Shorter, Truett McConnell, and Brewton-Parker: -The Abysmal State of Georgia Baptist Education

“A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.” Proverbs 22:1

There are currently three institutions of higher learning under the control of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board: Brewton-Parker College (BPC), Shorter University (SU), and Truett McConnell University (TMU).  Despite being the beneficiaries of Bible-belt funding and geography, these Baptist schools consistently garner a poorer reputation than that of their secular counterparts in the University System of Georgia.  These schools feature high acceptance and tuition rates, while producing low graduation rates.  The only parties who are unaware of the embarrassing status of Georgia Baptist education seem to be the pew-sitters of Georgia Baptist churches, whose dollars fund Georgia Baptist enterprises such as these schools.   The boards of these underperforming colleges are stocked with Georgia Baptist pastors who tout the value of a Georgia Baptist education to their congregations while paying exorbitant salaries to the men whom they appoint to run their poorly performing schools.  To make matters worse, Georgia Baptist schools are surrounded by those of the University System of Georgia, which provides some of the most affordable and well-respected schools in the country.  In nearly every way, Georgia Baptist colleges are inferior to their secular peers.  A review of each Georgia Baptist School reveals just how bad things are in Georgia Baptist Education.

Truett McConnell University

In 2014, Time Magazine listed TMU among the “worst dropout factories and diploma mills” in the United States.  “With 14% of students graduating within six years of enrollment,” according to Time, “Truett-McConnell has one of the lowest rates in its peer group.”  According to US News and World Report (USNWR), the tiny college, which is located in the rural Georgia town of Cleveland, has an enrollment of 2,017 and an acceptance rate of 91%.  Since Time’s article TMU appears to have increased its graduation rate to 26%.   Compared to its public peers, TMU is very expensive.  The combined cost of tuition and room & board is $25,730 per year.  The cost of the same at University of North Georgia (UNG) in adjacent Dahlonega for in-state students is $16,672.   UNG has an acceptance rate of 64%, an enrollment of 17,289, and a graduation rate of 30%.  UNG is ranked as the #4 university in Georgia according to bestcolleges.com.  TMU did not make that ranking agency’s top 25.

In fact, no Georgia Baptist school made the top 25 on the bestcolleges.com listing.  Mercer University, which ceased to be formally affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board in 2006, came in at #21.  Mercer is a theologically liberal institution; however, the top 25 list does not appear to have any bias against conservative Christian schools.  Toccoa Falls College (TFC) and Covenant College (CC), which are both operated by conservative Christian denominations, came in at #6 and # 15 respectively.

Despite the fact that TMU underperforms in terms of affordability and academic reputation when compared to other Georgia colleges and universities, its President’s compensation rivals that of more reputable schools.  Emir Caner, who often fills the pulpit of Georgia Baptist churches as a guest preacher, is paid an annual salary of $201,862 to helm TMU.[1]  In addition to his salary, he receives $43,002 of “other compensation” from TMU and related organizations.  To put Caner’s salary in perspective, the presidents of UNG, Kennesaw State University (KSU), and the University of Georgia (UGA) receive salaries of $284,656, $367,699, and $819,776, respectively.  By comparison, Caner’s salary may appear modest.  However, when the number of students, facilities, activities, and employees he manages are considered, Caner is paid handsomely.

School President’s Salary Number of Students Salary per Student
TMU $201,862 2,017 $100.08
UNG $284,656 17,289 $16.46
KSU $367,699 33,252 $11.06
UGA $819,776 36,130 $22.69

UNG, KSU, and KSU are all less than a day’s travel from TMU.  These schools rank #4, #2, and #7, respectively, on bestcollege.com’s ranking of the top 25 Georgia schools.  Each offers more affordable tuition and a better academic reputation than TMU.   What they don’t offer is a conservative Christian education.  Yet, compared with his closest Christian peer, Emir Caner is still paid an exorbitant sum.  The Campus of TFC is less than an hour’s drive from that of TFC.  TFC’s President receives an annual salary of $129,446, nearly $73,000 less than that of Emir Caner (though higher per student).   TFC’s total enrollment is 937; it has a graduation rate of 35%, and an acceptance rate of 45%.  Arguably, TMU is where students who can’t get into TFC end up going.  “Screw it, go to Truett” has been a popular refrain among frustrated Georgia high-school seniors for quite some time.  Yet Truett-McConnell University is not the most glaring example of how bad the Georgia Baptist Mission Board has become at managing higher education.  The two other Georgia Baptist colleges are arguably worse.

Brewton-Parker College

BPC is located in the city of Mount Vernon.  Its acceptance rate, graduation rate, and total enrollment are presented as “N/A” by USNWR in the publication’s comprehensive report on American colleges and universities.  Almost no data is presented by USNWR on BPC except for its $16,180 tuition and fees rate.  In June of 2014, after years of doubt about its financial viability, BPC was removed from membership by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the college’s accrediting agency.  However, upon appeal, BPC managed to regain its accreditation by demonstrating that was indeed financially viable.  The accreditation fiasco, among other incidents, undoubtedly damaged the school’s ability to attract students to the rural college.   Verifiable statistics of BPC’s current enrollment are not readily available, however a local source which reached out to this author in January of 2015 indicated that enrollment had dwindled to 250 students.  College Students in South Georgia are overwhelming choosing to attend more viable and reparable universities such as Georgia Southern and Georgia Southwestern. According to my source, “All students are forced to sit in the front of the chapel (during chapel services); back rows are roped off to make the chapel appear full in pictures.”

The impetus behind that particular source reaching out to me was the disastrous presidency of Ergun Caner, the brother of TMU President Emir Caner.  Ergun Caner was hired to helm BPC in December 2013.  By January 2015, he had resigned in a hailstorm of controversy.  For those who had followed Caner’s career, this was no surprise.  Ergun Caner was already surrounded by controversy when he arrived.    He had been dismissed as the Dean of the Liberty University Seminary in 2010 as a result of an investigation into the claims of his past.  Ergun Caner rose to evangelical fame and a very high position at the world’s largest Christian university claiming that he had been trained as a Muslim terrorist before becoming a Baptist pastor.  When Liberty University found out that Ergun Caner had fabricated that part of his back-story, he was dismissed from his high-profile position as Dean of Liberty’s seminary.  He thus became the subject of much criticism.  It was, according to BPC leadership, because of this criticism (or “attacks” as it called them), not in spite of it, that Ergun Caner was hired to lead the school.  In Mount Vernon, Ergun Caner was considered something of a “warrior” for having withstood the onslaught of “attacks” that followed the discovery of his charlatanry and his dismissal from Liberty University.  Caner, the proven charlatan, was immersed in a lawsuit with two Christian men when he was hired at BPC.  Caner would later lose this lawsuit, which related to the release of recordings of him telling fabricated tales of his Muslim extremist background to US Marines, and be ordered to pay damages to the men whom he had sued.  One of the men Ergun Caner sued was a former student of Liberty University.  Having communicated with this former student, Jonathan Autry, I can tell you that Caner put him and his family through an intense amount of distress.

Caner, who came with the commendation of former Southern Baptist Convention President and influential Baptist pastor Johnny Hunt, would come to cause distress to the students of BPC as well.  Shortly before his resignation, 1/3 of the BPC student body walked out on Ergun Caner during the school’s chapel service.   They walked out as a reaction to their discovery of racially insensitive comments made by Ergun Caner which included his use of the term “ni**er fu**ed” in conversation with a subordinate and the disparagement of an administrator he deemed as acting “half-black”.  According to eye-witnesses the statements about the administrator were made during a telecom conversation with a man they believe to be his brother, TMU President Emir Caner.  Yet, Ergun Caner was only forced to resign after allegations of sexual misconduct arose.  Sadly, these are not the only reported incidents of vulgar remarks or actions by Ergun Caner during his tenure at BPC.   The leadership of Brewton-Parker University hired a man surrounded by controversy to oversee its struggling college.  Predictably, controversy followed and further damaged the school’s reputation.

