Posted 14 March 2009 - 03:16 AM
Many Christian Denominations have issues with the Masons not just because they are secret.
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod:
Bylaw 3.925 of the Synod's Handbook summarizes the rationale for the Synod's longstanding position on the lodges: "Pastors and laypeople must avoid membership or participation in any organization that in its objectives, ceremonies, or practices is inimical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the faith and life of the Christian church." It is because tenets and practices of Freemasonry conflict with the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ that our church from its very beginning has held that membership in this organization conflicts with a faithful confession of this Gospel.
Many examples from the official rites and ceremonies of Freemasonry could be cited to illustrate the reasons for the Synod's position, but the following is one example. The second section of the Entered Apprentice degree reviews what has taken place in the initiation rite and closes with this definition of the Lambskin of White Leathern Apron given to the candidate: "The Lamb has, in all ages, been deemed an emblem of innocence. He, therefore, who wears the Lambskin as the badge of a Freemason, is constantly reminded of that purity of life and conduct which is so essentially necessary to his gaining admission into the Celestial Lodge above, where the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides." This statement holds out the promise that "purity of life and conduct" is "essentially necessary" for entry into life hereafter with the divine being called the "Supreme Architect." Such an assertion stands in direct conflict with the apostolic Gospel, and therefore endangers faith. St. Paul affirms in his epistle to the Galatians that "by works of the law shall no one be justified...for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal. 2:16,21).
The Wisconsin Evangelic Lutheran Synod says this about Masons :
The Masonic Lodge and its affiliates are essentially deistic religious organizations. They strongly maintain that there is a Creator God who rewards good and punishes evil but do not formally acknowledge God as a gracious giver of salvation through the work of Jesus Christ. Nor do they acknowledge the Triune God as the only true God, but allow that most any "Supreme Being" embraced by any Mason may be seen as a legitimate deity. To them salvation is not by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, but based on good works. They also maintain that the supreme deity ("Architect of the Universe") may be and is worshiped in many forms and under many names by many religions aside from Christianity. Additionally, the oaths and rituals of the lodge have many features that consistent and conservative Bible students have long found incompatible with Christianity. There are many books and pamphlets available that give this kind of information in much greater detail. This negative appraisal of the Masonic Lodge is shared by a number of church bodies, and is not the conclusion of only a few like the WELS. You are invited to speak with any WELS pastor about this and to request more detailed information as desired.
So although the Masons somewhat promote civic righteousness and undertake certain praiseworthy projects in society, we maintain that a Christian would compromise clear Bible teachings by becoming a member of that lodge. We are aware that people have joined such groups for the sake of business connections as well as a sense of social responsibility and say they really don't care for or think of the religious aspects of the organization. But we maintain that to do so is still a compromise of truth, easily or inevitably causes others to stumble spiritually, and links the person to a false religious group. The Bible often testifies against such an attitude and action.
Bottom line: to be a WELS member with the public confession involved with that membership and to be a Mason with that public confession are incompatible. We owe members of masonry a loving and courteous reply that will not compromise truth. Refraining from membership in that network of organizations and providing patient but consistent testimony to the falsehood the Masons embrace or tolerate would be right and fitting
And then about Scouts:
We do warn against civil religion which treats all religions as one or interchangeable. If the Pledge (of Allegiance) is used to give that implication, we could not join in it. I do not know what percentage of WELS schools use the pledge. None of the ones I attended used it. Many people, religious or non-religious, have objections to the wording of the Pledge.
The reason we say more about scouting is that the topic involves voluntarily joining an organization with false religious priniciples. You hit the nail on the head with your statement "Scouts promotes religion to God as the most important thing. No matter what religion it is." That is exactly why we can't participate.
People in this world work for rewards at their jobs, at school, in athletics, and many other endeavors, but these rewards are earthly not spiritual. We have no objection to organizations that give earthly rewards for earthly achievements. Scouting is talking about doing your duty to God by your achievements. That is a very different matter. Believing in God or a god is not the same as believing in the one true God.
We can associate with people from outside our faith in every way except joiining them in evil or false worship. We can't win people by joining them in false worship.
Someone told me that the Wisconsin Synod does not allow its members to be Boy Scouts. Is that true and if so, what is the basis for it?
There is a question that must precede the one you asked. Does God want Christians to belong to organizations that requires its members to accept religious principles that are contrary to the First Commandment? Or putting it another way, can a Lutheran who on his confirmation day promised that he would suffer everything rather than deny the teachings of the Bible subsequently take another promise that is based on the premise that anyone of any religion can do his duty to God? The obvious answer to both questions is "no."
