Author Archives: sethdunn88

About sethdunn88

Christian, Husband, Father, Alabama Fan, Accountant (in that order). I am currently studying to complete a MDiv in Apologetics at the New Orleans Theological Seminary.

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

JESUS THE LEGEND

A Dilemma with the Trilemma

Jesus of Nazareth has always been a figure of controversy.  For over two thousand years people have argued about what he did and who he was.  The contentious activity surrounding his origin, activities, and identity grew after he suffered death by crucifixion under the rule of Pontius Pilate[1] but this activity was by no means caused or immediately preceded by that event.  Controversy surrounded Jesus from the very time of his conception.[2]  Of this controversy he was well aware.  While Jesus still walked the Earth, he famously asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”[3]  The responses they provided to that question ran the gamut.  Some people thought he was a good teacher, while others thought he led people astray.[4]  Some thought him insane or demon-possessed.[5]  Others considered him to be a prophet.[6]  Yet, his Apostle, Peter, knew that he was much more than a prophet and so much more than the son of carpenter.  When Jesus continued his line of questioning with his disciples by asking, “But who do you say that I am?” [7] Peter answered with a truth revealed from Heaven: “You are the Christ.”[8]

Even the wording of Jesus’ famous question is a source of controversy.  Did Jesus ask of himself, as the gospel of Mark reports, “Who do people say that I am?” or did Jesus ask, as is reported in the gospel of Matthew, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?[9]  If Jesus is the Christ, is such a discrepancy in phraseology even relevant?   “Son of Man” is a messianic title.[10]  Mark and Matthew both make the matter abundantly clear: Jesus is Israel’s Messiah.[11]  Equally apparent in their enduring writings is that Jesus is a great moral teacher.  That point is easy to accept for a great many people.  The assertion that he is the Messiah is a tougher pill for some to swallow.  The even greater assertion, which the gospel writers as a whole communicate, is that Jesus was God incarnate.  That Jesus was, is, and will forever be the Lord of the Universe[12], is perhaps the toughest pill of all to swallow.  Yet, this is exactly what the authors of the Biblical texts wrote.  The affirmation of Jesus by many as a great moral teacher in conjunction with the corresponding insistence by the same that he was simply a man has served as source of consternation for Christian thinkers.  Apologist C.S. Lewis mostly famously stated the folly of this line of thinking in his book Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . . . Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”[13]

For years this argument has been a favorite of pastors and Christian apologists.  It’s short, simple, and logically unassailable.

Lewis’ argument takes the form of a hypothetical syllogism.  Either Jesus is a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.  The Biblical witness makes it clear that he claims to be the Lord.  If he’s not a liar and he’s not a lunatic, then Jesus must, therefore, be the Lord as he claims.  No one, then, can accept that he is a great moral teacher without accepting him as Lord.  Lewis’ argument puts people at a decision point: deny the plainly obvious (that Jesus was a great moral teacher) or accept that Jesus is Lord.  Unfortunately, for the proponents of this argument, there is a dilemma with the trilemma.  Skeptics and biblical critics have created an additional option to add to Lewis’ hypothetical syllogism, that Jesus was a legend.   The trilemma has become a quadrillema:  Jesus is a liar, a lunatic, the Lord, or a legend.  Further complicating the matter is that the “legend” option covers several disparate theories.

One theory is that Jesus of Nazareth was mythical – he did not truly exist as historical person.  Another theory is that the biblical text does not actually communicate that Jesus is God – the text has been misinterpreted over time in a way that has corrupted the true message of Christianity and distorted the true identify of Jesus.  Yet another legend-oriented theory is that the extant biblical text is simply unreliable – while it’s true that the text presents Jesus as Lord, it simply isn’t true that he is.  Ultimately, all of these theories are untenable. By examining each one, the legend option can be shown as faulty and not deserving of its place at the table in Lewis’ trilemma.

 Jesus the Myth

The notion that Jesus never really existed is the least defensible of all the legend theories.  Yet, it has become one of the most popular views among critics of the Christian faith…just not serious critics of the Christian faith.  Certainly, any criticism of the Christian faith is “serious” in and of itself.  Every critic who rejects Jesus as Lord suffers the same fate, whether he concluded that Jesus didn’t exist after watching a few homemade YouTube videos from ignorant internet infidels or he concluded that Jesus wasn’t God after careful and lengthy (i.e. “serious”) academic study.  Those who engage in serious critical study may indeed reject Jesus’ divinity but they almost never reject his historicity.  Yet the popular notion that Jesus never existed prevails.  “Online skeptic sites and atheists’ popular writings continue to repeat the charge.”[14]  They have repeated this charge so much that the belief that Jesus never existed has received its own name: “Mythicism.” Mythicism can be defined as “the claim that Jesus never lived or that the story of Jesus as told by Christians is an amalgamation of various ancient mystery religions.”[15]  Mythicism, though utterly ridiculous in the minds of even the most amateur Christian apologists, has recently required substantial response from defenders of the Christian faith.

