by Cris Putnam
My wife and I visited our nation’s capital last week. Along with perusing Smithsonian museums, the Capital building and various monuments we did something off the beaten path and visited The Hall of the Temple which is the headquarters of Scottish Rite freemasonry. Mammoth sphinxes guard the massive building styled after classical Greek temples. This YouTube clip will give you an idea of the size of the building. Completed in 1915, it was designed by John Russell Pope, architect of other notable Washington buildings, including the National Gallery of Art and the Jefferson Memorial. Many of our nation’s leaders like George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Gerald Ford and 13 other presidents as well as Senators Charles Schumer and Robert Dole; Chief Justice Earl Warren and other Supreme Court justices have been and are Masons and Masonry is a major influence American policy. The Scottish Rite is for those who progress beyond the initial degrees of the blue lodge to more advanced involvement.
We happened to arrive at a time when there were no other tourists so we were able to get a private tour. Our tour guide was an American University intern who said he was not a Mason although I got the distinct impression that it was his ambition to become one. Once inside, Egyptian hieroglyphics and numerous esoteric symbols adorn a vast atrium. As you ascend the central staircase you discover the building’s nine-foot-thick walls hold the remains of Albert Pike and John Henry Cowles.
In a second-floor inner sanctum called the Temple Room, coiling snakes of bronze flank a large wooden throne, canopied in purple velvet, referred to as the seat of the sovereign grand commander. Our tour guide generously offered that we take a seat. The room is impressive and has all of the trappings one would expect of a mystical ritual room. What I found most interesting was the central altar which featured religious texts from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Our guide was quick to inform us that one can be a monotheist or a polytheist, as along as one believes in a creator god, one can be a mason. He also said, “…any religion other than Satanism is acceptable for obvious reasons.”
Accordingly, the details of a Mason’s religious faith are irrelevant as it pertains to membership in the Lodge. It is only necessary that he affirm a deity. So the Lodge includes Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and followers of other religions. The problem with this is obvious because most all of those religions make exclusive truth claims. It seems to me that if you are a consistent follower of any of those religions (except Hinduism) that you cannot embrace the pluralism of Masonry. As we moved through the building, we entered another smaller meeting room and it also featured a central altar with the holy books of Islam, Judaism and Christianity (see smaller altar pictured below). Is this compatible with Christianity?
Most denominations say no but the Southern Baptist Convention offered a statement concluding that membership in the Lodge is “a matter of individual conscience.”[i] This anemic evaluation by the SBC has effectively served as an endorsement of the Lodge in the eyes of Masons. In The Scottish Rite Journal one Mason has concluded:
Because of your support, the vote of the Southern Baptist Convention is a historic and positive turning point for Freemasonry. Basically, it is a vitalization of our Fraternity by America’s largest Protestant denomination after nearly a year of thorough, scholarly study. At the same time, it is a call to renewed effort on the part of all Freemasons today to re-energize our Fraternity and move forward to fulfilling its mission as the world’s foremost proponent of the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God.[ii]
I think the SBC has made a grave error with such a weak statement. An overwhelming majority of denominations denounce Freemasonry as incompatible with Christianity and sources have reported that 1993 convention was overrun with masons. As a Bible believing Christian, I want to offer and argument as to why the Masonic view of the God of the Bible is inconsistent with the Bible’s claims.
The Masonic view is that although the Bible is an important book it is not the exclusive Word of God. It is a good guide for morality and works righteousness. In Masonry, the Bible is one of many divine revelations of the Great Architect of the Universe to mankind, it is only one among many. The Scottish Rite’s principle text, Morals and Dogma by Albert Pike, illustrates the position that other texts (even secular philosophy) are as inspired as the Bible:
The Apocalypse is, to those who receive the nineteenth Degree, the Apotheosis of that Sublime Faith which aspires to God alone, and despises all the pomps and works of Lucifer. LUCIFER, the Light-bearer! Strange and mysterious name to give to the Spirit of Darkness! Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! Is it he who bears the Light, and with its splendors intolerable blinds feeble, sensual, or selfish Souls? Doubt it not! for traditions are full of Divine Revelations and Inspirations: and Inspiration is not of one Age nor of one Creed. Plato and Philo, also, were inspired.[iii]
In this paragraph, Pike is speaking of the book of Revelation (Apocalypse) and offers some disturbingly vague thoughts about Lucifer (from the Vulgate rendering of Isaiah 14). Many argue this is a cryptic endorsement of Luciferianism. Although it seems to be in the form of rhetorical question, the words “Doubt it not!” are not too ambiguous. Even so, what is not at all cryptic is the view that all traditions are divine revelations. Thus, we see that pluralism is inherent in and foundational to masonic philosophy. At a minimum, Freemasonry is Universalist and deistic at its core.
The Christian faith requires its adherents to give exclusive deference to the Bible. It follows necessarily that to deny the Bible’s exclusive authority is to deny its purpose to declare that Jesus Christ alone has provided the means of salvation through his sacrificial substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world. Christians regard the Bible as the exclusive and authoritative Word of God and Jesus affirmed:
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”(Lk 24:44)
The Bible claims inspiration of the Old Testament (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:19-21) and the New Testament (1 Thes 2:13; 1 Cor 2:13; 2 Pet 3:16) and it claims that salvation is exclusively through Christ (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12). The Bible claims that this is for all people everywhere (Jn 3:16) and pertains to the whole world (Gen 17:5-9; Acts 2:39. 3:25). Because the Bible’s message is universal in scope and exclusive in efficacy, it cannot possibly be just one inspired book among many and no other religion can be correct if it is true. It’s either exclusively true or its false, the law of excluded middle applies. Thus, Freemasonry’s view of the Bible is contradictory and the altar of pluralism is an affront to its claims.
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[i] A Report on Freemasonry (Atlanta: Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1993), 6.
[ii] The Scottish Rite Journal (August 1993), cited by John Weldon, “The Masonic Lodge and the Christian Conscience,” Christian Research Journal 16/3 (Winter 1994):21.