Then the next question is, what organizations fit this description. The Scouts require all members to take the Scout promise, even atheists. A few years ago a Scout who was an atheist was allowed to become an Eagle Scout, but had to take the Scout promise to do his duty to God, although he could qualify that by saying that he did not believe God was a personal being. The promise cannot be omitted. Such a promise a Christian cannot make in good conscience.
Getting to your question. WELS does not have a list of organizations that its members cannot join. Many congregations have a statement in their constitution which says that members cannot belong to organizations that require religious principles that contradict the Bible. The Boy Scouts fall into that category. The question really is not what does WELS allow or not allow. It is what does the First Commandment allow or not allow.
Roman Catholics about Masons:
Why is Freemasonry incompatible with Christianity?
Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity because it promotes indifferentism. Indifferentism is the heretical belief that all religions are equally legitimate attempts to explain the truth about God which, but for the truth of His existence, are unexplainable. Such a view makes all truths relative and holds that God can be equally pleased with truth and error. Because Christians believe that God has definitively revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, and desires that all men come to the knowledge of this truth, indifferentism is incompatible with Christian faith. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John 14:6).
Freemasonry's teachings and practices also result in syncretism which is the blending of different religious beliefs into a unified whole. This is evidenced most especially by Masonry's religious rituals which gather men of all faiths around a common altar, and place all religious writings along side the Bible on the Masonic altar. This is also demonstrated by the Lodge's prayers and its unique names and symbols for God and heaven. Syncretism is the logical consequence of indifferentism.
The Lodge's practice of requiring its members to swear immoral oaths is also incompatible with Christianity. These oaths require a Christian to swear on the Holy Bible that he will uphold a code of moral conduct that prefers Masons over non-Masons, and to preserve secret passwords and handshakes. Such oaths are gravely immoral because their subject matter is trivial or does not give rise to the necessity of an oath. These oaths are also sworn under symbolic, blood-curdling penalties of physical torture and death called self-curses (e.g., having my throat cut across, and my tongue torn out by its roots). These penalties show a lack of respect for God and amount to blasphemy which is a serious sin.
What is the Catholic Church's position on Freemasonry?
The Church, through its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has formally declared that Catholics who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion. This declaration, which is the most recent teaching of the Church, has affirmed nearly 300 years of papal pronouncements against Freemasonry on the grounds that the teachings of the Lodge are contrary to Catholic faith and morals.
The Churchs declaration on Freemasonry exposes Catholic Masons to a number of penalties under canon law. For example, a Catholic who is aware that the Church authoritatively judges membership in Freemasonry to be gravely sinful must not approach Holy Communion (c. 916). The Church imposes the duty upon all grave sinners not to make a sacrilegious communion. Such a Catholic Mason who is aware of the grave sin must receive absolution in a sacramental confession before being able to receive communion again, unless there is a grave reason and no opportunity to confess (c. 916). This confession, in order to be valid, also requires the Catholic Mason to renounce his Masonic membership.
Further, because membership in Freemasonry is an external or public condition, the Catholic Mason can be refused Holy Communion by the pastors of the Church for obstinately persevering in his Masonic membership (c. 915). Such a Catholic Mason would also be forbidden from receiving the Anointing of the Sick (c. 1007) as well as ecclesiastical funeral rites if public scandal were to result (c. 1184, 1, 3).
Canon 1364 also imposes an automatic excommunication upon apostates, heretics, or schismatics. This canon could also apply to Catholic Masons. If, for example, a Catholic Mason embraced the theological teachings of Freemasonry that the Church has condemned (indifferentism, syncretism), he would be in heresy by virtue of his belief in these teachings. Further, if a Catholic Mason knew the Church opposes membership in Freemasonry, and yet adamantly and persistently refused to submit to the popes authority in precluding his membership in the Lodge, he may also find himself in schism. Catholic Masons could also be subject to canon 1374 which imposes an interdict or just penalty upon those who join associations that plot against the Church.
For the canonical penalties to apply, the Catholic Mason would have to act in a gravely imputable way (that is, the Catholic would have to be aware of the Churchs teaching on Freemasonry and, after being warned about it, choose to disregard it). In my personal experience, a fair number of Catholic Masons do act in a gravely imputable way in regard to their Masonic membership. In these cases, the canonical penalties, including excommunication, apply. The Church's penalties are not meant to alienate the person on whom the penalty is levied. Instead, the penalties are meant to communicate to the person the gravity of his conduct, encourage his repentance and reconciliation with the Church, and bring him back into the one fold of Christ. After all, the mission of the Church is the salvation of souls.