Over the weekend, some family members and I found ourselves talking about the Free Masons. This mysterious fraternity has captured the imagination of many - be they Seventh-day Adventists who like a good conspiracy or Hollywood producers who like money. For the former group, the Free Masons are behind the scenes when it comes to everything going on in the world. Be it 9/11 or the impending "Sunday laws," the Free Masons are working overtime to bring about a One World Order.
Or so the thinking goes.
Some of us, of course, remain unconvinced.
I have talked and dialogued at length with individuals - who I have no doubt are sincere in their faith - who always pull out the Free Mason label as a trump card. "So-and-so is a 33rd degree Free Mason," they will say - as if this label has the power to end all discussion. It is assumed, I suppose, that everyone knows Free Masons are engaging in some sinister plot and thus, simply labeling someone as such is enough to silence any rebuttal.
This weekend, one of my family members pulled out the double trump card however, and said, "Free Masons are a bad group and Ellen White says we should stay away from them!" Unfortunately for this person, we happened to have quick access to the Ellen G. White CD-Rom and decided to look up just what Ellen White says on the Free Masons. I think everyone would benefit from a perusal of her views on this group.
Basically, Ellen White addresses the topic in about five different places, and each time it is abundantly clear that she does give counsel to stay away from associating with the Free Masons. However, one must read why she advises we stay away from them before prognosticating about how they are trying to take over the world. Much to many people's surprise, no doubt, the reasons she gives for avoiding them have nothing to do with their alleged satanic rituals or sinister plots to take over the world. Rather, the reasons she gives as to why one should avoid the Free Masons is about the same reasons she would give for not hanging out in a bar.
Here is her most exhaustive treatment on them, taken from the book Evangelism. Note carefully why she says we should avoid them, as well as noting what she doesn't say about them. If one does a careful examination of her views on the Free Masons, he or she will have to admit that the conspiratorial views on the Free Masons are more the result of sketchy websites than any explanation by Inspiration.
But onto Ellen White (all emphases supplied):
The Lord's injunction, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers," refers not only to the marriage of Christians with the ungodly, but to all alliances in which the parties are brought into intimate association, and in which there is need of harmony in spirit and action. . . .The Lord declares through the prophet Isaiah: "Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us. For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread." Isaiah 8:9-13.There are those who question whether it is right for Christians to belong to the Free Masons and other secret societies. Let all such consider the scriptures just quoted. If we are Christians at all, we must be Christians everywhere, and must consider and heed the counsel given to make us Christians according to the standard of God's Word. . . .When we accepted Christ as our Redeemer, we accepted the condition of becoming laborers together with God. We made a covenant with Him to be wholly for the Lord; as faithful stewards of the grace of Christ, to labor for the upbuilding of His kingdom in the world. Every follower of Christ stands pledged to dedicate all his powers, of mind and soul and body, to Him who has paid the ransom money for our souls. We engaged to be soldiers, to enter into active service, to endure trials, shame, reproach, to fight the fight of faith, following the Captain of our salvation.In your connection with worldly societies, are you keeping your covenant with God? Do these associations tend to direct your own mind or that of others to God, or are they diverting the interest and attention from Him? Do they strengthen your connection with the divine agencies, or turn your mind to the human in place of the divine?Are you serving, honoring, and magnifying God, or are you dishonoring Him and sinning against Him? Are you gathering with Christ or scattering abroad? All the thought and plan and earnest interest devoted to these organizations, has been purchased by the precious blood of Christ; but are you doing service for Him when uniting yourselves with atheists and infidels, men who profane the name of God, tipplers, drunkards, tobacco devotees?While there may be in these societies much that appears to be good, there is, mingled with this, very much that makes the good of no effect, and renders these associations detrimental to the interests of the soul. . . .I ask you who take pleasure in these associations, who love the gathering for indulgence in wit and merriment and feasting, Do you take Jesus with you? Are you seeking to save the souls of your companions? Is that the object of your association with them? Do they see and feel that there is in you a living embodiment of the Spirit of Christ? Is it manifest that you are a witness for Christ, that you belong to a peculiar people, zealous of good works? Is it manifest that your life