It is a reputation that has long been sullied.   In 1998 the college had an enrollment of 1,600 students and a legal liability of $4 million.  A former administrator named Martha Faw sued the college under the federal False Claims Act.  She was joined in her lawsuit by the federal government.  Faw lost her job at BPC after alleging that the school was diverting financial aid funds from rightful recipients to athletes on the baseball, soccer and basketball teams. The federal government agreed with Faw and joined her lawsuit after its own investigation corroborated her accusations of fraud.  According to a story published in the Chicago Tribune, “(Faw) lost her job, and other employers in the community refused to hire her after finding out why she had been fired from Brewton-Parker. Many of her friends, especially friends at church, abandoned her for filing suit against the Baptist college.”  Despite these hardships, Faw and the federal government prevailed when BPC settled the lawsuit.  Faw’s portion of the judgment amounted to approximately $150,000, just about the same amount BPC’s leadership paid the charlatan Ergun Caner to be the school’s President nearly twenty years later.

That a Georgia Baptist institution knowingly and purposely hired a notorious charlatan to a six-figure school Presidency is one thing.  That it obfuscated the reason for his resignation is another.  SBC Voices Editor Dave Miller, who covered the story of Caner’s resignation, wrote the following shortly after Caner resigned:

“Just 10 days ago, on January 20, we published the news, based on the BPC press release, that Ergun Caner had stepped down as president of Brewton-Parker College in Georgia so that he could heal as a result of the tragedy that had befallen his family. In that article, we asked people to pray for the Caner family during this time as the healing process went forward.

It is now clear, from published reports and information gleaned from trustees and students, that the official story was designed to cover up the facts of the story and the real reasons that Dr. Caner was forced to step aside at BPC. Southeast Georgia Today, a small online journal from Vidalia, broke the story publicly yesterday, and it has gotten wide circulation since.

While I have been aware of the information in that report since the day of Caner’s resignation, it was not my intent to write on this topic. However, since the story has gone into the public domain now, since my good friend C.B. Scott has been unjustly fired as a result of his principled stand, and since I have been told that many other revelations are likely to come out very soon, I decided to write a post on the topic.”

C.B. Scott is the very administrator to whom Caner referred as acting “half black”.  C.B. Scott was later fired by Caner’s immediate replacement, BPC Chairman of the Board, Gary Campbell for an “infraction of a very important business policy of how grievance information is distributed through the chain of command.”  This was after Scott refused Caner’s request to “help him restore his credibility.”  According to Dave Miller:

“…the administration tried to buy CB’s silence with a generous severance package. When he refused to sign away his integrity, they terminated him with nothing. He worked countless hours to dig BPC out of the SACS mess they were in. He represented students and was an effective liaison for the college in the community. They fired him because he would not play ball, because…he refused to help Caner restore his credibility after the incidents that took place and because he refused to agree to a non-disclosure agreement while facing termination.

Like Martha Faw, C.B. Scott was fired from his job for telling the truth and standing on principle while employed at BPC.  Scott, whose wife is confined to a wheel-chair and who is the father of adopted children, refused to sign away his integrity in exchange for an attractive severance package which included the continuation of his health insurance.  The Caner-Scott affair proved that after two decades of struggles and a federal lawsuit, BPC was still playing dirty.  After the public outcry generated from publications such as SBC Voices and Pulpit & Pen, C.B. Scott was reinstated to his position at BPC by interim school President Charlie Bass.  For poor Martha Faw, Baptist blogs were not yet widely available during her time of trouble.

Caner was eventually replaced as BPC President by Steve Echols, who served as the President of Tennessee Temple University during the period in which that school ceased operations.  Time will tell if BPC is able to continue as an institution of higher education.  Time has told that BPC, a Georgia Baptist School, has suffered from moral failings and incompetent leadership for at least twenty years.   C.B. Scott described to this author the status of BPC upon his arrival as a place of “whores and whoremongers.”  Unfortunately a climate of gross immorality is not unique only one Georgia Baptist college.

Shorter University

In December 2011, prominent Georgia Baptist pastor and Shorter University Trustee Chairman Nelson Price described SU as a “hotbed of homosexual activity“.  According to Price, the school, which is located in Rome, Georgia, had suffered from such a reputation “since the late 1970s”.  At the time that Price made that comment, he and other Georgia Baptist leaders were involved in an effort to purge the school of the influence of the many liberal professors in its employ who neither believed in nor practiced a Biblical lifestyle.  SU instituted a requirement that all instructors sign a “personal lifestyle statement” in which they agreed to refrain public alcohol consumption, drug use, and sexual activity outside of marriage.   The liberals despised the lifestyle statement and may refused to sign.  Thus, the effort to purge the immoral liberal was successful; however, success came at a price.  According to Libby A. Nelson of Inside Higher Ed:

The next nine months would bring an exodus. Eighty-three of Shorter’s faculty, staff and administration would resign, including 35 of its 94 full-time faculty members on the undergraduate campus. The college would lose four of its deans and a vice president. Science and performing arts departments, once the pride of Shorter, were hit hard.

With so many faculty exits, the college came under the scrutiny of SACS.  SU was placed on warning with SACS in 2013.  The warning was removed in 2014, as the college demonstrated that it was able to replace to lost instructors.  USNWR does not list Shorter’s current enrollment but it was 2,636 as of the Fall of 2013.  It does not present the diploma mill image of its sister schools, with an acceptance rate of 69%.  A SU education is one of the most expensive in the area, with a tuition rate of $20,846 (which is significantly lower than that of Berry College, another private college in Rome).

Drilling for Fear

Harrised educations

Gerald Harris, Editor of the official Georgia Baptist newpaper

SU and BPC both faced the loss of their accreditation as the result of their failure to maintain proper moral order.  Georgia Baptist insiders labeled them a “hotbed of homosexuality” and “full of whores and whore mongers”, respectively.  TMU is helmed by a preacher, Emir Caner, whom I have personally heard make off-color, racially insensitive jokes from the pulpit.  Emir has also arguably covered up for his vulgar, charlatan brother Ergun for years.  Although Georgia Baptist Colleges have continually been centers of immorality and poor performance, Georgia Baptist pastors (many of whom are alumni of these schools) consistently encourage young congregants to go there.  All the while, they reward themselves at their friends with the big salaries that these schools pay to top leadership.  Secular colleges are presented as centers of liberalism in which God-hating professors tear apart the biblical world views of young people.  Rather than go to state college and be beacons of Christ’s light, Georgia Baptist teenagers are encouraged to cloister themselves, and their parents’ money, at sub-standard Georgia Baptist colleges.  If students lose their faith at state universities, the blame should perhaps lie at the feet of Georgia Baptist youth pastors and preachers whose years of influence dry up and the first argument of a liberal college professor.  Georgia Baptists would do well to demand that the Georgia Baptist Mission Board either get out of the education business or consolidate their schools into one, less expensive, more manageable institution.  As the situation stands, Georgia Baptist higher education is an abysmal embarrassment to the church which is kept in business by federal student aid, some of the state’s higest tution, and the giving dollars of pew-sitting Georgia Baptists.

[1] This is according to the school’s 2014 Federal Form 990

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church of which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Andy Stanley’s Deep and Wide: A Review

Who is Andy Stanley?

Andy Stanley is the founder and senior pastor of North Point Ministries (NPM), which is an organization that started as a single church (North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia) in the fall of 1995.[1]  The organization now boasts six Atlanta-area churches as well as numerous independent “strategic partner” churches scattered throughout the United States.[2]  Stanley is the son of former Southern Baptist Convention President Charles Stanley, who is the founder of In Touch Ministries and the long-time pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta.  The younger Stanley served as an associate pastor at his father’s church before founding NPM.  In Deep and Wide: Creating Churches in Unchurched People Love to Attend, Andy Stanley shares the story of how he founded his organization and offers direction on how to create similar “churches which unchurched people love to attend”.  The book is broken up into five parts, each of which addresses a part of Stanley’s model.

Endorsements

The most telling part of Stanley’s book comes not from the text itself but from its endorsements page.    Deep and Wide‘s list of endorsers is a who’s who of entrepreneurial seeker-sensitive megachurch pastors.  Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Craig Groeschel, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, and Louie Giglio all give the book high praise.  Hybels, the father of the seeker-sensitive movement, famously lamented that his own Willow Creek network of churches was “a mile wide and an inch deep“.  Hybels’ negative assessment of the fruit of seeker-sensitive movement no doubt served as an inspiration for Stanley’s title Deep and Wide.  In the book’s introduction, Andy Stanley writes, “Local Churches should be characterized by deep roots and wide reaches.  Churches should be theologically sound and culturally relevant.”[3]  Given Stanley’s attitude about church, the identities of his endorsers should come as no surprise.  Those identities should also serve as a warning to those who look to Stanley for wisdom.   To be both biblically educated and informed of the exploits of men like Furtick and Noble leads one to be wary of them and what they recommend.