Whether a Mythicist claims that Jesus of Nazareth never existed or that the myth surrounding his divinity is actually derivative of that of pagan gods such as “Horus (or Osiris), Attis, Dionysus, Mithra, or Krishna of India,”[16] a response to his Mythicism doesn’t require a deeply researched answer or a detailed refutation.   An efficient, almost dismissive, response is in order.  Christian apologist William Lane Craig demonstrated the efficacy of such a response during three 2013 dialogues with scientist Lawrence Krauss on the subject of whether or not it is reasonable to believe in God.  Krauss is an eminent theoretical physicist who holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He is the direct of the Origins Project at Arizona State University and the author of the best-selling book A Universe from Nothing.[17]  He is also a vociferous atheist.  During the course of his dialogues with Craig, Krauss stated:

“…the other thing that is important…is that there is nothing special about Jesus that’s any different than the other gods or any other fictional heroes for that matter. First of all, there’s no empirical evidence that he was divine—none, not one iota. In that sense he shares it with every other god that’s ever been proposed…Virgin birth: nothing special about Jesus. Look at all of these; they are all supposed to have been born of virgins…take Dionysus, the Greek god of wine versus Jesus, it is exactly the same. They were both born of the virgin mother, they’re fathered by the king of heaven, they returned from the dead, they transformed water into wine. In fact, you know, they talked about eating and drinking the flesh and blood of the creator…they were taken as liberator of mankind. That story has been told over and over again and this is just one of the most recent renderings; nothing special. And the resurrection is nothing special. The myth of resurrection’s been around since Osiris. You know, Osiris was one of the major Egyptian gods and used to be just the kings in Egypt would be resurrected when Osiris was resurrected but eventually in the new kingdom anyone can be resurrected with…Osiris (I was going to say with Jesus, but it doesn’t matter) if they followed the correct religious rituals; the same, the same nonsense.[18]

Craig’s response to Krauss was one of simple incredulity.

“Well, what I wanted to say, Lawrence, is that your comparisons of Jesus of Nazareth with Dionysus and Osiris is based upon scholarship that is more than one hundred years out of date…I think you’ve been fed a lot of misinformation by skeptics and Internet infidel types that are really misleading you on…where historical Jesus scholarship is today. Let me explain two things about this, why this view is…Scholars in comparative religion and in the history of religions during the late 19th century ransacked the literature of ancient mythology looking for these kind of parallels to Jesus, and some tried to explain the origins of Christianity from these. That movement soon collapsed, however, primarily for two reasons.  First of all, the parallels turned out to be spurious. When you look at these supposed parallels, between Dionysus and Jesus, or Osiris and Jesus, they just don’t hold up. Dionysus was not raised from the dead. Osiris, in the myths, lives on in the underworld. The, the pieces of his body were scattered and reassembled by his wife; he doesn’t rise from the dead. So, in fact, there is nothing in the ancient world comparable to belief in the resurrection of Jesus in these myths…. the second thing to be said about this, this myth theory is that there is no causal connection between these myths and these earliest disciples. These kinds of cults of dying and rising gods weren’t even present in first century Palestine. And it would be unthinkable that these original disciples of Jesus would have come to believe he was risen from the dead because somebody had said something about Osiris.[19]

Krauss’ mouth was shut on the myth matter.  Krauss presents himself, as do many Mythicists and skeptics, as someone who won’t believe claims without verifiable evidence.  He demands proof.  With a simple, short statement, Craig made Krauss (and by extension all Mythicists) look foolish for ignoring evidence which has been widely available for hundreds of years.

