Archive for the ‘General Information’ Category
LTRP Note: The following article written by veteran journalist Jim Fletcher is highlighting Lighthouse Trails. While we are so encouraged by such an article, we hesitated in posting it on our own site because we don’t want to be guilty of taking glory for ourselves when God is the one who should receive glory for anything good that comes out of this ministry. But because we’ve heard so many stories from readers trying to share our material with pastors, leaders, family, and church members only to be told “don’t listen to Lighthouse Trails,” we thought this article might help readers share information from Lighthouse Trails. We count it a privilege to stand with you in the defense of the Gospel when doing so in today’s church and world can be very difficult.
“A Book Publisher’s Beacon Shining in the Dark”
By Jim Fletcher
In the past two decades, Christian book publishing has descended into an ideological abyss. A willingness by that community’s leadership to allow non-believers into the fold ensured that Christian publishing would decline. Sure, record sales came from a handful of (mostly dreadful) titles (like “Jesus Calling”). Overall, though, it is quite ironic that strategic decisions made decades ago, for business reasons, signaled the beginning of the end for Christian book publishing.
Of course it exists today; dozens of publishing houses remain, and if you listen to biased researchers like Ed Stetzer, you would believe evangelical leadership is still surging, still strong.
The proof is there to see, however. Leading Christian retail bookstore chain Family Christian Stores just ended and the shockwaves from that exit will be felt for a long time.
Recently I had a publishing representative tell me that selling books to a bookstore is now “almost impossible.”
Only the most innovative houses will continue to live. One I admire greatly is the team at Lighthouse Trails Publishing. A West Coast-based company, Lighthouse Trails exists to equip the saints. There can be no greater agenda, especially today as terrible influences are flooding the American church. Click here to continue reading.
NEW BOOKLET: Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next
NEW BOOKLET: Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next by Gregory Reid is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next, click here.
Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next
By Gregory Reid
Deception—A Progressive Disease
The church has opened the door to the New Age. What started out as just a crack has now become a wide open door. In just a few short decades, the walls of biblical discernment have been so completely torn down that not only do the majority of church goers seem completely oblivious to the deception that has entered, many of the church’s leaders are actually promoting the various avenues through which the New Age/New Spirituality has come in. This is exactly what Theosophist leader Alice Bailey predicted would be part of the New Age infiltration into the church:
The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination [New Age thought] may be accomplished.1
This paradigm shift has been underway for some time. It probably began to get a real foothold in our present time with Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking” theology, quickly adapted by Rev. Robert Schuller who was really the first modern “megachurch” and “seeker friendly” church pastor. The ideas of these two men were once considered an aberration from mainstream Christian doctrine. But here we are decades later, and seeker friendly and power of positive thinking has become the norm and goes unchallenged. The crack into Bible-based evangelical churches had begun to open just a little . . .
Fast forward: In the last three decades, we have opened our doors to things like the holy laughter movement, barking like dogs and oinking like pigs (calling it the “anoinking of the Spirit”), and worse. A number of leaders challenged these things, but its promoters did not repent.
Eventually came spiritual formation, “be still” meditation, breathing techniques, “Christian” Yoga, “the sacred feminine,” labyrinths, and most recently circle making—all an extension of exotic and pagan religions, eastern mysticism, and Buddhist/Hindu tools to reach “the divine within.” These began to creep into church media, books, music, sermons, seminars, and movies. Even Catholic priest and mystic Thomas Merton came to be revered by many evangelicals though he was a man who once said he intended “to become as good a Buddhist as [he] can;”2 and the writings of the late Catholic mystic Henri Nouwen continue influencing millions of evangelicals, even though his spirituality led him to deny that Jesus was the only way to the Father by the end of life.3
The door opened a little wider . . . where were the watchmen? Where were the shepherds? Even pastors were welcoming these things. And as these heretical movements crept in, the Word of God began to become an addendum to our lives, a devotional nicety but not central in our walk with Jesus, and no longer our final determination of truth.
Slowly, the poison seeped into our ranks . . . one book, one DVD, one conference, one movie at a time. Everyone ignored the subtle twisting of the Word of God in Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis, hailing it as “groundbreaking.” And indeed, it was, but not in a good way. His next book, The Sex God raised a few eyebrows, but youth pastors everywhere still adored him, emulated him, and bought glasses and cool clothes to look just like him in an attempt to “relate to youth.” Millennial youth pastors began diluting (or just plain dismissing) the Word of God and preparing little mini-messages to justify their increasingly party-like youth-group atmosphere which was strong on entertainment and weak on the Word of God.
