ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--A motion referred from last year's Southern Baptist Convention has resulted in a new publication by the North American Mission Board examining Freemasonry's compatibility with Christianity.
The pamphlet, titled "A Closer Look at Freemasonry," is part of an ongoing series by NAMB's interfaith evangelism team examining various belief systems.
While acknowledging the "many charitable endeavors" of Freemasonry, the pamphlet also expands on eight "tenets and teachings" of Freemasonry that were found to be "incompatible with Christianity" in a controversial report on Freemasonry approved by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1993.
"We decided to write this piece that would expand a little further on some of the things that were stated in the report on Freemasonry," said William Gordon, an interfaith evangelism associate and principle researcher for the pamphlet.
"We tried to be honest in our evaluations," added Rudy Gonzalez, director of the interfaith evangelism team. "The document is not condemning in any way, but simply seeks to put information out so that individuals can arrive at informed conclusions about what they ultimately believe about these organizations."
The motion requesting that NAMB produce materials contrasting the Bible and Freemasonry was submitted last year by Russ Kaemmerling of DeSoto, Texas. It was referred to NAMB by the Convention's Committee on Order of Business.
The "Closer Look" provides documentation and explanation for the eight concerns of the original 1993 report on Freemasonry, which it summarized with the following statements:
1) "Freemasonry uses offensive, non-biblical, and blasphemous terms relating to God."
2) "Freemasonry insists on the use of 'bloody oaths' or obligation, which are strictly forbidden by the Bible (cf. Matt 5:34-37)."
3) "Freemasonry urges that occultic and/or pagan readings be used, and that their teachings be appropriated in interpreting such concepts as the Trinity."
4) "Freemasonry includes the Bible as part of the 'furniture of the lodge,' but only as an equal with non-Christian symbols and writings."
5) "Freemasonry misuses the term 'light' to refer to moral "reformation" as a means to salvation."
6) "Freemasonry teaches that salvation may be attained by 'good works' and not through faith in Christ alone."
7) "Freemasonry advocates in many of its writings the non-biblical teachings of universalism."
8) "In some of its lodges, Freemasonry discriminates against non-whites."
Also included is a fold-out "comparison chart" detailing positions of Freemasonry, Christianity and the Bible on the issues of "God," "Oaths," "Jesus Christ," "Salvation by Works" and "Inclusivism."
The "Closer Look" concludes by noting that while many Christians and leaders have been and are Masons, "several points of the lodge's teachings are non-biblical and non-Christian." It also states that "while Freemasonry encourages and supports charitable activities, it contains both multireligious and inclusivistic teachings that are not Christian in its religious instruction."
"Taking the above into consideration, and being consistent with our denomination's historic deep convictions regarding both the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church, we recommend that each individual Baptist, as well as each congregation, carefully review the issues of the teachings and practices of Freemasonry," the pamphlet states. "Since, in the final analysis, the Bible alone is the only guide for faith and practice, issues related to Freemasonry and any other fraternal organizations, especially secret societies, must be evaluated only in light of the plumb line of Scripture."
The pamphlet notes key "foundational and nonnegotiable" Christian doctrines such as the divinity and Lordship of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith.
"The teachings of any organization or society in contradiction to such biblical tenets must be evaluated accordingly," the pamphlet states. "It is therefore, the duty of every Christian to resist and avoid false teachings, to speak the truth in love and embrace only those doctrines which are revealed in the inerrant Scripture, the Bible (see Matt. 7:24-27; John 7-10; 1 Cor. 10:14: Jude 3)."
The original report approved in 1993 -- which was criticized for being both too soft and too hard on Freemasonry -- noted both the incompatibilities and compatibilities of Freemasonry, Christianity and Southern Baptist doctrine. "We therefore recommend that consistent with our denomination's deep convictions regarding the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church, membership in a Masonic Order be a matter of personal conscience," the 1993 report summary stated. "Therefore, we exhort Southern Baptists to prayerfully and carefully evaluate Freemasonry in light of the Lordship of Christ, the teachings of the Scripture, and the findings of this report, as led by the Holy Spirit of God."
"A Closer Look at Freemasonry" and the original 1993 report on Freemasonry are available electronically at www.namb.net/interfaith and through LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention at 1-800-448-8032.