“Witnessing” Where the Masons Gather

“Witnessing” Where the Masons Gather

I tried hard to read Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol.  I really tried. I had arranged to review it for Books & Culture—the pre-publicaton scuttlebutt was all about the Masonic Order, so I thought I could use the occasion to revisit some thoughts I have had in the past about Masonry. I bought the book the day it was released, and started reading, making it through to page 87 before giving up on it. Then I read a comment somewhere by a critic who said that she had quit reading it on page 100, so I went  back and read thirteen more pages, just to see why she had endured longer than I had. No clue. It really is a terrible book.

It’s too bad. John Wilson, Books & Culture’s wonderful editor, was quite understanding when I begged off on the book review assignment. But I was still disappointed, mainly because I lost my pretense for sneaking in those thoughts about Masonry. So I’ll simply express them directly here.

My Uncle Richard joined the Masons when he managed a Shell gas station in New Jersey. He had been told it would be good for business relations.  I was named after my Uncle Richard, and we were quite close. But I was disappointed  in him when he told me, somewhat apologetically, that he had joined the Masons. He was a good Dutch Calvinist—a member of the Reformed Church.  He admitted that there were some things that the Masons said about God and the world that were highly questionable. “But nobody ever really talks about that stuff,” he said.  “It’s more of a service club kind of thing.”

The main defense that my uncle gave for his joining, though,  was that he could “be a witness” in the Masons. Maybe he was. But they had the last opportunity for witness in his case—I sat through their ceremony when they conducted their ritual in the funeral home in front of his open casket. I found the whole thing painful to watch.

I did a little bit of a switcheroo on the witnessing front, though, a few years ago, when some charismatic-oriented students asked me to accompany them on a “prayer walk” on the streets surrounding our Fuller campus in Pasadena. I was a little nervous when they prayed in front of the local Asian-American museum that the Lord would protect our campus from the demonic associations of the Buddhist statuary there. I was less concerned when they rebuked “the spirits of lust” that they saw as hanging out in the large hotel further down the street.

When we got to the Masonic Temple, though, I decided to take the spiritual initiative. I immediately started praying aloud, and I told the Lord that I did not agree with much of what got practiced and taught in that building. I also told the Lord, however, that I wanted to thank him for the good works that were done by the members who gathered there. I explicitly mentioned Shriners’ hospitals for children with serious diseases, and I beseeched the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in that healing ministry.

My fellow prayer-walkers did not say anything about my prayer, but I was glad that I lifted it up. I meant everything I said: they teach bad stuff, but they also perform some good works. I have to admit that I was also thinking about my Uncle Richard  as I prayed. In my own way I was joining him in “being a witness” at a Masonic meeting place.


  1. Always the most difficult thing I find to talk about with fellow Christians who have strong opinions that may not echo my own. How do I affirm the real dangers they are concerned about while trying to push them to see that these “opponents” are fellow human beings for whom Christ died, and who themselves occasionally (perhaps by accident?) demonstrate God’s goodness through their own works?

    Thanks for your efforts in this area. May God reign in all these “demonic-associated” areas!

    Comment by Mark Baker-Wright — December 7, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  2. Dear Mr. Mouw,

    I am not sure what you think is taught in a Masonic Temple. That being said I also don’t know why your uncle would’ve joined just because it may be ‘good for business’. When a man chooses to petition for the degrees of Masonry, he is asked to declare upon his honor that he is not joining for mercenary motives. Clearly your recollection is that he lied and said no. As for what is taught in a Masonic Lodge: As a Mason I was ‘taught’ that adopting no particular creed, forbidding sectarian discussions within it’s lodge rooms, encouraging each to be steadfast in the faith of his acceptance, Freemasonry takes each man by the hand, and, leading them to it’s Altars, points to the open Bible thereon, and urges each that he faithfully direct his steps through life by the Light there shall find, and as he shall find it.
    I also read the Lost Symbol and found it to be a nice thriller/cliff hanger. The literary license Mr. Brown takes with the facts of Masonic ritual notwithstanding, I enjoyed the book.
    I have had several people “witness” to me when they found out I was a Freemason. I can gladly say I clarified all their misinformation about the Lodge and one even petitioned for the degrees after subsequent conversation on the subject.
    Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity.

    Comment by Bill A. — December 7, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

  3. . . . . then this little piece of trivia may warm your heart and give you cause to rejoice. In the heart of downtown Portland, Oregon every Wednesday at noon, there is a Bible class held in the former Masonic Hall, which is now owned by the Portland Art Museum and rented by Downtown Bible Class for this weekly Bible teaching ministry. Business people and students, downtown workers (200-300) etc. dash in at noon for a free lunch (bagels, fruit, coffee) and 30 minutes of expository Bible teaching, taught by Scott Gilchrist. I always smile when I look up on the walls and see the masonic symbols, sayings and murals, etc. in what was once a very “masonic” place and is now a very secular place, the masonic “art” preserved in this old historical building. The truth is being proclaimed in this most unlikely place.

    Comment by Janean Schiewe — December 8, 2009 @ 5:53 pm

  4. Dr. Mouw,

    Since Masons teach a doctrine of salvation by good works, and the Bible does not (Eph. 2:8-9). And we know that true good works in God are the result of regeneration (Eph. 2:10); done only through the power and will of the Holy Spirit after conversion, with every thing else equated as filthy rags in the eyes of God. It is therefore inconsistent with the Word of God and the Spirit of God to pray the good works of the cult of Masonry. Is it not much better to pray for their souls, that they see the spiritual uselessness of these works and repent? Do you proclaim a gospel of works now? It might interest you, as you have supported Mormonism, that all the secret temple practices in the Mormon Temples are pagan rituals right out of Masonry; and that Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were both Masons and devotes of Masonic occultism. Bad roots do not produce good spiritual fruit. Masonry is an evil cult and we need to witness to them, pray for them and not encourage them to put their faith in their own philanthropy.

    P.S. Why would praying against Buddhism bother you?

    Comment by Patrick Harris — December 11, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  5. I am not sure if our doctrine of eternal punishment and exclusivity of Jesus’ claims is no longer the first article of our confession? Is common grace now foremost? It is important-and yes there are spirits inhabiting some pagan statutes and artifacts-and they-together with ecological rape and technological idolatry must be confronted by Christians in the here and now. The devil and his angels are waging war against us in all fronts-And we must-led by His Holy Spirit must see it too.

    Comment by Ray Rodriguez — December 28, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

  6. Well put!

    Comment by Andrew — February 4, 2010 @ 3:51 pm