Despite his great learning, albeit in subjects unrelated to Comparative Religion, Krauss was repeating the hokum history that is Mythicism.  The overwhelming majority of historical scholars put almost no stock into pagan god parallels nor are they remotely open to the idea that Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t a historical figure.  “The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the `Christ-myth’ theories”[20]  Robert Price, author of The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems is the only legitimate New Testament scholar known to hold to the position that Jesus never lived.[21]  New Testament Historian Bart Ehrman, who is himself a proponent of the legend option of the quadrillema,[22] has given perhaps the bluntest and most straightforward refutation of Mythicism:  “The view that Jesus existed is held by virtually every expert on the planet.”[23]  Affirming Mythicism more or less puts one off of the planet where scholarship, liberal or conservative, is concerned.  Mythicism essentially falls into the “tin foil hat” category of historical thought.  So why has it enjoyed a resurgence in contemporary discourse?  Ehrrman’s literary pursuits provide some hint as to the answer to this question.  He has dryly quipped, “In my writing I try to alternate between trade books for general audiences, textbooks for college students, and serious scholarship for the six people in the world who care.”[24]  The tragic reality is that a great many skeptics are wholly uninterested in a responsible pursuit of historical truth where Jesus of Nazareth is concerned.  It is for this reason that a dismissive, even satirical, response to Mythicism is in order.

Satirizing Mythicism is the route that has been taken by Pastor Hans Fiene, the founder of Lutheran Satire[25].  In his popular “Horus Ruins Christmas” YouTube, Fiene has provided what is perhaps the most poignant explanation for the recent popularity of Mythicism:

“…I suppose it is strange that people who insist that they won’t believe anything without verifiable evidence are more than willing to believe anything without verifiable evidence as long as that thing can be used to mock the gospel.  But we shouldn’t be surprised when people reject proof of Christ’s resurrection in favor of demonstrable lies that let them remain in unbelief. After all, Jesus did say, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”[26]

When attempting to refute Mythicism, learned Christian apologists may be hesitant to rely on satirical YouTube videos and dismissive responses.  However, fighting fire with fire seems to be in order.  It’s folly to refute to Tweet with a Facebook post and a Facebook post with a dissertation.  Mythicism provides “140-character” support to the legend option.  A “140-character” response to Mythicism takes the legs out from under that support.

Jesus the False God

Millions of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Scientists would ardently deny that Jesus of Nazareth was a liar or a lunatic.  They would also comfortably refer to him as “Lord”.  Yet, when they refer to him as such, they engage in equivocation.  When these Arian sects speak of Jesus as “Lord”, they do not mean to affirm that he is God incarnate.  Instead, they believe that Jesus is a lesser divine being.  To them, the “Lord” Jesus of biblical, historical, orthodox Christianity is a legend, a false god, a perversion of an apostate church (a church which they purport to have restored).  These sects do not deny that the Bible provides an accurate account of the life and times of Jesus; rather, they deny that the biblical text teaches that Jesus of Nazareth is the incarnation of the second person of the triune God.  The adherents of these sects uniquely interpret scripture through the eyes of their founders or through those currently tasked with governing the affairs of their religious bodies.  Addressing the legend claims of these sects involves both communicating a biblically faithful Christology and understanding the history of the Restoration Movement which spawned them (for there is little contention to be had with them where the historicity of the Bible is concerned).

The Restoration Movement grew out of the Second Great Awakening of the nineteenth century.  “The movement sought to restore the church and the ‘unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament.’”[27]  Such unification was not achieved; quite the opposite occurred.  Out of the great religious fervor of the Great Awakening, heresy emerged.  “One of the most remarkable phenomena in the religious life of the United States during the nineteenth century was the birth of several movements that so differed from traditional Christianity that they could well be called new religions.  The largest of these were the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Science.”[28]  Members of these Restorationist sects must deny, in order to embrace the tenets of their religions, that the church historic understood the Christ of Christianity for nearly 1700 years.  “Mormonism was founded on the premise that the authority initially given to the apostles by Jesus Christ was lost until Joseph Smith restored true Christianity in 1830.”[29]  Mormons interpret scripture through the eyes of Smith and his successor prophets.  “Christian Scientists accept the Bible only as interpreted by (founder) Mary Baker Eddy in her writings.”[30]  Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret the Bible through the distorted lens of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.[31]  In one way or another, each of these disparate sects claims that the Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus of their movement, a created being. He is enlightened, powerful, and even in some way divine but he is not “true God from true God”[32] as the Nicene Creed states.

