge believe it because they think this is what the Bible says.
Pantzer: As a non-believer, I felt that the Bible was the capstone of all that Masonry encompassed. The Bible was in the middle of the Lodge, on the altar, in view at all times from all points of the Lodge. To me, that made the whole thing worthwhile even if I ever heard any negative comments from friends outside the Lodge. I felt that it probably encompassed everything that I was learning in Masonry since it was the highlight of the Lodge.

Ankerberg: Well, if the Bible is the great light of Masonry, let’s read it and see what it says about these things. In John 1:11-12 we read concerning Jesus, “He came to that which was His own but His own did not receive Him; yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Notice, if Jesus gives to those who believe on Him the right to become children of God, then all men were not children of God before that. It means that men do not start out as children of God and God is not the “Father” of all spiritually, relationally.

Why? Well, it seems Masonry has forgotten, or ignores, the account of man’s fall in Genesis, of Adam and Eve in the garden. The Bible teaches that man, through disobedience to God, sinned and broke his spiritual relationship with God. All men, although created by God, are not in right relationship with God. Proof of this can be found in the book of Acts where we read, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. Since we are God’s children, we should not think that the Divine Being is like gold, or silver, or stone.” [Acts 17:24] Notice, because God is the Creator, all men are said to be His children, His offspring. But not relationally spiritually. There is a problem. Look what God says to His children. “God now commands all people everywhere to repent.” [Acts 17:30] Repentance means we must be willing to turn away from our beliefs and way of doing things, and turn to and act on God’s promises and instructions.
What is God’s way? How does the Bible say you can become a child of God, have your sins forgiven and know God will take you to heaven? Well, first, the Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” [Rom. 3:23] When the Bible uses the word “all,” does that include both you and me? Of course. We are both sinners
Second, the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” [Rom. 6:23] Wages are what you get paid at work, right? God says the wages, or the payment, we will receive from Him because of our sin is death. Now, death here means both physical death and spiritual death; that’s eternal separation from God, what Jesus called “hell.”
But the Bible talks about God’s “gift.” What is a gift? Well, it’s something that you get for doing nothing, right? God has the gift of eternal life for you, and you don’t have to work for it, as Masonry says. And notice, if you want God’s gift of eternal life, you must come to Jesus. Why Jesus? Because He paid for your sin with His own blood on the cross. The Bible says, “For Christ died for your sins, once for all; the just for the unjust, that He might bring you to God.” [1 Pet. 3:18]
Would you like Jesus to bring you to God? If you say, “Yes,” here’s what the Bible says to do next. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” [Rom. 10:13]How do you call to the Lord? By praying. If you will pray to the Lord Jesus and tell Him you are a sinner, that you are willing to turn from your sin, that’s repent, and you will ask Him to forgive you and give you eternal life and you’ll invite Him to come into your life and empower you and be your God and friend, He promises to do just that: the Bible says, “…shall be saved.” Again, according to the Bible, it is Jesus, not your own good life, who will save you. It is Jesus who gives the right to become a child of God.
Now, the Bible’s teachings are clear about man’s fallen relationship before God and how God will forgive a man and give him eternal life if he believes on Jesus. On the other hand, Masonry’s teachings are also clear, though completely different. One of these is right and one of these is wrong. One of these the Bible teaches, the other it does not. You will have to choose.

Read Part 5

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