is governed by the divine precepts, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," and, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"?....Those who cannot discern between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not, may be charmed with these societies that have no connection with God, but no earnest Christian can prosper in such an atmosphere. The vital air of heaven is not there. His soul is barren, and he feels as destitute of the refreshing of the Holy Spirit as were the hills of Gilboa of dew and rain.At times the follower of Christ may by circumstances be compelled to witness scenes of unholy pleasure, but it is with a sorrowful heart. The language is not the language of Canaan, and the child of God will never choose such associations. When he is necessarily brought into society that he does not choose, let him lean upon God, and the Lord will preserve him. But he is not to sacrifice his principles in any cases, whatever the temptation.Christ will never lead His followers to take upon themselves vows that will unite them with men who have no connection with God, who are not under the controlling influence of His Holy Spirit. The only correct standard of character is the holy law of God, and it is impossible for those who make that law the rule of life to unite in confidence and cordial brotherhood with those who turn the truth of God into a lie, and regard the authority of God as a thing of nought.Between the worldly man and the one who is faithfully serving God, there is a great gulf fixed. Upon the most momentous subjects,--God and truth and eternity,--their thoughts and sympathies and feelings are not in harmony. One class is ripening as wheat for the garner of God, the other as tares for the fires of destruction. How can there be unity of purpose or action between them? "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Evangelism, pp. 617-620).
So, at heart, what were the issues Ellen White had with the Free Masons - or, more specifically, what was her reason for saying Christians (Seventh-day Adventist Christians, at that) should stay away from "association" with them? Here are the main reasons I gathered:
- Though Free Masons require its members to believe in a Supreme Being, they ask each member to check his religion at the door. Hence, Ellen White writes, "If we are Christians at all, we must be Christians everywhere."
- Instead of directing one's mind to God, such associations direct one's mind to the world and man: "Do these associations tend to direct your own mind or that of others to God, or are they diverting the interest and attention from Him? Do they strengthen your connection with the divine agencies, or turn your mind to the human in place of the divine?"
- The environment creates an attitude that encourages revelry and licentiousness by associating with those who willingly lead a different lifestyle than the Christian: "Are you doing service for Him when uniting yourselves with atheists and infidels, men who profane the name of God, tipplers, drunkards, tobacco devotees? . . . [who] love the gathering for indulgence in wit and merriment and feasting."
- It forces a person to be "unequally yoked," by committing to those who do not have a connection with God: "Christ will never lead His followers to take upon themselves vows that will unite them with men who have no connection with God, who are not under the controlling influence of His Holy Spirit. The only correct standard of character is the holy law of God, and it is impossible for those who make that law the rule of life to unite in confidence and cordial brotherhood with those who turn the truth of God into a lie, and regard the authority of God as a thing of nought."
Furthermore, she said that there is "much that appears to be good" with the Free Masons, and that any commitment to them is a "cordial brotherhood." There is no mention of satanic rituals or sinister plots to take over the world. Instead, the attitude she has towards Christians being involved with the Free Masons is about the same attitude she would have toward a young Christian joining a college fraternity. Simply put, these are to be avoided because of the immoral and licentious behavior that takes place, the time that is wasted on useless activities, and the fact that these secular/worldly associations divert one's mind away from God.
It would be well for us to remember the full context of Paul's counsel about things that happen in secret, in a passage that is a favorite of many conspiracy theorists: "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove [NKJV marginal reading] them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret" (Ephesians 5:11-12). Why, then, do some spend so much time "speaking" of things that are done in secret, when Paul says it is "shameful" to do so?
Of course, I am sure that there are people who could provide evidence after evidence about how "evil" the Free Masons are. Some could perhaps even share personal stories about the scary stuff they have personally encountered in regards to this. Those things are all well and good, but I want to spend my time, not constantly searching for conspiracies, but focusing on the positive aspects of the Gospel and relying upon Inspiration for my views on the negatives of "secret societies."
This is my only safety.