The Bible, as interpreted objectively, communicates an altogether different story.  The very term “Lord” as used in the New Testament to refer to Jesus makes it clear that he is by no means a lesser god, an angelic being, or merely an enlightened human being.  The authors of Putting Jesus in His Place state the matter as follows:

“Anyone who has read the New Testament through even once knows that, -although it calls Jesus ‘God’ only occasionally, it frequently calls him ‘Lord’-hundreds of times, in fact. Many readers of the Bible have the mistaken impression, though, that the title Lord as applied to Jesus has a lesser significance than God-as though when the Bible calls Jesus Lord it means something like ‘almost but not quite God.’ Nothing could be farther from the truth.”[33]

In the religious context of first-century Judaism, “Lord” was the highest designation that a Jew could use for deity.  The practice of Jews in the 1st-Century (and during the intertestamental period) was to use the term “Lord” in place of the Old Testament term “Yahweh”.[34]  When the Jewish authors of the New Testament used the Greek word κύριος” (translated “Lord” in English) to describe Jesus, they were ascribing to him equality with Yahweh.  This is demonstrated by numerous allusions to God in the Old Testament which are made in the New Testament and which place Jesus in the place of Yahweh.  It should be clear to objective, informed readers of the biblical text that the New Testament’s ardently monotheistic Jewish authors believed that Jesus was God and were attempting to communicate as much. “Across the New Testament…in the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, we find writers calling Jesus ‘Lord’ in contexts that identify or equate him with the Lord (Yahweh). The basic confession of early Christianity that “Jesus is Lord” (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11) turns out to entail the most astonishing and radical claim that any first-century Jew might have made: that the crucified man, Jesus of Nazareth, was Jehovah.”[35]

It is ironic, then, that a Restorationist sect that claims to be “Jehovah’s Witnesses” (the Watch Tower) has translated the Bible in such a way as to deny that Jesus is the God.  Against the Judgment of every credentialed Bible translation committee on planet earth,[36] the Watchtower’s own anonymous Biblical translation committee has rendered John 1:1, in defiance of the rules of Greek Grammar, as “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”[37]  This mistranslation indicates truthfully that Jesus is a separate person from God the Father but denies his status as God the Son.  In doing so, the Watch Tower frustrates the careful attempt of the author of John to communicate the true nature of Jesus’ divinity.  John used precise word order to stress that Jesus has all the divine attributes that the Father has and yet is not the Father.[38]  This does not compute with Watch Tower dogma.  The Watch Tower’s mistranslation is clearly done out of its own prejudicial presuppositions.  The same goes for the Arian assertions of Mormons and Christian Scientists.  Rather than restoring the true church, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian scientists have created a legendary Jesus of their own, a fictional abomination of nineteenth-century religious controversy.

Jesus the Man (Not the God-Man)

“Dead men don’t rise from the dead”.  Those holding to this presupposition will prima facie deny the veracity of the New Testament given its claims that Jesus rose from the grave.  Thus, their quest for the historical Jesus will never discover a divine Jesus.  This is methodological folly.  “Less cautious historians, forgetting that history is the study, not of repeatable events as in physics and chemistry, but of unrepeatable events like Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, declare that we can indeed go further, and that we can reach a clear negative judgment: we can be quite sure that nothing whatever happened to Jesus’ body at Easter, except that it continued to decompose. Dead people don‘t rise, therefore Jesus didn’t either.”[39]  Both the New Testament gospels and epistles abound with claims of the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus.  The authors of these texts claim not only that Jesus came back to physical life at a point in history but that all people will experience a similar physical, bodily resurrection in the future.[40]  Despite various claims to the contrary (that the resurrection of Christ was meant as spiritual or otherwise symbolic[41]), the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a serious Biblical claim that must be addressed.  Additionally, the Christology of Jesus is a serious Biblical claim that must be addressed.  That Jesus was raised from the dead does not in and of itself, indicate that he is God incarnate.[42]  That Jesus claimed to be God incarnate[43] does. That he rose from the grave solidifies that lofty claim.[44]  Asserting that its supernatural accounts of Jesus’ life of are legend denies the essential claims of the New Testament.  One can make such an assertion while simultaneously holding to the position that Jesus did, in fact, exist.  Such a claimant[45] doesn’t make Jesus out to be a liar or a lunatic, such a claimant makes Jesus’ earlier followers out to be such (especially the writers of the New Testament).  At first blush, it may appear that debating textual criticism is the best way to engage with such a legend critic.  However, it is not.  His theological presuppositions, namely his antisupernaturalism, must first be challenged.

Obviously, the claim that God could do anything (whether it be raising someone from the dead or causing the wind to blow) requires that God exist.  If there is no God, then He can’t be Jesus.  Thus, Jesus can’t be God.  Neither can God have raised Jesus from the dead.  What’s the point, then, if the New Testament authors lied about or were unclear in their reporting of the resurrection and Christological claims of Jesus?  If it’s impossible for such claims to be true, are apparent discrepancies in their accounts really worth exploring? The answer is no.  The question that must first be answered is, “Does God Exist?”  For a Christian apologist[46] to argue with an atheist that the New Testament does not present a legendary Jesus, he must first show that nature does not testify to a legendary God.[47]  To show this, the Christian apologist can turn to cosmological, ontological, teleological, and axiological arguments for the existence of the “god” of classical theism.  Only when the atheistic legend theorist is convinced that such a “god” can exist can he be shown that the god of classical theism is actually revealed in the triune God of the Bible.  That the atheist denies the existence of God indicates that he is stuck in a mire of futile “speculations.”[48] If one is to wrestle with a pig, it is wise to first give him a bath.

