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Studies of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod
(1965 to 1982)


[147th General Synod Minutes, 1969, pp. 79-82; Documents of Synod, pp. 262-264.]

This study of oath-bound secret societies includes such popular orders as the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Pythias, the Loyal Order of Moose, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Improved Order of Red Men, the Woodmen of the World, and the Order of the Eastern Star. Their rituals, secrets, objects and purposes are all patterned after the Order of Free Masonry. If objections to Masonry are taken, then the same objections apply also in the main to the other orders mentioned.

This committee would like to point out that these secret societies are unmistakenly religious in their nature propagating teaching that man can approach God by good works, as in any religion of man where the Bible is not the center. We would further point out, that these societies being religious are not Christian in their concept, and that no Christian has the Scriptural right to bind himself to the penalties assumed by the oaths taken in these societies.

Oath bound secret societies are religious because they talk about God, and their rituals are professedly rituals of worship. They have public prayer. Their meeting places are called temples. They have chaplains, priests, and worshipful masters. They talk about immortality, the resurrection and Heaven. Sacred books, including the Bible, are part of their furniture, and frequently Scriptures are quoted. In the Encyclopedia of Free Masonry (p. 152 of the edition published by Mose and Company of Philadelphia in 1879), we read, "If Masonry were simply a Christian Institution the Brahmin, the Moslem and the Buddhist could not conscientiously partake of its illumination, but its universality is its boast; in its language citizens of every nation may converse; at its altars all religious may kneel, and to its creed every faith may subscribe." According to this, the god worshipped by any savage can be worshipped by the Masons.

The Odd Fellows' Manual, written by A.B. Grosh, says on p. 297, "Judaism, Christianity, Mohammedanism recognize the only true and living God who is Father of all; followers of different teachers ye are worshippers of one God who is Father of all, and therefore ye are brethren." The Word of God says, "He (Christ) came unto His own and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become Sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." (John 1:11,12).

Clymer, a Masonic authority, in his Ancient Mystic Oriental Masonry, declares on pp. 10,11, "Masonry does not teach salvation by faith, not by the vicarious atonement. Go through its degrees, study its history as taught by its great masters; you cannot find that it teaches this doctrine (vicarious atonement.)" The Bible teaches, "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) and that we "were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Peter 1:18,19).

Masons regard the Bible as one of the many sacred books. "The Bible is properly called a greater light of masonry, for from the center of the lodge it pours forth from upon the East, the West, and the South its refulgent rays of Divine truth. The Bible is used among Masons as a symbol of the will of God, however it may be expressed, and therefore, whatever to any people expresses that will, may be used as substitute for the the Bible in the Masonic lodge. Thus in a lodge consisting entirely of Jews, the Old Testament alone may be placed upon the altar, and Turkish Masons make use of the Koran. Whether it be the Gospels to the Christian, the Pentateuch to the Israelite, the Koran to the Mussulman, the Vedas to the Brahmin, it everywhere masonically conveys the same idea - that of symbolism of the Divine will revealed to man." Encyclopedia of Masonry.

The Bible teaches that every believer's body in the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and their body is not their own. We are to glorify God in our bodies presenting them as living sacrifices (I Corinthians 6:19,20; Romans 12:1). Every man who takes the Entered Apprentice oath binds himself for the following body penalties.

"Binding myself under no less penalty than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by its roots, and buried in the rough sands of the sea at low-water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this my solemn oath and obligation as an Entered Apprentice Mason. So help me God, and keep steadfast in due performance of the same.

The second degree obligation has the following penalty: "Binding myself under no less penalty than that of having my left breast torn open, my heart plucked out, and given as prey to the wild beasts of the field and the fowls of the air..."

The third Master Mason obligation has this penalty: "Binding myself under no less penalty than that of having my body severed in twain, my bowels taken and thence burned to ashes, the ashes scattered to the four winds of Heaven, so that no more trace or remembrance may be had of so vile and perjured a wretch as I, should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this my solemn obligation as a Master Mason. So help me God, and keep me steadfast in due performance of the same." We do not believe any Christian should offer himself and bind himself for any such penalties on the body which is indwelt with the Holy Spirit of God. Further still, has any Christian the scriptural right to take any lodge oath whatsoever? The answer comes from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself: "Again ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shall perform unto the Lord thine oaths; But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by Heaven, for it is God's throne; Not by earth; for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither thou shalt swear by the head, for thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let you[r] communication by Yea, Yea; Nay, Nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." (Matthew 5:33-37).

The Reformed Presbyterian position as set forth in II Corinthians 6:14-18 and other Scriptures on separation of believers with unbelievers serve as a basis to advise all Reformed Presbyterians to separate themselves from any unholy alliance with oath-bound societies.

We offer the following recommendations:

1. That the Publications Committee make available to Ministers and laymen materials on this subject.

2. That Ministers and Elders give study to the whole matter, so they may speak intelligently to those who come before them.

3. That Ministers with discretion see that the congregations are informed concerning oath-bound secret societies; and that they do it firmly and kindly, maintaining the Scriptural position on separation.

4. That Synod construes that this matter comes before Synod as an appeal from the lower judicatories.

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