Masonic Rites and Wrongs: An Examination of Freemasonry
By Steven Tsoukalas
: Presbyterian and Reformed
). xii + 241
7.2 (Fall 1996) : 286-287
Steven Tsoukalas began his examination of Freemasonry because he heard that Freemasonry was not compatible with Christianity, and yet his father was a Christian and a Mason. His study led him to conclude that the two are opposed to each other, and it is this thesis that Tsoukalas defends in the book (ix-x).
Tsoukalas' methodology has four phases: "(1) to cite various rituals and monitors from Grand Lodges, (2) to support the conclusions of Masonic scholars by these sources, so as to avoid the allegation that these are the opinions of particular Masonic scholars, (3) to draw similar conclusions, and (4) to show how they conflict with Christianity" (xi). This methodology is sound: though other investigations focus on the possible occult background of Masonry, or on what non-authoritative experts on Masonry say, Tsoukalas' study refers directly to Masonic rituals and monitors. Another commendable feature of the author's approach is his reference to rituals and monitors from different areas of the United States and the rest of the world. By this he shows that Masonry is consistent in all these locations.
The author divides the book into two parts: the Blue Lodge and the Scottish Rite. As membership in the Blue Lodge is requisite to membership in the Scottish Rite, study of the latter is somewhat superfluous, though nonetheless helpful.
First, Tsoukalas addresses the question, "Is Freemasonry a Religion?" Using nine "religion-making characteristics" from The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, he demonstrates that Masonry is, in fact, a religion. This is a point of contention with many Masons, though, because it depends on the definition of "religion," and because many Masons already affirm another religion. While Masonry is religious in nature (a sort of meta-religion), this fact is really beside the point, and not likely to be advantageous in reasoning with Masons.
Most helpful is the author's demonstration that Masonry affirms a specific Deity and teaches entrance to heaven by works. Masonry requires belief in a "Supreme Being," but does not define this Being. Yet the Supreme Being of Masonry encompasses all the varied deities of Masons and Masons designate it "The Great Architect of the Universe." It is this Deity that all Masons worship and give devotion to. Further, Tsoukalas proves that elements from the Masonic rituals teach that the Mason gains admission to the "Celestial Lodge above" by his good works. For example, the Lambskin Apron, the most important object in Masonry, reminds the Mason of "that purity of life and rectitude of conduct so essentially necessary to his gaining admission into the Celestial Lodge above."
This leads to a crucial consideration that Tsoukalas is careful to address. Many Christian Masons respond that they interpret Masonic teachings in accord with Christianity. For instance, they respond that, to them, the Great Architect of the Universe is Jehovah and none other, and the Lambskin Apron reminds them of Christ, the Lamb of God. Tsoukalas responds to this difficult problem of relativity several times (18, 61 n. 22, 50, 72, 90), arguing that the true evaluation of Masonry must be by what it objectively teaches, not by how a Mason subjectively interprets that teaching.
The author explores the corporate nature of Masonry and proves that it is not a mere fraternity, but rather a spiritual union that God forbids in 2 Cor 6:14-18 (69-71).
Tsoukalas also discusses the important and controversial legend of Hiram Abif. He refutes the interpretation that it teaches resurrection, and makes a strong case that it teaches salvation.
Stephen Tsoukalas' work here is superb. His arguments are sound and his documentation thorough. Masonic Rites and Wrongs is the most searching critique of Masonry known to this reviewer, and the author's conclusion is correct: a Christian can be a Mason, but he should not be (225-26).