An interesting example of this tactic occurred in 2011 at the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpart forum.  Numerous biblical scholars gathered at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to debate the proposition “Can we trust the Bible on the Historical Jesus?”[49]  The headline speaker for the con side of the debate was skeptical New Testament Scholar, Bart Ehrman.  Ehrman, relying on his extensive scholarship and commanding rhetoric, spoke at length in support of the legend theory, proclaiming over and over that the Bible could not be trusted on the historical Jesus.  He was challenged by evangelical scholar Ben Witherington.  Under cross examination from Ehrman, Witherington responded to Ehrman’s rhetoric with an anecdote from the previous day’s lunch. “Didn’t you say to me over lunch yesterday, ‘People Don’t Rise from the Dead.’?”  That told the forum’s audience all it needed to know about the historical starting point of Ehrman, who is an agnostic with atheist leanings.[50]  For Ehrman and those like him, the New Testament story of Jesus is not true because it can’t be.

Yet, it’s not sufficient to only expose the faulty presuppositions of legend theory proponents.  The merits of the arguments against the credibility of the New Testament authors and the rest of Christ’s early followers command a response.  One of the best responses is that these followers seemed to have genuinely believed the message of the text.   “Even skeptical New Testament scholars admit that the earliest disciples at least believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead. In fact, they pinned nearly everything on it.”[51]  Jesus’ earliest followers believed the Christian message, even at the risk of their lives.  This begs the question, for the proponent of the legend option, “Do the extant New Testament texts contain the same Christian message which Jesus’ earliest followers believed?”  In other words, can the textual transmission of the New Testament be trusted?  The evidence indicates that it can.  “The text of the “New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine…The purity of (the) text is of such a substantial nature that nothing (Christians) believe to be true, and nothing (Christians) are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by (textual) variants.”[52]  The New Testament portrays events recounted by sincere believers that were entirely possible under a theistic worldview.  This does not necessitate their truth but neither does it necessitate that the incarnate God of the New Testament is a fabrication, impossibility, or legend.  What it does necessitate is that the claims of Jesus should be sincerely considered.

Returning to the Trilemma

Ultimately, legend theorists are unsuccessful in providing another viable option in Lewis’ hypothetical syllogism.  Jesus did exist.  Jesus believed that He was God incarnate.  The extant biblical text is a reliable, plausible transmission of what Jesus and his earliest followers believed about the Christian message.  Lewis’ questions must be considered anew.  Was Jesus a liar?  No.  Was Jesus a lunatic?  No.  Is Jesus Lord?  He indeed is.  To recognize his wise teachings is to recognize his unique authority to present them as authoritative.  Jesus the legend exists only in the minds of skeptics.  Jesus Christ the Lord exists in the pages of the New Testament and in Heaven at the right hand of God the Father, making intercession for His saints until the time for His triumphant return comes to pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

2017 Greer-Heard Point Counter Point Forum. “Can We Trust the Bible on the Historical Jesus?” http://greerheard.com. http://greerheard.com/wp/past-events/can-we-trust-the-bible-on-the-historical-jesus/ (accessed April 18, 2017).

Arizona State University. “Lawrence M. Krauss.” Arizona State University. http://krauss.faculty.asu.edu/biography/ (accessed April 15, 2017).

Bock, Darrell L. Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods . Kindle Edition. Baker Publishing Group.

Bowman, Robert J, Ed Komoszewski, and Darrell L. Bock. Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ. Kindle Edition. Kregel Publications, 2007.

Branch, Craig. “Christian Science.” Watchman Fellowship. 1994. http://www.watchman.org/profiles/pdf/christianscienceprofile.pdf (accessed April 17, 2017).

Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1960.

Christian Reformed Church in North America . “Nicene Creed.” Christian Reformed Church . 2017. https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/nicene-creed (accessed April 17, 2017).

Corbett, Julia Hemeyer. Religion in America. 6. Cram101 Textbook Reviews, 2014.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Crossway Books, 2008.

Dunn, Seth. “Witnessing to the Watchtower: And the Word was ???” Pulpit & Pen. July 30, 2016. http://pulpitandpen.org/2016/07/30/witnessing-to-the-watchtower-and-the-word-was/ (accessed April 17, 2017).

Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2013.

—. “The Problem with Liar, Lunatic, or Lord.” The Bart Ehrman Blog: The History and Literature of Early Christianity. January 13, 2017. https://ehrmanblog.org/the-problem-with-liar-lunatic-or-lord-for-members/ (accessed April 15, 2017).

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Peabody, Massachusetts: Prince Press, 2010.

Koukl, Greg. “Is the New Testament Text Reliable?” Stand to Reason. February 04, 2013. https://www.str.org/articles/is-the-new-testament-text-reliable#.WPZEFNLyvcs (accessed April 18, 2017).

Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Harper Collins: New York, NY, 1952.

Horus Ruins Christmas. Digital Video. Produced by YouTube. Performed by Lutheran Satire. 2013.

McKeever, Bill and Eric Johnson. Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints. Revised and Expanded ed. Baker Books, 2015.

Quarles, Charles. “Lord or Legend? Jesus as the Messianic Son of Man.” Greer-Heard 2011. 2011.

Reasonable Faith. “Life, the Universe, and Nothing (I): Has Science Buried God?” Reasonable Faith. August 7, 2013. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/life-the-universe-and-nothing-has-science-buried-god#ixzz4eGdoOWSq (accessed April 15, 2017).

—. “Life, the Universe, and Nothing (III): Is It Reasonable to Believe There Is a God?” Reasonable Faith. August 16, 2013. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/life-the-universe-and-nothing-is-it-reasonable-to-believe-there-is-a-go#ixzz4eHGtzcpC (accessed April 15, 2017).

Reed, David. Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: Subject by Subject. Kindle Edition. Baker Books, 2011.

River of Life Lutheran Church. “Rev. Hans Fiene.” River of Life Lutheran Church. https://www.rolchannahon.org/pastor (accessed April 15, 2017).

Stewart, Robert and Marilyn Stewart. “Mythcism.” Watchman Fellowship. 2015. http://www.watchman.org/MythProfile.pdf (accessed April 15, 2107).

—. “Zeitgesit: The Movie .” Watchman Fellowship. . 2015. http://www.watchman.org/MythProfile.pdf (accessed April 15, 2017).

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Bart D. Ehrman.” The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://religion.unc.edu/_people/full-time-faculty/ehrman/ (accessed April 15, 2017).

Wallace, Daniel B. “Chapter 6: Exegetical Insight.” In Basics of Biblical Greek, by William B. Mounce, 27-28. Zondervan, 2009.

Witherington, Ben. “Are the Gospels Bona Fide.” Greer-Heard 2011. 2011.

Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of Son of God V3: Christian Origins and the Question of God. Kindle Edition. Fortress Press.

 

[1] Bock, Darrell L. Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods . Kindle Edition. Baker Publishing Group (Location 1063)

[2] Matthew 1:19

[3] Mark 1:27

[4] John 7:12

[5] John 10:20

[6] Matthew 16:14

[7] Mark 1:27

[8] Mark 1:29

[9] Matthew 16:13

[10] Quarles, Charles. “Lord or Legend? Jesus as the Messianic Son of Man.” Greer-Heard 2011. 2011.

[11] Mark 8:29, Matthew 16:15

[12] Revelation 1:8

[13] Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Harper Collins: New York, NY, 1952. (p 55-56)

 

[14] Stewart, Robert and Marilyn Stewart. “Mythcism.” Watchman Fellowship. 2015. http://www.watchman.org/MythProfile.pdf (accessed April 15, 2107).

[15] ibid

[16] Stewart, Robert and Marilyn Stewart.. “Zeitgesit: The Movie .” Watchman Fellowship. . 2015. http://www.watchman.org/MythProfile.pdf (accessed April 15, 2017).

[17] Arizona State University. “Lawrence M. Krauss.” Arizona State University. http://krauss.faculty.asu.edu/biography/ (accessed April 15, 2017).

[18]Resaonable Faith. “Life, the Universe, and Nothing (I): Has Science Buried God?” Reasonable Faith. August 7, 2013. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/life-the-universe-and-nothing-has-science-buried-god#ixzz4eGdoOWSq (accessed April 15, 2017).

[19] Reasonable Faith. “Life, the Universe, and Nothing (III): Is It Reasonable to Believe There Is a God?” Reasonable Faith. August 16, 2013. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/life-the-universe-and-nothing-is-it-reasonable-to-believe-there-is-a-go#ixzz4eHGtzcpC (accessed April 15, 2017).

[20] Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1960. (p. 19)

[21] Stewart, Robert and Marilyn Stewart. “Mythcism.”