Getting All Theological

Andy Stanley’s ministry model rises and falls upon the notion that churches can be attractive to unchurched people.  From a business standpoint, Stanley’s notion seems counterintuitive.  It sounds a bit like opening a burger joint for people who don’t like beef.  However, Stanley’s model has actually succeeded in growing a brand new church plant with 708 charter members into a multi-site ministry with thousands of members and international influence in the span of two decades.  When Stanley set out to form NPM, he recognized that his geographic market was already saturated with churches that churched people loved to attend.  “I grew up attending churches designed for church people,” Stanley writes, “No one said it, but the assumption was that the church was for church people.  The unspoken message to the outside world was ‘Once you start believing and behaving like us, you are welcome to join us'”.[4]  The Bible Belt resident realized that if he created one more church “for churched people” then few would be enticed to join it.  So, Stanley created a business that the Atlanta market did not have, a church for unchurched people.  Using various tactics, such as playing secular music to open services, Stanley and his co-laborers have managed to grow North Point Church into the quasi-denomination North Point MinistriesNPM grades itself on how attractive it is to its target audience, unchurched people.  Andy Stanley reveals this metric of success to readers on page 15 of Deep and Wide.  Anticipating a negative reaction Stanley writes, “Now, before you go getting all theological on me and writing us off as a dog-and-pony show, take note: We are a church.  Our goal isn’t to create an event unchurched people love to attend.  We are creating churches.”[5]  This phrase shudders the biblically-minded reader to the core.  In order to explain and defend his idea of what “church” is and how it should be, Andy Stanley warns readers not to get “theological”.  Theological is exactly what anyone seeking to lead Christ’s church should be.  As has been demonstrated by its numerical growth, Andy Stanley’s method of church management works from a business perspective.  However, it is theologically untenable and blatantly unbiblical.

Untenable Ecclesiology

Stanley’s defense of his method is a specious one.  He claims that NPM is creating “churches”, not “events”, that a certain demographic, the unchurched, loves to attend.  This claim breaks down when analyzed.  It is common parlance to ask someone, “Where do you go to church?” or “What church do you attend?” However, these questions are manners of speaking meant to determine in what church one holds membership.  Unlike events, churches are not attended.  Churches are essentially bodies of believers.   The sentence “I attend a body of believers” is incoherent.  The sentence “I attend worship services at First Baptist Church” is not.  That is because churches are bodies of believers which hold events, most frequently Sunday worship services.  It is truly the Sunday services of NPM, its events, that are geared towards unchurched people.  Churches are, by definition, composed of churched people.  Yet, Stanley creates his own definition of “unchurched”.  Rather than defining unchurched people as those who are not members of a body, Stanley defines the unchurched as those “not having attended a church for five years or longer”.[6]  Here again, Stanley’s presupposition is that church is something that is attended and not an entity in and of itself.  What Stanley’s philosophy boils down to is another absurd statement: The goal of NPM is to create churches of which unchurched people love to be a part.

But oil and water don’t mix.  The church of Jesus Christ is a particular group of people.  This is what the Apostle Peter reminds the early church in his first epistle:

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,  but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” 1 Peter 1:13-16

In the scripture above, Peter quotes a command of God to the nation of Israel recorded in the book of Leviticus – “Be holy”.  This demonstrates that the New Testament Church is an extension of Old Testament Israel.  The latter served as a witness that the Messiah was coming, the former serves as a witness that the Messiah has come and is soon to come again in judgment.  In any age, the Israel of God serves as a witness to the world while maintaining a separation from the world.  In order to serve as a witness, the church must maintain a unique and separate identity.  This is what it means to be holy.  The Greek term ἅγιος used by Peter and translated as “holy” in the scripture above indicates that the church is to be set apart from everything and everyone that is not the church.  The church is to be different from the world.  Thus, it is completely reasonable for a church to expect that people who want to be a part of it first change the way they believe and behave.  This expectation is in line with the Christian doctrines of regeneration and sanctification.  Once a sinner gets saved, to use commonly understood evangelical terminology for regeneration, he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  Thus starts the process of sanctification.  At this point the believer starts to look like the church and, as Peter puts it, should no longer be conformed to his former lusts.  A true believer isn’t merely attracted to the church, he is the church.  A church that insists that its membership be holy is merely a matter of salt being salty. Yet, this is off-putting to Andy Stanley.  It is also apparently off-putting to thousands of other Atlanta-area residents who were raised in the same church culture as Stanley.  These off-put consumers are drawn to NPM and the philosophies of its leader, Andy Stanley.  Stanley boldly declares that he “leverages their consumer instincts”[7] and claims that Jesus did the same.

Stanley puts his own spin on what the church is in the second section of his book.  This is the section in which Stanley attempts to give the biblical justification for his approach to church.[8]  In Chapter Three, Stanley gives a very short and lightly footnoted summary of church history in which he literally anticipates the question “how long is this chapter in anyway?”[9]  Once again, Stanley is flippant about theology.  Deep and Wide’s chapters which give biblical justification for Stanley’s model of church should arguably be thorough, should arguably be deep.  However, Stanley’s pattern is to trade on brief, specious arguments shrouded in humor, pithiness, or some personal account.  His writing style is not unlike his preaching style; both lack depth and operate on a surface level.  His argument in Chapter 3 is dependent on his treatment of the Greek term ἐκκλησία[10] which is translated as “church” in almost every English Bible. Stanley asserts that the word “church” is not a translation of ἐκκλησία but rather a bad substitution for it.[11] According to Stanley, the institutionalization of the movement, or “church”, that Jesus started led to the ἐκκλησία being associated with a building or a location controlled by an institutional authority.  He associates the perversion of the Greek term with the machinations of the Roman Catholic Church and cites the Reformers as those who would be sympathetic to his view.  This does not, of course, play out in church history.  The seeker-sensitive movement of Warren, Hybels, Stanley, and their ilk began hundreds of years after Martin Luther and other reformers began the task of breaking free from Roman Catholic error and subjugation.   The seeker-sensitive movement is firmly planted inside of modern American entrepreneurial pragmatism and is nowhere to be found in first 400 years after the Reformation began.

Stanley is at least partially correct in his treatment of the term ἐκκλησία, however.  In Greek culture, the term often referred to a gathering of people, not necessarily Christian or religious.  Stanley writes, “An ekklesia was simply a gathering or an assembly of people called out for a specific purpose.  Ekklesia never referred to a specific place, only a specific gathering.”[12]  This statement is true.  At the same time, it is a straw man.  That Christ’s church is not a specific location is not the argument of those churches who would insist that church members believe and behave in a certain way.  It is a straw man created by Andy Stanley to further his narrative that church is a movement.  It’s not.  It’s a people.  It’s a people sanctified (set apart) to God and for God.  No one needs a dedicated building to be Holy but it’s certainly okay to have one.  Andy Stanley’s organization has several.

Such buildings are where the church formally gathers for its most frequent event, Lord’s Day worship.  It is here where Andy Stanley’s model of church runs into another very serious problem –  the world doesn’t honor God.  The Bible makes it clear in several places that the world, those not a part of the church and therefore not currently set apart to and for God, are at enmity with both God and His people.  The Apostle James wrote:

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?” James 4:3-5

When God’s people gather on the Lord’s Day to praise God they should not expect that unbelievers will want to take part in that worship.  Thus, to gear church services to appeal to a demographic (whether it is called “lost” or “unchurched”) is to change the focus of the worship event.  The event ceases to be about appealing to God.  Instead, it appeals to man.  Not only that, it appeals to the unregenerate man.  The Apostle Paul wrote:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, e kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

How can unsanctified people find appeal in a Christ-honoring, church-edifying worship service?  The same way a goose hatches out of a chicken egg…it doesn’t.  It’s another absurdity.  Stanley’s method of church is to essentially water down the message of scripture while having the people of God cater to “unchurched” people who have no interesting in serving or worshipping Him in spirit and truth.  Stanley turns what should be praise songs and preaching into a concert followed by a motivational speech.  It draws numbers, but not holy ones.  Stanley’s method not only confuses the nature of the church but perverts its primary weekly event, the worship service, to a form of worldly entertainment.  Unchurched people simply don’t love Christ’s church.  Unchurched people simply don’t love the worship of God.  Thus, a church that unchurched people love to attend is not a church at all.  It’s akin to hamburger joint that puts tofu patties between buns, calls them hamburgers, and serves them to people who don’t like beef.  It does good business and happily makes thousands of sales…but it doesn’t sell hamburgers.

