At the ninth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, meeting at Rochester, New York, June 2–5, 1942, the Committee on Secret Societies presented its report. The Assembly instructed the Committee to send this report to the ministers and sessions of the Church for their study. The report dealt with a matter of such timely importance that the Committee on Christian Education decided to publish it in its series of “Tracts for Today."
We have excerpted several sections of the report for this publication. You may receive a full copy of the report by writing us or by going on our website and reading it in the Freemasonry Section of our resource library.
Is Masonry a Religion?
On this score the evidence is overwhelming. There is no room for any reasonable doubt as to Masonry’s being a religion. Not only do the symbols, rites and temples of this order point unmistakably to it as a religion, but also a great many Masonic authors of note emphatically declare it to be just that. Of almost numberless quotations that could be given here the committee has selected a few.
J. S. M. Ward, the author of several standard Masonic works, defines religion as “a system of teaching moral truth associated with a belief in God” and then declares: “I consider Freemasonry is a sufficiently organized school of mysticism to be entitled to be called a religion.” He goes on to say: “I boldly aver that Freemasonry is a religion, yet in no way conflicts with any other religion, unless that religion holds that no one outside its portals can be saved” (Freemasonry: Its Aims and Ideals, pp. 182, 185, 187).
T. S. Webb says in his Masonic Monitor: “The meeting of a Masonic Lodge is strictly a religious ceremony. The religious tenets of Masonry are few, simple, but fundamental. No lodge or Masonic assembly can be regularly opened or closed without prayer” (p. 284).
Albert G. Mackey, General High Priest of the General Grand Chapter of the United States, and the author of numerous works on Masonry, has this to say: “Freemasonry is emphatically a religious institution; it teaches the existence of God. It points to the celestial canopy above where is the Eternal Lodge and where He presides. It instructs us in the way to reach the portals of that distant temple” The Mystic Tie, p. 32). And in his Lexicon of Freemasonry the same celebrated authority asserts: “The religion, then, of Masonry is pure Theism” (p. 404).
Extremely significant is the testimony of Joseph Fort Newton, a zealous advocate of Masonic principles. He deplores the fact that within the lodge there are many who regard it as “a mere social order inculcating ethical ideals and practicing philanthropy.” He continues: “As some of us prefer to put it, Masonry is not a religion but Religion—not a church but a worship, in which men of all religions may unite” (The Religion of Masonry, pp. 10, 11). With this agrees A. G. Mackey’s declaration: “The truth is that Masonry is undoubtedly a religious institution, its religion being of that universal kind in which all men agree” (Textbook of Masonic Jurisdiction, p. 95).
To be sure, H. L. Haywood says “there is no such thing as a Masonic philosophy, just as there is no such thing as a Masonic religion” (The Great Teachings of Masonry, p. 18). But on careful analysis it becomes clear that he means that Masonry is not to be put in a class with other religions; in a word, that it is a super-religion. He asserts that Masonry has a religious foundation all its own and that its religion is universal (Idem, p. 99). No doubt, Haywood would agree with Newton that “Masonry is not a religion, but Religion.”
Such is the unmistakable testimony, not of critics of Masonry, but of Masonic authors who are recognized by Masonry itself as authorities.
The Universalism of Masonry
There is a Christian universalism. God has His elect in every age and every nation. Ever since the fall of man the Son of God has been gathering the elect into His church by His Word and Spirit. In Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Him (Galatians 3:28). John saw the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fall down before the Lamb and he heard them sing: “Thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
Masonry also lays claim to universalism, but its universalism differs radically from that of Christianity in that it denies Christian particularism and exclusivism.
Christianity claims to have the only true book, the Bible. Masonry places this book on a par with the sacred books of other religions.
Christianity lays claim to the only true God, the God of the Bible, and denounces all other Gods as idols. Masonry recognizes the Gods of all religions.
Christianity describes God as the Father of Jesus Christ and of those who through faith in Him have received the right to be called the sons of God. The God of Masonry is the universal father of all mankind.
Christianity holds that only the worship of the God who has revealed Himself in Holy Scripture is true worship. Masonry honors as true worship the worship of numerous other deities.
Christianity recognizes but one Savior, Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. Masonry recognizes many saviors.
Christianity acknowledges but one-way of salvation, that of grace through faith. Masonry rejects this way and substitutes for it salvation by works and character.
Christianity teaches the brotherhood of those who believe in Christ, the communion of saints, the church universal, the one body of Christ. Masonry teaches the brotherhood of Masons and the universal brotherhood of man.
Christianity glories in being the one truly universal religion. Masonry would rob Christianity of this glory and appropriate it to itself.
Christianity maintains that it is the only true religion. Masonry denies this claim and boasts of being Religion itself.
The committee finds that the evidence presented concerning the religion of Masonry permits but one conclusion. Although a number of the objections commonly brought against Masonry seem to the committee not to be weighty, yet it is driven to the conclusion that Masonry is a religious institution and as such is definitely anti-Christian.
Far be it from the committee to assert that there are no Christians among the members of the Masonic fraternity. Just as a great many who trust for eternal life solely in the merits of Christ continue as members of churches that have denied the faith, so undoubtedly many sincere Christians, uninformed, or even misinformed, concerning the true character of Freemasonry, hold membership in it without compunction of conscience. But that in no way alters the fact that membership in the Masonic fraternity is inconsistent with Christianity.
Adopted from the Saints Alive Newsletter Oct. 2002