Question: Is it permissible for a Christian to be a Freemason?
The answer to this question begins by asking, “What type of organization is Freemasonry?” Is it simply a service organization dedicated to philanthropy, or is it a secret religion? Freemasonry was developed in the 17thcentury and its first Grand Lodge was formed in London, England in 1717. Freemasonry is an all-male organization of brotherhood dedicated to public service and the good of humanity. But unlike other organizations dedicated to serving the poor, needy, and sick (such as Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, Samaritans Purse), Freemasons operate is a secret manner. Masons have temples, secret rites and rituals (that include burial of the dead), orders of rank (the highest of which in each lodge is the “Worshipful Master”), and a system of morality guided by “Great Light.” All these aspects of Freemasonry take it well beyond a service organization into a quasi-religion.
Freemasonry emphasizes the need to recognize and serve the “Great Architect of the Universe,” or the “Great Light.” However, Freemasonry doctrine does not define who God is or declare any book as a sacred text. Instead, every mason is his own thinker, and the primary source of truth is the individual and his own interpretation of his religious experience. This open religious stance is similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous declaration that all people must recognize a “Higher Power,” but that power is open to the definition of the individual. Because of this, Masonic Temples / Lodges often reflect the religious culture within which they exist. This open and undefined concept of God fits conveniently with our post-modern day which rejects the notion of humanity being conformed to the reality of God. Instead, “god” is determined by the imagination and character of the Mason himself. Within this model, Masons hold up service as a great good, and memorialize their good works as a means of promoting their souls to God. This is the foundation of salvation by works, “Because of my service and goodness, I will be accepted by God.” This is a false gospel.
The problem with the Freemasonry organization is not its laudable philanthropic work, but the way its secret pledges, rites, and doctrines conflict in an incompatible way with biblical Christian belief. Paul is very clear in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 that Christians should not be “yoked” together with the unbelieving. The yoke is an analogy of being bound together in work and duty with a non-Christian. This should not happen because we do not believe the same things about the most important aspects of the world: the nature of God, what is morally right and wrong, or where our highest allegiance lies. The yoke also is an instrument of binding. The oxen cannot separate once bound together. It is wrong for a Christian, in any instance, to enter into binding vows or promises to form a long-term relationship with an unbeliever. The brotherhood rites and rituals of Masons are prized and strongly held by their membership, but are in conflict with the truth and call of Christ Jesus our Lord.
I understand that many men enter into these commitments seeking brotherhood. Every person desires a sense of community, belonging, and authentic friendship in our increasingly lonely and isolated world. But God’s design for this is marriage, family, and the local church. When people choose to reject, or neglect, God’s design in these areas, they will find them unsatisfying. It’s not then permissible to reject them and pledge yourself to a non-Christian organization in search of community. This also creates an inherent conflict of interest. When the will of God expressed in the Bible comes in conflict with Masonic doctrine or practice, which will take the upper hand? In my experience, those who join the Masons do so because of a weak Christian faith, and as such, Masonic doctrine and practice win out.
Some Americans give Masons a pass on these issues because certain well-loved American founding fathers (George Washington and others) were Masons and also expressed Christian faith. Since Freemasonry is fluid and largely reflects the culture which it functions within, it is possible that Freemasonry of the past was more Christian. However, the foundations of conflicting doctrine and conflicting final loyalties remain. It should also be noted that though certain political founding fathers were Masons, Christian ministers of that same period, used of God to usher in the Great Awakening, did not see Masonic membership as compatible with Christianity. For further reading on this subject I suggest; World Religions and Cults: Counterfeits of Christianity, Volume 1, edited by Hodge and Patterson, chapter 14.
In conclusion, any part of your life as a Christian that stands in conflict with the will of God must be changed. As Christians we must strive always to be in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Intentionally living counter to God’s will is sin. As such, if you are a Mason, you should renounce this allegiance and membership to serve Christ and His church with a full and undivided heart (Matthew 22:36-39). It is the first tenant of Christianity that no other God, idol, or allegiance (Exodus 20:3) should take the first place of the affections of our heart. If you have found marriage, family, and the local church unsatisfying personal relationships, it is partly because you have had divided affections and loyalty toward these institutions created by the will of God. If you have found service to the poor and needy unsatisfying and less productive outside of the Masonic setting, that is in part true because you have committed the efforts of your life to Masonic service. If committed with equal or greater passion elsewhere, equal or greater charitable works could be accomplished.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; no person comes to God the Father accept through Jesus (John 14:6). Believe in Him without reservation. Love His church and serve Him with an undivided heart.
May the local Christian church thrive in strength, joy, and service,