Have the Rules Changed?

When I was in confirmation class our pastor lectured us on the anti-Christian action of joining fraternal organizations such as Eagles, Elks, Moose, and Shriners, and especially the Masons. An elder in our church is a Mason, and every Sunday when he serves Communion, I notice the huge Masonic ring on his finger. Have the rules changed?
P.P., Kentucky

The “rules” have not changed, although as indicated by the quotation marks, the issues, which are involved, are not issues of rules but rather involve matters related to the whole concept of justification by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. The concepts that are embraced in one way or another in the organizations you cited are often in direct contrast to this fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith.

This is most obvious in the rites and teachings used in the Masonic Order. Several examples of this are found in a 1953 edition of an official document titled “King Solomon and His Followers: A Valuable Aid to the Memory.”

In response to the question “Why were you presented with the lambskin apron, which is the true badge of a Mason?” the answer given is “Because the lamb has in all ages been deemed an emblem of innocence; he therefore who wears the lambskin as a badge of Masonry is thereby continually reminded of that purity of life and conduct which is essentially necessary for his gaining admission into the celestial lodge above where the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides.”

Other examples could be cited, including such things as the meaning of the gavel which is for the purpose of “ fitting our bodies as living stones for that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”; or in referring to the three stages of human life, Youth, Manhood, and Age, members are to “occupy our minds in the attainment of useful knowledge . . . apply our knowledge to the discharge of our duties . . . so that in Age we may enjoy the happy reflections consequent on a well spent life and die in the hope of a glorious immortality.”

In other words, salvation through innocence of life, fitting ourselves for life in the celestial lodge above, and living that life in Youth, Manhood, and Age is the way to gain eternal life, not through faith in Jesus Christ and His saving grace.

It is possible that some Christians who join the fraternal organizations do so only for social purposes with little or no thought about their actual principles. However, one who is associated with them can hardly be committed to two opposing views. Salvation by works and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ are simply incompatible positions. Eventually a choice must be made.

This issue may also raise questions about the tolerance of false teaching in our midst, pastoral practice, and congregational discipline. For further information on fraternal organizations, contact the Commission on Theology and Church Relations.

Send your questions to “Q&A,” c/o The Lutheran Witness, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name and address. All questions will be considered, but none can be answered individually. 

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