Lutherans Informed about Lodges (LIL)
1. Legendary Claims to Antiquity
The mother of the fraternal system is Masonry. The oldest lodge and the pattern for all subsequent orders is the Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons. The term “Ancient” in its title confronts us with the history of this order. The origins of Free Masonry are obscure because of lack of documentary evidence. We must brand as legendary the claims of modern Freemasons to a great antiquity. Their efforts to project their “peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols” as far back into time as the days of Noah and the Flood or to trace the work of the Craft to the time of the construction of the Tower of Babel are absurd. Equally fantastic are the legendary references to John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist as “Christian patrons of Masonry.” (Revised Duncan’s Ritual of Freemasonry, p. 53). The bland assumption that King Solomon of Israel and King Hiram of Tyre were Master Masons together with Hiram, the architect of Solomon’s Temple, whose death and resurrection are dramatized in the third or Master Mason degree, is entirely without substance in fact. We likewise must dismiss, for lack of evidence, but with somewhat greater respect, the beliefs that were once held in certain quarters of Freemasonry of a historical connection between modern, speculative Masonry and the Dyonesian Artificers, the Roman Collegia or the Comacine Masons. Nor is there any evidence that competent historians would accept, of any historical ties with the Knights Templars. The claim that some of the secrets of the Craft had their genesis in the esoteric traditions preserved by stonemasons in Saxon, Norman, or medieval times cannot be substantiated by historical evidence. One even hears such fantastic assertions from the lunatic fringe among the rank and file of Freemasons that our Lord Jesus himself was a Freemason; that some traditions of the Order can be traced back to the Druids, the mysteries of ancient Egypt, or Eleusis; and that Adam already in the dawn of history was the founder of the Order.
2. Masonry’s Recorded History
In sifting the “wheat from the chaff” we can establish as factual that the term “lodge” was used as early as 1278 to describe the center of activity of stone masons in those days. This was a temporary hut or shed put up near the site of the new building which served primarily as workshop, storehouse for tools, the Master’s office, and so on. But it seems also to have served as a social center. Masons living away from home would eat and possibly even sleep there; meetings and discussions took place, and a certain fraternal intimacy and fellowship would be established.” (Walton Hannah, Christian by Degrees, p. 19) In the ancient Constitutions or Old Charges of operative masons there is usually a reference to the Holy Trinity, a series of rules and moral precepts held to be binding on the stone Mason, and a brief closing prayer. But scarcely anywhere is there a trace of evidence that a stonemason attached any secret teachings to the practices of his trade or spiritual symbolism to his tools. Another factor that may have contributed to the development of the Masonic ritual is the Master Mason’s Word “Mahabone” (sometimes known as Mahabyn, Maughbin, and Machbenach) which originated in Scotland about 1550.
Certain ceremonies in the course of time accompanied the imparting of that Word. Certain questions and answers were evolved which may have given rise to the Masonic catechizations and lectures of a later era. The Master Mason’s Word was also imparted with the bodies of the teacher and the neophyte assuming positions in relation to one another as to symbolize the Five Points of Fellowship. These and other usages and customs of operative stone masons possibly resulted in the development of the speculative element of modern Freemasonry.
It is more difficult to establish clearly how, why, or when the operative stonemason’s lodges became purely speculative. In the course of time men who had no connection with the trade became “accepted” members of the Craft. The first known instance is that of John Boswell, who in 1600 became an “accepted” member of the Lodge of Edinburgh. By 1670 the “accepted” membership in the Aberdeen Lodge was in the majority and by 1717 the "acceptance" group dominated the London lodges to such an extent that they are simply referred to as Freemasons.
Accordingly, the year 1717 marks the birthday of modern Freemasonry. In that year four speculative London Lodges met and formed the first Grand Lodge. The movement was organized, radically altered, and adopted new Constitutions. Other Lodges joined the movement, new lodges were organized, and Freemasonry spread and prospered. Modern Freemasonry remained on a Christian basis until at least 1723, when in the first edition of Anderson's Constitutions almost all traces of Christianity were removed from a previously Christian fraternity as a result of pressure exerted by the prevailing Deism and natural (as opposed to revealed) religion of that age of reason. In 1738 the Constitutions were further revised to provide that “Masonry being found in all nations even of diverse religions, they are now generally charged to adhere to that religion in which all men agree (leaving each brother to his own particular opinion).” The final apostasy from Christianity, at least in English Masonry, became complete in 1813. On that date under the influence of the Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, non-Christian universalism and natural religion were established. Only such prayers as omitted Christ’s name could henceforth be offered to the Great Architect. In the first Charge of the new Constitutions only atheists and irreligious libertines were excluded from the Lodge, which the Rev. J. Fort Newton in The Builders, p. 180, describes as “more than a Church... not a religion but is Religion, a worship in which all good men may unite that each may share the faith of all.” That remains its position today.
Another History of Freemasonry
This is an excerpt from Another History of Freemasonry
“Odd as it would seem for a craft guild of dusty stonecutters, the order has traditionally contained kings and dukes, scientists, writers, and other notables. The Royal Society in London, still one of the world's most prestigious gatherings, was founded around 1645 by England’s foremost scientists and philosophers; virtually all of them were Masons.
The Stuart kings were heavily involved, and Prince Charles is the first male British heir in 200 years to opt out. Voltaire and Goethe, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, the Marquis de Lafayette, Sir Walter Scott, and Mark Twain were Masons.
The reference books explain this distinguished roster with the theory that, as the number of working stonemasons dwindled, outsiders were allowed to join. This is like saying that the dockworkers’ union, finding itself shorthanded, let the king of England sign up.”
The Structure of Freemasonry
Click here to see The Structure of Freemasonry
A—Z “Aaron to Zoroaster”
A Glossary on Freemasonry
This detailed, illustrated Masonic glossary goes from Aaron to Zoroaster. Be aware that it has been compiled by a Mason, thus it presents Freemasonry in a favorable light and glosses over or omits some of the more controversial elements of Freemasonry. However, it's still very helpful for the non-Mason who is striving to understand this lodge.
A Glossary on Freemasonry
The “blood-curdling” oaths of the three basic degrees of Masonry and the oath of the Shriners can be found here: Oaths
What is the Masonic plan of salvation?
It can be summarized by the phrase “All Good Masons Go To Heaven” regardless of their belief (or lack of belief) in Jesus as Savior. Masonry teaches salvation by good works, specifically, the work of being a good Mason.
Click to see the significance of the Masonic lambskin (apron)
Why the Church and the Lodge Disagree.
Pastor Walter P. Snyder gives an excellent summary of lodge teachings and compares them with the teachings of Christianity.
A Masonic Funeral Service
In this typical Masonic funeral service note the absence of any reference to salvation through Jesus Christ.