A Didactic Problem

Much of the “biblical” justification Stanley gives for his model is subtlety deceptive.  Among Christians, there is universal agreement that the church belongs to Christ.  Stanley uses the exploits of Christ, as chronicled in the Bible, in various places in his book to support his own assertions.  When he does so, he engages in more specious error.  Almost never does Stanley appeal to the teaching of the Apostles (as has been done above to critique his methodology).  This is significant.  It is essential to understand the biblical context in order to understand Stanley’s erroneous method of teaching.  The fours gospels often descriptively portray Jesus as taking some action to teach the reader about whom Jesus is and what he is doing while the epistles of the Apostles prescriptively instruct the church. Stanley relies on the former to support his ecclesiological assumptions where the former are not addressing church operations.

Stanley rightly points out that “If you want to know what Jesus meant but Jesus said, pay attention to what Jesus did.”[13]  One thing that Jesus did was to appoint Apostles such as Paul to oversee the early church.  We find the writings of Peter, Paul, James, John, and Jude in their numerous epistles, many of which predate the authoring of the four gospels.  These epistles are written by Apostles, in many cases to specific churches, in order to instruct the churches on how they should operate.  In other words, the epistles of the New Testament instruct churches on how to be churches.  In Deep and Wide Stanley cites the epistle of James thrice (James 1:17, 2:20, and 2:26), the epistles to the Corinthians thrice (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 10:26), the epistle to the Romans twice (Romans 8:28 and Romans 12:2), and the second epistle to Timothy once (2 Timothy 3:16).  Through none of these citations does Stanley make a substantial argument about the church should operate or behave.  Instead, Stanley relies on descriptive stories from the gospels.  Indeed, Jesus reached out to the outcasts of society and challenged the religious authority of his day.  However, the brotherly love and evangelism demonstrated by Jesus and his disciples in the gospels do not translate into a church model where worship services center around appealing to the unchurched and finding places of service for them.  If readers aren’t careful, they can get so excited about the praiseworthy exploits of the Lord Jesus and not notice that Stanley is not applying them in the proper context.

Stanley is adamant that “every church should be a church irreligious people love to attend.”[14]  This premise can be restated as follows: “every gathering of God’s people to exercise religious devotion should be a gathering of God’s people where the religious devotion being exercised is loved by those who are indifferent or hostile to religion“.  To defend this absurdity Stanley invokes Jesus.  He writes, “The church is the local expression of the presence of Jesus.  We are His body.  And since people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus, people who are nothing like Jesus should like us as well.[15]  This statement does not play out in scripture.

“…Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'” Mark 1:14-15

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30

Jesus’ most vociferous critics, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law, were not like him.  Yes, they were the same ethnically but spiritually their hearts were far from Him.  Those who accepted Jesus accepted his offer of forgiveness and were called on to turn (or repent) from their sins.  In doing so, they could become like him.  Andy Stanley not only advocates that the church appeal to the world, he argues that Jesus did so.  Jesus, as history shows, had no friendship with the world.  Andy Stanley does.  In a jab at his critics, Stanley writes, “All of my critics are religious people (It may be the only thing I have in common with Jesus).”[16]  The churches being critiqued and rebuked by Paul in his many epistles could have made the same, haughty quip.  In reality, Stanley misapplies the exploits of Jesus to justify his brand of pragmatic religious consumerism.  Misapplying Jesus is nothing new.

All About Andy

The first part of the book is dedicated to telling Andy Stanley’s biographical story.  He grew up in a tense and combative church culture, one in which his own father was punched in the face during a church business meeting at First Baptist Atlanta.  It was a fight for his father to become of the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Atlanta and a young Andy and his best friend Louie Giglio witnessed it.  After Andy grew up and went to seminary, he entered the fray and accepted a position as a student minister at First Baptist Atlanta.  He served in this capacity for ten years.  Then, almost by accident, he took the first step to becoming the Senior Pastor of his own church.  First Baptist Atlanta was determined to move to a more suburban location.  It obtained access to a piece of property known as “the warehouse” and opened up a second campus there.  The intention was to move the entire church to that location; at the time, the multi-site megachurch fad had yet to become popular.  Stanley was tasked to lead the location until the move could take place.  It never did.

The real estate market did not provide First Baptist Atlanta with a feasible environment in which to move.  To make matters worse, the younger Stanley had a falling out with his father which revolved, in large part, over Charles’s Stanley’s controversial and very public divorce.  Andy Stanley would eventually resign his position at First Baptist Atlanta.  However, he retained a very large following.  He was able parlay his popularity into a new church plant, no longer operating under the authority of his father’s church but still well within its shadow.  Stanley was finally free to do things his own way.  He has.

During his tenure working with youth at First Baptist Atlanta, a twenty-six-year-old Stanley put on what the deacons of First Baptist Atlanta deemed an “irreverent and unruly”[17] youth event in the church building.  Despite a number of decisions for Christ made by attendees, the deacons were very upset at the spectacle.  Stanley, ever-pragmatic was aghast at their disgust.  After all, hadn’t it worked?  Arguably, this experienced helped shape NPM services into what they are today, seeker-sensitive concerts followed by motivational speeches that are in some way related to God.  Andy Stanley turned the youth-concert methodology rejected by the stodgy deacons at his father’s church and turned it into a church model.  He then put that church right in their back yard.  If NPM seems more like a rock and roll youth revival than a church, it’s not hard to see why.  NPM and Andy Stanley are shaped out of a rejection of conservative Southern Baptist culture.  Unfortunately, they have also come to reject the biblical expectation for churches.

That Andy Stanley devotes the entire first section of his book to his own, interesting personal history is not surprising.  Stanley is a part of the NPM brand, it’s his.  Arguably, he is the brand.  Such personal story telling is not uncommon among church entrepreneurs.  In Section One of Deep and Wide, Andy Stanley attempts to establish his authority as a church expert before making a biblical case.  By the time readers get to Andy’s “biblical” argument for the NPM model in Section 2, the reader has already subconsciously become an observer of the Andy Stanley story.  If the reader isn’t careful, he will miss how the story’s protagonist misapplies scripture to support an untenable church model.

Deep and Wide

Andy Stanley presents his “Deep and Wide” model in Sections 3 and 4 of the book.  Section 5 is about how to lead an existing church through the change processes in order adapt to Stanley’s model.  Andy lists a number of “Catalyst” principles and templates to be followed.  These items are not worthy of significant review.  Since Stanley’s model is unbiblical, its specific inner-workings should also be rejected.  To be sure, there is a lot of good common sense advice in these sections.  (For example, Stanley points out that an unkempt nursery area will leave parents too worried to focus on Sunday services.)  Just as sure, however, is the folly of following Andy Stanley down his path of pragmatism.  Deep and Wide is essentially a guide to “franchising McChruch.”  McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s have a franchise model.  So does North Point Ministries.  Unlike those fast food giants, Stanley professes that his idea for consumer appeal was given to him by God.[18]  Comparison of Stanley’s model to the word of God proves Stanley’s claim to be false.  The NPM model is not from God and is not one for shepherding sheep.  It is a model for herding goats.  Andy Stanley is a dangerous man whose pastoral ideas are dangerous to the health of Christ’s church.  Deep and Wide is a book that should be marked and avoided.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church of which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] p. 104

[2] There are also partner churches in Costa Rica, France, Mexico, and Venezuela.

[3] P. 18

[4] p. 69

[5] p. 15

[6] P. 14

[7] P. 15

[8] p. 16

[9] p. 60

[10] In English this term is transliterated as “ekklesia”.

[11] p. 62

[12] p. 59

[13] p. 298

[14] p. 12

[15] ibid

[16] p. 15

[17] P. 278

[18] p. 48

The Roman Catholic Church Says I’m Anathema, What About You?

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus was crucified, was buried, and rose from the grave, that God is revealed in three co-equal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that the abortion is murder, that homosexual acts are disordered and that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that only men can be pastors.  But is it a Christian Church?  An examination of the following propositions reveals the answer to that question:

  1. The Roman Catholic Church presents a gospel.
  2. If the Roman Catholic Church presents a different gospel then it is not a part of the Christian Church.
  3. The Roman Church presents a different gospel.
  4. Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church is not a part of the Christian Church.