[22] Ehrman, Bart D.. “The Problem with Liar, Lunatic, or Lord.” The Bart Ehrman Blog: The History and Literature of Early Christianity. January 13, 2017. https://ehrmanblog.org/the-problem-with-liar-lunatic-or-lord-for-members/ (accessed April 15, 2017)

[23] Ehrman, Bart D.. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2013. (p. 4)

[24] The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Bart D. Ehrman.” The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://religion.unc.edu/_people/full-time-faculty/ehrman/ (accessed April 15, 2017).

[25] River of Life Lutheran Church. “Rev. Hans Fiene.” River of Life Lutheran Church. https://www.rolchannahon.org/pastor (accessed April 15, 2017).

[26] Horus Ruins Christmas. Digital Video. Produced by YouTube. Performed by Lutheran Satire. 2013.

[27] Corbett, Julia Hemeyer. Religion in America. 6. Cram101 Textbook Reviews, 2014.

 

[28] Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Peabody, Massachusetts: Prince Press, 2010. (p. 258)

[29] McKeever, Bill and Eric Johnson. Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints. Revised and Expanded ed. Baker Books, 2015. (p. 94)

[30] Branch, Craig. “Christian Science.” Watchman Fellowship. 1994. http://www.watchman.org/profiles/pdf/christianscienceprofile.pdf (accessed April 17, 2017).

[31] Reed, David. Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: Subject by Subject. Kindle Edition. Baker Books, 2011.

 

[32] Christian Reformed Church in North America . “Nicene Creed.” Christian Reformed Church . 2017. https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/nicene-creed (accessed April 17, 2017).

[33] Bowman, Robert J, Ed Komoszewski, and Darrell L. Bock. Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ. Kindle Edition. Kregel Publications, 2007. (Kindle Locations 1701-1702)

[34] This term is often rendered as “Jehovah” in English Bibles.  For the purposes of this work, “Yahweh” and “Jehovah” can be understood to be synonymous.

[35] ibid (Kindle Locations 1878-1880)

[36] Yes, this is another “tin-foil hat” implication.

[37] Dunn, Seth. “Witnessing to the Watchtower: And the Word was ???” Pulpit & Pen. July 30, 2016. http://pulpitandpen.org/2016/07/30/witnessing-to-the-watchtower-and-the-word-was/ (accessed April 17, 2017).

[38] Wallace, Daniel B. “Chapter 6: Exegetical Insight.” In Basics of Biblical Greek, by William B. Mounce, 27-28. Zondervan, 2009.

[39] Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of Son of God V3: Christian Origins and the Question of God. Kindle Edition. Fortress Press. (p. 685).

[40] First Corinthians 15:20, Romans 8:29, Revelation 20:13

[41] Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of Son of God V3: Christian Origins and the Question of God. (p. 718).

[42] Ibid (p. 83)

[43] John 8:58

[44] John 2:19-22

[45] Bart Ehrman is a prime example of one.

[46] By this I mean a Christian engaging in apologetics, not a professional or credential “Christian apologist”

[47] Romans 1:18-23

[48] ibid

[49] 2017 Greer-Heard Point Counter Point Forum. “Can We Trust the Bible on the Historical Jesus?” http://greerheard.com. http://greerheard.com/wp/past-events/can-we-trust-the-bible-on-the-historical-jesus/ (accessed April 18, 2017).

[50] Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. (p. 4)

[51] Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Crossway Books, 2008. (p. 387)

 

[52] Koukl, Greg. “Is the New Testament Text Reliable?” Stand to Reason. February 04, 2013. https://www.str.org/articles/is-the-new-testament-text-reliable#.WPZEFNLyvcs (accessed April 18, 2017).

Free Masonry and the God-Shaped Hole: A Personal Testimony

The following is the first hand account from Christian and former Freemason Jay Lloyd:

I grew up attending a Southern Baptist Church.  Like many of my peers, I could quote scripture and I thought I knew all about Christianity.  However, looking back, I can see that my faith really fell into the category of moralistic therapeutic deism.  I was not a Christian nor was I spiritually satisfied.  I was a teenager in the seventies and one of the big questions of that period was “What’s it all about man?”  I thought there was something bigger in life than religion and that all religions were basically the same, kind of like ice cream – just pick your flavor.  As I came into adulthood, I was searching for something that was transcendent, something that had a weightier meaning and a greater purpose than what I encountered in my mundane workday life.  I came to believe that I could find fulfillment in the Masonic Order.

