Are Freemasonry and Christianity Compatible?
J. P. Brooks
Grand Senior Warden, Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan
To begin this paper I think that it would be appropriate to quote from the first English Book of Constitution, 1723, — in the first charge therein concerning God and religion is stated 'A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law, and if he rightly understands that Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irregular Libertine' and this charge was revised in 1815 to read 'let a man's religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded from the order, provided he believe in the glorious architect of heaven and earth, and practise the sacred duties of morality' and so it still stands today — the first condition of admission into, and membership of, the order is the belief in a Supreme Being. This is essential and admits no compromise. A belief in the Existence of God as the Great Architect of the Universe and the Immortality of the Soul and a life hereafter are some of the important landmarks of the Order. Masonry is a Brotherhood which seeks after truth, encourages our members to uphold one another in the highest moral principles and having strict honesty of purpose and integrity in all matters of business and community endeavours.
Throughout the years since organized masonry has existed, the Christian Churches have had a number of concerns with Freemasonry some of these concerns to be well founded and some misguided to say the least. One concern is that Masonry is frequently referred to as being a secret society — certainly we do have a tradition of privacy but in actual fact modern Freemasonry is really very open and clearly anything but a secret society, with meetings usually advertised in the local press, unlimited volumes of published Masonic material available in libraries and book stores and our members proud to make known their affiliation as Freemasons. Another concern is that Masonry is a religion and that for some members salvation is attained by good works alone — Masonry is neither a religion nor a substitute for religion — nor a competitor with religion — though in the sphere of human conduct it may be hoped that our teachings will be complimentary to that of religion — Masonry requires a man to have a belief in God, or a Supreme Being before he can be admitted as a member, and expects him to continue to practise his religion thereafter — Actually Freemasonry may be said to be a system of Morality — we as members are free to profess any religious faith which enables us to express a belief in the Great Architect of the Universe — Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of a religion, we have no theological doctrine and by forbidding religious discussion at our meetings there is no opportunity for a Masonic theological doctrine to be developed.
One of the most important landmarks of our order is that which forbids us to participate as Masons in any form of religious or political discussion. The reason for this important landmark is that Freemasonry exists for the sake of and is devoted to and is dedicated for Brotherhood. This Brotherhood means that many of us men, drawn from all walks of life — with a variety of various racial and political opinions are brought together and kept together in a relationship of friendship, harmony and goodwill. There is nothing else more likely to divide and alienate men than religion and politics and for the welfare of our Brotherhood this has been and always must be one of the most important of our landmarks.
What then is it that leads men and organizations in society to attack us — From the early beginnings of our order we have continually been attacked by those outside of the order. Some of the great Christian Churches maintain an enmity towards us and many governments, particularly communist and non-democratic states, have outlawed Freemasonry and forbidden their peoples to become members. In all probability this will continue and is not likely to change — but what is the attitude of our Craft to these attacks — the attitude of the Craft is to ignore them. We do not fight back, we have done nothing to warrant or to invite such attacks and therefore it is no concern of ours. Our faith in the truth of Freemasonry is so certain and well founded that we only need to continue on as we always have in order to silence any false charges or untruths that may be made against us.
Freemasonry is not a Christian organization although many of us are professing Christians, and the God we worship is the Christian God — Salvation can only be attained by a belief in the divine revelation which exists in the form of a Sacred Volume for every religion and of course for we Christians this is the Holy Bible.
What then does Masonry and Christianity have in common? Masonry is not a religion but it is religious — it is not a church but is a worship in which men of all religions may unite — It is the friend of all, having emphasis upon those truths which underlie all religions. Masonry seeks to instill in its members a standard conduct and behaviour which will be acceptable to all creeds and hopefully that its teaching will be complimentary to that of any religion. The basic tenants of Masonry, brotherly love, relief and truth are complimentary to any man's Christian beliefs and must become a part of a Christian's search for more light in his continual search for truth — that true Spiritual Light who for a Christian is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Many of our Christian leaders in our Churches are also dedicated Masons and find no conflict in being members of both. Our Parish Priest at home is a Past Master of his Lodge and has taken the Christian Orders in Preceptory and has found nothing to be in conflict with his Christian beliefs and Ordination Vows. His problem is time the same problem we all have — There is always a conflict with time when a person belongs to a number of different organizations.
I have been a Licensed Lay Reader in our Parish for almost as many years as I have been a Mason and I know that Masonry has been a strong support and influence in my long and gradual journey to my coming to know my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. There is only one area in which I have found some unhappiness and a feeling of unease and that is in the obligations in the three degrees, when the candidate is taking his vows on the Holy Bible. It has always given me a feeling of repugnance to swear on the Volume of the Sacred Law a completely ridiculous and impossible penalty which is not only archaic but never can be carried out. There is no reason why these penalties could not be moved to some other part of the ceremony and keep the obligation as solemn and sacred as it should be.
Are they compatible? Of course Christianity and Freemasonry are compatible and should be and are complimentary to each other in Man's continual search for truth. Freemasonry does not offer any teaching to the Christian member that he cannot find within his church — We do not recruit new members, only those who are motivated by a favourable opinion preconceived of the Institution' and sees such an opinion as being generated by the good examples of public and charitable concerns by the members.
It is essential that we as members of the order continue to carry out voluntary community activities, participate in our church and worship services,and put our faith into practise in our daily living of and try to keep a fuller relationship with our family and close friends. In this way can Masonry and Christianity continue to be compatible in each of our individual lives as Christians and as Masons.
Brethren, these are some thoughts on Christianity and Masonry, which, hopefully, you can accept in the spirit in which they have been presented — for your consideration and discussion. Masonry has always steadfastly held that freedom of thought and religious worship is there are sole right of every individual. As members of the Fraternity religion encouraged to put into daily practise the precepts of our own as well as the moral teachings of the fraternity.
Quatuor Coronati Transactions
Workman Unashamed — Christopher Haffner
Freemasonry and the Christian Faith — Harri Heino
General The Report on Freemasonry & Christianity — The Working Group, Grand Lodge of England Synod of the Church
The Clergy and the Craft — Forrest D. Haggard
Freemason's Pocket Reference Book — Pick & Knight
The Pocket History of Freemasonry — Piek & Knight
Christian by Degrees — Walton Hannah
The Holy Bible — Masonic Edition