These propositions form a valid argument.  Examine it for soundness.

Proposition #1 is very obviously true.  The Roman Catholic Church presents a gospel.   It’s hard to imagine a Roman Catholic or anyone else who would argue that it doesn’t.  Proposition #2 is supported by Galatians 1:8 which states, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.”  Neither Roman Catholics nor Protestants should disagree on the truth of proposition #2.  Proposition #4 follows logically (by modus ponens) from Proposition #2 and Proposition #3.  But is proposition #3 true?  Let’s examine it according to the teaching of scripture and the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Scripture clearly and simply teaches that salvation comes by grace through faith and not through works.  The Roman Catholic Church denies this in the Council of Trent (1563), which was convened as a response to the Protestant Reformation.

“If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.” Council of Trent, Canon 24

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation is the result of good works.  This contrasts the Biblical teaching from Ephesians 2:8-9 about salvation.  Thus, the Roman Catholic Church teaches a different gospel.  Thus, Proposition #3 is true.  Thus Proposition #4 is true.  Thus, the Roman Catholic Church is not a part of the Christian Church.

It is anathema.  It doesn’t matter that the Roman Catholic Church teaches numerous true and biblical things.  It teaches a different gospel.  It’s anathema.

But what if I’m wrong???

Then I’m anathema and so is every evangelical Christian who believes like I do that salvation is not maintained by works.  I, along with every other faithful person of my denomination, reject Canon 24 of the council of Trent.  Since I reject Canon 24, I am anathema in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church.

What about you?

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

 

Harmful Effect of Christianity #26

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

This post is the twenty-sixth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #26: Terminal patients in constant agony who would end their lives if they didn’t believe it would result in eternal torture.

This “harmful effect” assumes that patients with a terminal illness are better off dead. It further assumes that it is a Christian doctrine that believers who take their own lives are destined for an eternity in Hell. Neither of these assumptions bear out in the biblical text. There are certainly those who claim to be Christians who are under the misapprehension that suicide equals an automatic ticket to Hell. However, there are also those who claim to be Christians who reject the eternity of Hell or its existence altogether. So, on one misapprehension of Christianity (that everyone goes to Heaven), this harmful effect is absurd. On another, (that Christians who kill themselves are destined for Hell) it is arguable viable. However, that misapprehension is based on unfounded folk religion rather than biblical Christian doctrine. The author of this list seems to have picked whichever misapprehension best suited his atheistic presupposition that the terminally ill are better off dead.

To be a Christian is to be one of God’s elect people. The status of being one of God’s elect cannot be lost, even through committing an act of sin (including the act of self-murder). Having accepted Christ as Lord, a Christian’s sins (past, present, and future) are covered by the blood of Christ. Through His atoning death, Christ bore the punishment for the sins of the elect. Concurrently, the righteousness of Christ was imputed to the sinners He came to save. No Christian who understands the Bible will avoid killing himself purely to avoid Hell. Rather, such Christians will value the life they have been provided by God for as long as continue to live. Atheists, who have no hope in this life or the next, surely cannot understand the peace that comes with knowing that a loving God is control of the fate of His children.  If you are reading this and struggling with a lack of hope, consider calling out to Jesus Christ for salvation.  There’s no reason to live in hopelessness or with the belief that even a terminal illness has to be the end for anyone.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” John 10:27-29

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #27: School boards having to spend time and money and resources on the fight to have evolution taught in the schools.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Freemasonry: Idolatry or Encourager of Idolatry?

“From this day forth I am going to be a man of God; if that splits the church, then so be it. If the church wants to vote me out, then so be it. When I was 17, I prayed that God would make me a dangerous man for Jesus. I am publicly renewing that prayer today. Pastor, you and I know that one of the things blocking revival in this church . . . is Freemasonry.” James Holly, to the congregation of Calvary Baptist Church.

In the early 1990s, a Texas layman and medical doctor named James L. Holly brought the practice of Freemasonry to forefront of Southern Baptist discourse. For months, Holly had been preparing and disseminating anti-Masonic tracts to Southern Baptist churches across the country. Being firmly convinced that the principles and rituals of Freemasonry made the Craft incompatible with the Christian faith, Holly proposed a resolution recommending a study of Freemasonry at the 1992 Southern Baptist Convention. Much controversy ensued. This was no surprise to Holly, who estimated that the Masonic membership of the Southern Baptist Convention 500,000 and 1,300,000. Southern Baptist polling indicated that 14 percent of pastors and 18 percent of church deacon chairmen interviewed were or had been Masonic lodge members. Over and against the proclamations of Holly, Masons sought to prove that the practice of Freemasonry was not incompatible with a Christian life. In response to the Southern Baptist investigation, Freemasons sought to provide apologetics for their activities. A number of such apologetics were printed in the February 1993 edition of The Northern Light, which heralds itself as “the premier magazine of Scottish Rite Masonry in America. This particular edition of The Northern Light is almost entirely dedicated to refuting the claims of Dr. Holly. Ironically, a Q&A article from this edition entitled “The Conscience and the Craft: Questions on religion and Freemasonry” provides discerning Christians with further evidence that the Masonic and Christian worldviews are incompatible.

Many critics of Freemasonry, such as Holly, contend that Freemasonry is a religion in and of itself and therefore is incompatible with Christianity. By definition, practicing a religion other than Christianity is idolatry and practicing Christianity in conjunction with an additional religion is syncretism. Given that Freemasons build “temples”, pray in their lodges to “The Grand Architect of the Universe”, and engage in spiritual ceremonies such as funeral rites, there is a strong argument for concluding that Freemasonry is a religion. If Freemasonry is a religion, then participation in it is inherently sinful and Christians must not practice it. If Freemasonry is a religion, then it’s just plain idolatry.

But is Freemasonry truly a religion?

Some Freemasons have reached such the conclusion that is is. However, the majority of Masons deny that Freemasonry is a religion. Which Masons have the correct answer to this crucial question? The previously referenced article from The Northern Light provides a simple answer – “It doesn’t matter”. Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity either way. Either Freemasonry is idolatry or it encourages idolatry. Either way, it’s sinful. Consider these words from the article:

“Masons encourage their members to worship in their individual faiths, we most certainly do not oppose any faith.”

A member of any religion may apply for membership in the Masonic lodge. Thus worldwide Masonic membership can include men of Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon, and Deist faith. Masonry, therefore, not only “encourages” the worship of Christ but false gods such as Allah. All worship that is not Christian worship is counterfeit worship. Freemasonry encourages and does not oppose such worship. Jesus Christ said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” A Christian can never countenance or encourage false worship. For American Christians, it is one thing to respect the constitutional right of Americans to religious liberty but quite another to encourage a non-Christian to engage in religious activity that is offensive to God. Christians are commissioned to call all men to repent of their sin and submit to the Lordship of Christ. The Christian posture is one opposed to all religions except that of Christ. This is not the posture of the Masonic lodge, which not only peacefully tolerates false religion but encourages its practice.  Christian Freemasons, rather than merely passively supporting religious liberty, actively seek membership in an organization that encourages any form of monotheistic religious expression.

The Apostle Paul condemned idolatry in his epistle to the Romans. Paul not only condemned idolaters but those who gave approval to idolatry.

“And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

Freemasonry is either a religion and is therefore idolatrous, or it is not a religion but encourages the practice of false religions and the worship of false gods. Neither option is acceptable before the true and living God. Christians should, like James Holly, endeavor to purge their churches and denominations of Freemasons. Christian Freemasons should repent of their participation in Freemasonry and remove themselves from the Lodge.  James Holly was voted out of his own local church for his biblical stand. Like Holly, Christians who follow his example may be voted out of their own churches for calling Masons to repent.  Many Freemasons are respected members of Southern Baptist Churches, even Deacons. Bringing up the Masonic issue may cause division or even a church split.  So be it.

Such may be the cost of revival.

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” 1 Corinthians 11:18-19

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Freemasonry and the Christian Conscience

On what day of the week to hold church services, going to see rated R-movies, eating or abstaining from pork and shellfish, drinking alcoholic beverages, shopping at Target, getting circumcised, boycotting Disney, dressing casually at church…these are matters of Christian liberty…these are matters of Christian conscience. What about membership and participation in the Masonic Lodge, though?  Is Freemasonry a matter of Christian liberty?  No; not at all.  Calling it a matter of Christian conscience is error.  It should be called what it really is: sin.