I come from a long line of Masons.  All of my uncles (on both sides), one grandfather, one great grandfather, and one great great grandfather were Freemasons.  Since my family members were so involved and since I was searching spiritually, the Craft appealed to me.  I had been taught that masons looked after each other in business and personal affairs. That kind of brotherhood was attractive.  So, at the age of 24, I asked a friend from work who was a Freemason how I could become one. He submitted my application and I was voted into the Order in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  It was there that I completed my Entered Apprentice Degree.  Before I could progress further, I moved.  My Fellowcraft, and Master Mason degrees were conferred upon me in Jacksonville, Florida at Mandarin Lodge no.343.

In order to be initiated into the degrees of Blue Lodge, I had to swear to keep secret the tenets and rituals of Freemasonry.  I swore blood oaths to do so.  The swearing of these blood oaths was required.  I remember in particular that one oath involved my being hung by the neck where the tide ebbed and flowed twice in 24 hours, my throat being slit from ear to ear, and my body being hung for the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air to devour so there might be no more remembrance of me whatsoever should I divulge the secrets of Freemasonry.  I was instructed and given secret words and handshakes at each level. The placement of the thumb moved from the first knuckle to the second and finally the third thru each degree. The only secret word I remember was the master mason word which was “Ma-Ha-Bone.”

The whole order is built around the legend of an ancient extra-biblical character named Hiram Abiff and the building of Solomon’s temple. This supposedly biblical legend gives Masonry perception legitimacy to religious men.   I remember going through the degrees and thinking and hoping that the next degree would be the one that would finally satisfy the longing I had to find some kind of real meaning. Disappointment came when I was “raised” from figurative death to the degree of master mason.  It was really a big letdown. I was encouraged to go further into the higher degrees of Masonry, through the Shriners, but these degrees were considered more honorary and I was disillusioned by this point anyway

Within two years of joining the Order, my wife gave birth to our second child and my dad died. I remember going fishing with a friend of my dad’s on the day after his funeral.  While we were fishing he said, “Hey all that stuff about Heaven and Hell, it don’t matter.  It’s how you live your life, that’s what matters.”  I agreed with my mouth, but my heart and mind were screaming, “All that matters is heaven and hell!”  When my daughter was 6 weeks old, my in-laws came to town and it was time to go to church. I had agreed to raise my family in the church and they held me o my promise. We visited a local church.  The congregation sang a song of greeting:

“Oh, how He loves you and me, Oh how He loves you and me. He gave his life, what more could he give?

Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how he loves me; Oh, how he loves you and me.

Jesus to Calvary did go, His love for sinners to show.  What He did there brought hope from despair.

Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how he loves me; Oh, how he loves you and me.

Jesus to Calvary did go, His love for sinners to show.  What He did there brought hope from despair.

Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how he loves me; Oh, how he loves you and me.”

Everyone was smiling and greeting one another while I just wanted to cry. That Sunday the preacher preached on the Prodigal Son. I didn’t know if I was prodigal or if I even believed but I knew I needed to; I came to Christ in that service.  From that day my life changed.  The way I saw things changed.  Masonry no longer drew me.  About six months after I came to Christ, the Worshipful Master Mandarin Lodge no.343 came to me and asked me why I hadn’t paid my Masonic dues.  I told him that I had become a Christian and had found the real meaning of life. He said there was nothing contrary to this in Freemasonry. I said, “Great, I will be at the next meeting and get up and share with all present what had happened to me and the good news of salvation through Christ and Christ alone.”  He told me that I would not be allowed to do that.  So, I told him that when I could I would gladly come and pay my dues. That was thirty-two years ago and I haven’t heard from him or them since.

When a person gets his meaning and purpose from any source other than Jesus, it is just another form of works righteousness. Freemasonry involves rituals and secrets that give it a pseudo spirituality and meaning which can further harden an unregenerate person’s heart. Many of the people that are Freemasons, in fact I would venture to say a majority, see their affiliation with the Order as giving them merit before their fellow man and most disturbingly before God.

My conclusion on the matter of Freemasonry from Ephesians 5:3-13:

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.””

To any man that claims the name of Jesus and is involved with this cult, I encourage you to separate yourself and repent. I am not judging you; I am judging an activity that I know to be heretical and anti-Christian.  It is a false righteousness that is leading many to a sinners Hell because of a reliance on something other than Christ and His sacrifice for you to be right with God.   Like all cults, it is full of sincere “good” people. They are sincerely wrong.

I pray my experience will serve to help others to leave the cult and give Christians ammunition to dialogue with friends and loved ones who are trapped in Freemasonry.

In Christ,

J.L.

[Edited by Seth Dunn]

*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.