The seminal biblical example of Christian liberty is found in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians.  This epistle was written during a time when pagan temple worship was a very visible and common way of life.  Judeo-Christian values were obscure and certainly did not influence the prevailing culture and governance of the Roman Empire.  Pagan mythologies explained how the world worked and ordered religious exercise.  Sacrifices to the gods were a part of everyday life.  Out of this darkness, the Lord began drawing people to Himself in the city of Corinth.  These early Christians were being drawn from paganism to Christianity.  They were being drawn from the pagan temple to the Christian Church.

“Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.  Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-8

Today’s Christians, especially in the Bible belt, are often drawn to the Lord from one part of the church building to another.  Kids who have grown up in Sunday School and been taught the Bible from birth come of age in Christian environments and make professions of faith.  Nothing about their religious environment changes.  They repent of their sins on one Sunday and return to the same place of worship that they were raised in on the next.  Since ~54 AD, When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, Christendom has greatly expanded.  The Judeo-Christian worldview is no longer obscure and has exerted great influence over the governments of Western society.  Science explains how the world works; pagan mythologies have been relegated to the translations exercises of 10th grade Latin classes.  Sacrificing animals for religious purposes is completely foreign to today’s Western Christians.  They have never seen such practices.

But they have seen a meat market.  Every week, Western Christians peruse fresh, USDA-certified beef in their local supermarkets.  Friendly butchers provide eye-pleasing, safe, and affordable cuts of meat as often as their customers desire it and in whatever amounts are demanded.  Customers know exactly where the meat comes from: farms.  Modern industrial farming has made protein-rich meat more affordable than it has ever been.  For today’s Western Christians, eating meat is a daily expectation.  In the Bible-belt, meat with three vegetables and a cup of sweet tea is a lunchtime staple.  It’s such a popular meal that an entire category of eateries known as “meat and three restaurants” has sprung up. Meat is relatively cheap (and vegetables are even easier to come by).  Even if today’s society was permeated with pagan practice, few people would sacrifice beef.  It’s not costly enough.  Sacrifices are supposed to be costly.  Meat has become a very affordable commodity.

Meat and three was unheard of in ancient Corinth.  The ancients were lucky to have clean water, sweetened drinks were a luxury.  So, too, was meat.  That’s why animals were a source of sacrifice.  The gods were to be provided with something of great value.  Once an animal’s blood was spilled and the gods were satiated, there was a valuable by-product of the religious enterprise: meat.  Ancients were just an enterprising as moderns are; they weren’t going to let this item of value go to waste.  So, the meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols was placed for sale in the meat market.  From there, consumers would buy it. Today, Ingles, Kroger, and Publix sell meat from big corporate farms. The ancient Corinthian meat market sold meat from both farms and pagan temples.  Pagan temples, unlike farms, are inherently sinful.

Certain gentile Christians, who came from pagan backgrounds, were aghast that their fellow Christians would purchase or consume meat that had been used as an essential component of a pagan religious ceremony.  The meat had been sacrificed to false gods.  In their minds, it was tainted by pagan worship.  Having come out of pagan idolatry, this meat reminded them of their old selves.  As new creatures in Christ, they wanted nothing to do with anything remotely connected to paganism.  Other Christians, especially those of Jewish background, were not as a concerned.  They understood that these pagan idols weren’t real gods.  To them, buying or being served meat that could have been used in a pagan ceremony wasn’t an issue.  They understood that earth and everything in it belonged to the Lord.  They harbored no painful memories of being involved in pagan worship.  It was nearly as foreign to them as it is for a modern young boy raised in a Southern Baptist Sunday School program.  They knew who God was and they knew who God wasn’t.  Meat sacrificed to idols became a source of controversy in an already contentious Corinthian church.  The Apostle Paul had to address it.  He determined that it was a matter of Christian liberty, but not one to be enjoyed at the expense of the conscience of wounding the conscience of those brothers who were abhorred by it.

“But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” 1 Corinthians 9:-13

Eating meat sacrificed to idols was not equivalent to pagan worship and eating it was okay as long as it didn’t offend other Christians.  Going further, Paul was clear that no one was under obligation for making sure that the meat he obtained did not come from a pagan temple.

“Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:25-32

Looking at Paul’s example, some Christians have determined that membership in the Lodge is an equivalent issue of Christian liberty.  It may sear the conscience of some Christians to go the Masonic Lodge, swear secret blood oaths, and pray to “The Grand Architect of the Universe”.  So, they could never bring themselves to be a Mason.  Yes the Masonic lodge is a temple, with a Chaplain, Deacons, and a Worshipful Master.  Yes, some people at the Lodge may treat it as their religion.  Yes, Freemasonry teaches a works-based salvation.  But the Christian members of the Lodge understand who God really is.  They don’t really believe the religious tenets of Freemasonry.  They believe salvation comes by the grace of God, not works.  They agree with the Baptist Faith and Message.  So, it’s a matter of Christian Liberty for them to participate in the ceremonies of the Lodge even if their fellow church members couldn’t’ do the same.

Wrong.  Dead Wrong.

Paul never said it was acceptable to participate in a pagan worship service.  Paul said it was okay to accept the by-product of that worship service.   There is a major difference between participating in a pagan ceremony where an animal is sacrificed to a false god and eating meat that went from the pagan temple to the meat market to the dinner table.  A modern is example is helpful for understanding this difference.

Imagine a soup kitchen that serves hot meals to the local homeless population.  It receives food donations from local churches, local businesses, and the local Masonic lodge.  Is a Christian who eats at the soup kitchen obligated to ask if his particular bowl of soup was provided by the Lodge before he eats it?  No.  Furthermore, a fellow church member who chastises the poor brother for eating soup that could have come from the lodge legalistically denies the Christian liberty of his brother in Christ.  There may be some homeless Christians, former Masons, who choose to go hungry rather than possibly eat Masonic soup.  That would be a matter of their conscience, just like it would be a matter of liberty for any homeless Christians who choose not to accept meals from the soup kitchen.  Eating the soup is not participating in Masonic practices.

But Christian Liberty stops and the front door of the Masonic Temple.  A Corinthian Christian committed no sin to consume meat that had been sacrificed at a pagan temple.  However, a Corinthian who participated in the ceremony that slaughtered the animal committed idolatry.  When a pagan Corinthian became a Christian, his days a practicing religion at the pagan temple had to end.  About this Paul was exceedingly clear.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

To draw a parallel from ancient Corinth to modern times, Freemasons aren’t eating meat which was sacrificed to idols; they are sacrificing the bull to the false god.[1]  Christians who participate in Masonic religious ceremonies commit sin.  Numerous examples could be provided to demonstrate this but only one is required.  Consider the practice of Masonic funeral rites.

All Master Masons are entitled to a Masonic funeral.  Anyone who believes in a Supreme Being is eligible to become a Master Mason.  There is no requirement to profess salvation in Christ by grace alone through faith alone.  There is no requirement to be a church member.  It is a historically and biblically demonstrable fact that there are Master Masons who die and spend an eternity in Hell because they have not received Christ.  Despite this, they receive Masonic Funeral rites which proclaim that the reward of their virtuous living is spending an eternity with The Grand Architect of the Universe (God) in the Celestial Lodge (Heaven).  The following is the funerary language from Akin’s Lodge Manual with the Georgia Masonic Lodge:

“Most Glorious God, Author of all good and Giver of all mercy, pour down  thy blessings upon us and strengthen our solemn engagements with the ties of sincere affection. May the present instance of mortality remind us of our approaching fate; and by drawing our attention towards Thee, the only refuge in time of need, may we be induced so to regulate our conduct here that when the awful moment shall arrive that we are about to quit this transitory scene, the enlivening prospect of thy mercy may dispel the gloom of death; and after our departure hence in peace and in thy favor, may we be received into thine everlasting kingdom, and there enjoy, in union with the souls of our departed friends, the just rewards of a pious and virtuous life. Amen!”[2]

pious and virtuous life

This language is to be read by the Worshipful Master of the Lodge.  (Sadly, it is not uncommon to come across Worshipful Masters who are progressing Christians.)  According to this funeral language, which is proclaimed in front of the deceased grieving friends and family members, entering into Heaven is the “just rewards of a pious and virtuous life.”  This contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-1

“For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:16

Furthermore, it gives false hope to non-Christians (and their grieving loved ones); non-Christians die without hope of ever seeing Heaven or being reconciled with God. Freemasonry teaches a works based gospel.  If a Christian Freemason recites the Masonic funerary language, he proclaims a false gospel.  If he doesn’t truly believe it, he sins further by telling a lie.  If he does truly believe it, he denies the very words of Christ.  How can his fellow church members countenance that?

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Galatians 1:8

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are His delight” Proverbs 12:22

Is the gospel a matter of Christian liberty? We can look to Paul’s words to the Romans for the answer:

“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  For it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall give praise to God.’

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” Romans 14

Paul is clearly talking about Christian liberty in this verse, but as in the case of 1 Corinthians 6, he is talking about matters of everyday living (what to eat, what to drink, etc…).  Essentially, Paul is addressing the difference between living under grace and living under law.  Forcing Christian brothers to adhere to Jewish ceremonial regulations keeps them under law.  Under the grace of Christ, they have liberty.  There is absolutely no permission in the passage of scripture above for the Christian to participate in Freemasonry.  That is what makes defenses of Freemasonry as a matter of Christian using Romans Chapter 14 so insidious.  Freemasonry proclaims a works-based gospel, essentially putting adherents under law.  This is antithetical to Christianity which proclaims a grace based gospel.  So, the question is answered.  Participation in Freemasonry is not a matter of Christian liberty.

Is bearing false witness a matter of Christian liberty?  No

Is denying the claims of Christ a matter of Christian liberty? No.

Freemasonry does both.

Whether or not the Christian Mason truly believes the dogma of Freemasonry is immaterial.  There is absolutely no room for Christian Liberty where Masonry is concerned.  Do the same Masons who go to church and tell their pastors that they don’t really believe in the religious claims of Masonry but just go as a social club go to the Lodge and tell their Masonic brothers that they don’t really believe the religious claims of Christianity but just go as a social club?  Maybe.  But what’s it really matter?

This case has been made.  Christian masons participate in idolatry, lying, proclaiming a false gospel, and denying the words of Christ.  The Bible demands that their fellow church members hold them accountable.

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves”. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17

“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” Ephesians 5:11-12

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2

Will you stand for the Holiness of your church and the love of your brothers no matter what the cost?  Wake up, O’ Sleeper.  Freemasonry in your local church must be addressed and excised.  It may be a tough battle, perhaps even fraught with spiritual resistance from the demonic realm.  It may cost you something to challenge Masonry and stand for the holiness of your church, but, remember, sacrifices are supposed to be costly.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-13

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] I am speaking metaphorically here.  I am not saying Freemasons sacrifice live animals at their temple.

[2] Akin, J. W. (1911). Akin’s Lodge Manual With the Georgia Masonic Code. Mrs. John Akin. (p. 137-138)

The Myth of the Good Freemason

“…many tenets and teachings of Freemasonry are not compatible with Christianity or Southern Baptist doctrine.” NAMB

By what standard do you call a man “good”?  Think about the answer to that question before you continue reading.

Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity.  Pastors who are familiar with the Craft are well aware of this.  For this reason, a great many pastors avoid membership in the Lodge.  They know what it is and they want no part of disqualifying themselves from their offices by besmirching their reputations by being associated with Freemasonry.  But what about the Freemasons in their congregations?  Should they be compelled to renounce Freemasonry or face church discipline?  Some pastors say, “No.”  One of the common defenses that I’ve heard from the pastors of Christian Freemasons is that the Freemasons in their particular congregations are “good” men who do a lot of “good” things.   In a peculiar demonstration of cognitive dissonance, pastors take the position that it is okay for the Freemasons in their own congregations to participate in the Masonic Craft while simultaneously admitting that the Masonic Craft is incompatible with Christian faith and practice.

By what standard are these judgements about Masonry and Masons made?

Let’s start with thinking about of what makes something good from a moral standpoint.  Ultimately, morality is either subjective of objective.  Subjective morality can be determined by organizations, societies, or perceived utility.  This type of morality is relative.  It is different from one man to the next.  Objective morality is not. Objective morality is and can only be grounded in the nature of God.  God’s nature is revealed in His word, the Holy Bible.  So, only by a Biblical standard can we call something objectively morally good.  It is by a Biblical standard that Pastors determine that Freemasonry is objectively immoral.  Is this the same standard Pastors use to determine that their Masonic church members are good?

It’s impossible to deny that Freemasons engage in service and good works.  As a brotherhood, Masonic Lodges fund orphanages, raise money for charity, support children’s hospitals, and engage in community service.  As individuals, Freemasons are often visible participants in church service.  Freemasons often serve in their churches as ushers, event security, Sunday School teachers, and even Deacons.  Freemasons do a lot of good things.  But are they good men?

The Lodge says that they are.  According to the tenets of Freemasonry, the craft takes good men and makes them better.  Whether someone is a Christian or not, Masonic philosophy teaches that the Craft can take him from good to better.  The assumption of Masonic Philosophy is that only good men are accepted into the Craft.  The assumption is that they can be made better, outside of Christian fellowship and salvation in Jesus Christ.   Akin’s Masonic manual states the following:

“No institution was ever raised on a better principle, or more solid foundation. Nor were ever more excellent rules and useful maxims laid down that are inculcated in the several Masonic lectures. The greatest and best of men, in all ages, have been encouragers and promoters of the art, and have never deemed it derogatory to their dignity to level themselves with the fraternity, extend their privileges, and patronize their assemblies.”[1]

Can pastors agree with the lodge?  Biblically, they cannot.  The Bible teaches that there are no good men.  (It also teaches that the Church is Christ’s organization; surely the Lodge does not equal or surpass it!)

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.’” Mark 10:18

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;” Romans 3:9-10

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

It is here that pastors who enable Freemasonry must equivocate on the meaning of “good”.  It’s not that their Masonic church members are good (after all, none of us are), it’s that their church members are relatively good church members.  Their Masonic members serve visibly in the church and in the community.  They attend and give consistently.  They are respected men.  And, after all, they don’t really believe in the religious claims of Freemasonry.  But do these same men demonstrate in faith and deed that they really believe in the religious claims Christianity?  The answer is, “no.”

The very commissions and oaths required to enter Freemasonry demonstrate that to be a Mason one must engage in sin and facilitate others to do the same.  Thus, Freemasonry is inherently sinful.[2]  These are the words spoken by the Senior Deacon of a Lodge to an initiate to Freemasonry:

“Mr. (name inserted) you are received into Masonry upon the point of a sharp instrument, piercing your naked (left) breast which is to teach you that this is an instrument of torture to your flesh, so should the recollection thereof be to your conscience should you ever reveal any of the secrets of Freemasonry unlawfully.”[3]

Aside from the violent nature of this charge, it defies a Christian understanding of the good.  If Masonry can make good men better then why wouldn’t Masons share their good philosphy with all who are willing to hear?  To share good news is the commission given every Sunday at the end of church services.  Church members are exhorted to go out and proclaim the good news to whosever will receive it.  Yet Masonry shrouds its philosophy from women, slaves, and those men who are unwilling to take its oaths.

“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’  But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” Matthew 5:33-37

This is the oath the Entered Apprentice to Masonry must take:

“I, ________, of my own free will and accord in presence of Almighty God and this right worshipful Lodge erected to Him and dedicated to the Holy Saints John, do hereby and hereon, do solemnly sincerely promise and swear I will always hail, forever conceal and never reveal any of the secret arts, parts or points of the mysteries of Freemasonry which have been, may now or shall hereafter be communicated to me in Charge as such, to any person in the world, except it be to a true and lawful brother free Mason, or in a legally constituted lodge of ancient free and accepted Masons, and not unto him nor them therein until after due, trial, strict examination or lawful information, I shall have found them legally entitled to receive the same.  I, furthermore, promise to swear that I will not write, indite, print, paint, stamp, stain, cut, carve, mark, or engrave the same upon anything moveable or immoveable under the canopy of heaven, whereby the least word, syllable, letter of character thereof may become legible to myself or intelligible to others, and the secrets of Freemasonry be unlawfully obtained, and that through my unworthiness.  To all of which I solemnly and sincerely promise and swear to keep and perform the same, without any equivocation, mental reservation or secret evasion of mind in me whatever, binding myself under no less a penalty than having my throat cut ear to ear, my tongue torn out by its roots, and with my body buried in the rough sands of the sea, a cable’s length from shore, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in the twenty-four hours, should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this, my most solemn obligation as an entered apprentice, so help me God and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same.”[4]

Masonic apologists, in defense of their various secret oaths, attempt a deceptive defense.  “What about military oaths or oaths taken to tell the truth at court in a court of they ask?”   The strategy here is apparent.  Soldiers are among the most respected members of society and fair courts are essential for ordered society.  However, this defense fails upon close examination because it is ultimately an apples to oranges comparison.  For example, Military oaths are publicly taken and intended for the public defense of society.  They are done in the open.  So are oaths taken on the witness stand.  Oaths taken in a court of law are taken as promises to reveal, not conceal, the truth to society.  Furthermore, the Masonic oath is sworn by something.  It is sworn by the body and life of the Mason.  His breaking of the oath implies that someone should tortuously kill him.  This type of violence (symbolic or not) is sinful and inherently different from the oaths taken by soldiers and public citizens.

“The Westminster Confession of Faith states that “a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken” (XXII, 2)… From the viewpoint of Christian ethics (the Oath for Entered Apprentice to Freemasonry) oath is open to serious criticism on more than one score. The Christian, bound as he is to maintain justice and equity before God and man to the best of his powers, has no right to pledge himself in advance to keep secret something the bearing of which on questions of justice and morals he cannot know. And, aside from the question whether an oath is not too solemn a transaction for a ceremony of such doubtful importance as reception into a mere human organization, it must be said without hesitation that the violence of this oath is plainly contrary to our Lord’s principles of speech as set forth in Matthew 5:34-37.[5]

Masonic Christians not only take these oaths but entice others (even other Christians) to do the same.  Another disturbing tenet of this oath is that it claims that the Masonic lodge is “erected” to God, dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, and that its blood oaths are taken in His presence.  The swearing in ceremony of the Masonic initiate has all the markings of a religious ceremony.  Thus, it’s no surprise that Akin’s lodge manual clearly states that Freemasonry is a religious:

“In changing from one degree to another, many Lodges omit too much.  The old story is ever new; and the secrecy, beauty, and religion of Freemasonry are impressively suggested by these ceremonies which should not be unnecessarily curtailed.”[6][7]

Simply put, one’s religion must be Christianity or something else.[8]  When a Christian is asked, “Which of these two is your religion?” his answer can never be “both”.  That is syncretism.  The Biblical record is clear.  A jealous and Holy God does not stand for syncretism among His holy people.  So why do Pastors allow for Masons to remain in their congregations?  A man must sin in order to enter Freemasonry.  He must, especially if he is an officer of the Lodge, continually commit sin to grow the lodge by administering sinful blood oaths and presiding over other religious ceremonies.

“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Exodus 20:5-6

The truth is, there is no such thing as a good Christian man who is a continual participant in Masonry.  The good Christian mason is the fiction in the mind of a compromised pastor.  What is the cause for this compromise?

It could truly be genuine ignorance, honest theological ineptitude, or cognitive dissonance.  It could also be another: Economics.

No one knows the ins and outs of a congregation better than its pastor.  He knows whom he can challenge and whom he cannot with being fired.  The simple fact of the matter is that challenging Freemasonry will be the end of their paid employment at their churches.  The more Freemasons the pastor has in his congregation, the greater threat he faces from them.   Freemasons are sworn to come to the aid of another Mason in distress except in cases of murder or adultery.   The brothers of the Lodge can be a powerful subgroup among the brothers and sisters of Christ.  Can a pastor go up against masonic ushers and deacons and expect to keep his job?  Can a pastor go against a grandfatherly worshipful master or Lodge Chaplain and expect no pushback from the congregation?  Complicating the matter is that, due to the secrecy of Freemasonry, many church members are unaware of the unbiblical nature of Freemasonry.  Church members do not know about the darkness of freemasonry but they do know about the goodness of a trusted usher or deacon.

Church members should ask themselves how well they really know the Freemasons in their churches.  Freemasons take progressively violent blood oaths to enter the higher and more secretive orders of Freemasonry.  If a pastor overcomes the fear of man and puts his livelihood on the line to challenge Freemasonry, should church members not at least try to give him the benefit of the doubt?  If the pastor is open with biblical teaching and the mason is secretive and withholds details about the Lodge, the party that should be trusted and supported is clear.

Many pastors are under immense revenue-related pressure.  The youngest generation is not as church-going as the oldest.  As church members die (and cease tithing) churches struggle to fill the vacant pew with new, younger church members.  Baptism numbers are down across the board and church leaders are left wondering of their churches will survive.  Pastors are often expected to grow the church, but challenging Masonry could shrink already anemic attendance rolls.

The pastor is morally obligated to trust God enough to follow the biblical prescriptions for addressing sin in the body.  This may cause division.  This may cause a church split.  This may cause the exit of lucrative donors from the church (pastors are in the unenviable position of having their salaries funded by the very persons they must sometimes rebuke).  This may cause church members to have to take an uncomfortable stand for Christ and against the sin of their close friends.  This may cause the pastor to lose his job.  Like the rest of the world’s men, pastors have wives and children to support.  What is a pastor to do?

Trust God no matter what…no matter what.  Obey his word and leave the rest up to Him.

“Faith is not popular in a sinful society…because…faith sees sin as its greatest enemy and that alone takes on the mores of society…it often takes more courage to stand up against our friends…it takes a lot more courage to preach against the sins of those that we all have to deal with…social pressure can be more frightening that military power…Why is it people even think the leadership is going to be perfect…it’s not gonna be…We’re imperfect people…We trust God and his word and we stand on it and when we do that we live in the victory God says it ours.” Pastor Wayne Barber

God’s word makes it clear that Freemasonry is a wicked institution.  Are the men who perpetuate it, Christian or not, any less wicked?  The answer is no.  Freemasonry must be excised from the body of Christ.  Either Masons must renounce and repent of the craft or churches must renounce Masonic members.  This is a hard truth to accept for Pastors and church members alike.  Seeing that Freemasonry has not visibly effected Sunday operations, they might wonder, ‘Is this a hill worth dying on?”

“I believe in a hill called mount cavalry.  I believe whatever the cost.”

There was a hill called Calvary.  Upon it, Christ died to atone for the sins of his elect people.  He died for the people the Father had set apart for his own possession.  For Jesus Christ, salvation and holiness were hills worth dying on it.   Christians must die to self, having picked up their own crosses to follow Christ.

Freemasonry in the local church cannot be approached as a matter of pragmatism.  That’s utilitarian ethics.  That’s relativism.   That’s moral relativism.  Objective goodness is grounded in God.

God demands better.  He has provided the Holy Spirit for strength.  A stand against Freemasonry is not a stand against Freemasonry but a stand against sin and a stand for holiness.  It is a demonstration of faith.  Church members are often beleaguered by the state of the world.  In the United States, we watch abortion, homosexual offenses, and hatred of Christianity become more and more socially acceptable.  We long for revival.  We pray for revival.  But we tend to see the problem outside of the church.  What if it is on the inside?  In the Bible, Israel experienced revival when King Josiah led God’s people in mournful repentance.  Just maybe God will spark a revival in the church that faithfully repents and seeks God’s face and forgiveness.

By what standard do you call a man “good”?

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Works Cited

Akin, J. W. (1911). Akin’s Lodge Manual With the Georgia Masonic Code. Mrs. John Akin.

Harris, J. (1983). Freemasonry: The Invisible Cult in Our Midset. Towson, Maryland: Jack Harris.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. (1942). Report of the Committee on Secret Societies. Retrieved from The Orthodox Presbyterian Church: https://opc.org/GA/masonry.html

[1] (Akin, 1911) p. 30

[2] Secret blood oaths are not the only part of Freemasonry that are incompatible with Christianity only the first.

[3] (Harris, 1983) p. 33

[4]  (Harris, 1983) p. 35-36

[5] (The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1942)

[6] (Akin, 1911) p. 1

[7] Strangely enough, Akin writes on page 125 of his manual that “Though Masonry be not religion, it is emphatically religion’s handmaid…”  This statement contradicts other indications in the manual which state that Masonry is a religion.

[8] Notwithstanding having no religion at all