Then Rob Bell wrote Love Wins, denying Hell and proclaiming universalism—the idea that everyone gets saved. Today, he is sharing platforms with Oprah Winfrey and with New Age guru Deepak Chopra at conferences with titles like “The Seduction of Spirit.”4 Some seducing is going on, that’s for sure!
When Bell was finally exposed as being truly a non-evangelical false teacher, I heard nothing but cricket sounds from all those who formerly sang his praises. But by then, everyone was off chasing the next big thing anyway, the next bestseller, the next circle-making, ear-tickling, Scripture-diluting fiasco. We had formed a pattern of going after the latest “it,” or hottest speaker, or bestselling book, and then when it turned out the thing or person was exposed as fraudulent, in error, or full of deception, almost no one took responsibility for originally supporting or promoting them in the first place—least of all the Christian media and those who peddled their products.
I could give countless examples where Christian leaders and pastors promoted someone who was espousing anti-biblical views, and then later when the wrongness became publicized, these same Christian leaders and pastors did nothing to rectify the damage they did in pointing thousands, if not millions, in the wrong direction. No words of regret, no humility, no warnings to what they should have seen in the first place—just silence . . . until the next big thing came along.
Rarely do people say, “we were wrong.” Rarely do leaders say, “We were in error.” And because of that, unrepentant error in discernment has led to greater and greater error, because deception is a progressive disease.
The more error we receive and engage in, the more the ability to discern goes numb and then finally dies altogether. The church has stepped through the door of deception, and now one step at a time, the descent down the stairway to spiritual destruction is underway.
Few seemed alarmed that Roma Downey had no sooner graduated from a New Age college when she began work on her and her husband’s television series The Bible or that she has never renounced her New Age beliefs.5 And in fact, the highest levels of leadership in the church gave her a pass on those issues because, they said, the benefits of how it would reach people outweighed the theological or doctrinal problems. Downey’s movies have been sprinkled with gnostic teachings; and, to be honest, by the time these concerns were raised, certain denominations and groups had invested far too much money in promoting the movies to retract, recall product, and publicly repent at that point. In the end, I believe financial concerns were more important than truth.
The Shack—A Temporary Fix
By the time the book The Shack came around, we had already been prepped through years of “felt need” theology, experiential-based faith, and cherry-picking Scriptures we liked while ignoring the ones we didn’t.
As the Internet grew, I began to understand the power of the appeal to our emotions. More than once, I had seen almost an entire five to ten-minute video on some issue and found myself in tears before I found out at the end that not only was it not a Christian video and did not have a Christian message, but it was produced by people who represented a view that was unbiblical, New Age, and worse. I got emotionally hooked before I learned the truth. Those without a biblical foundation of truth stay hooked. Basically, they get seduced. They have become addicted to being seduced and need the next sensually induced, carnally-inspired fix because that is what has become the foundation of their “faith,” and they have come to believe they can’t get by without it.
People loved The Shack because it replaced the God of the Bible (which deep down they possibly didn’t feel comfortable with because His ways are beyond our understanding and bad things happen, and it upsets our sunshine version of Christianity) and gave them a God who made them feel good, who took the God of the Bible and said, “That’s not really God, this is what God is like . . .” and gave them a diluted, false version of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and a dose of Sophia, Greek goddess of “wisdom.”
I was sure that anyone with even a modicum of discernment would throw the book in the trash. I had underestimated how wide the door of deception had opened. I lost friends that were pastors who were furious at me for questioning the book. One pastor railed at me, “I haven’t had a relationship with God for years, but now I have my ‘Papa’ back! You can’t take that from me!”
Nothing jarred me more than seeing grown men of God just abandoning clear truth because something tugged their heart, justifying the scriptural butchering by saying, “It’s just fiction; it’s not the Bible!” I confronted someone on this the other night. “What about the satanic Necronomicon. Can I read it? It’s just fiction. Can I read pornography? It’s just fiction.” They thought that a bit extreme. Of course it was. My point was, what was their criteria, where was their own event horizon they were not willing to cross because it was just too obviously wrong? How much Scripture bending or ignoring would they accept and justify as OK because it was “just fiction” before they had enough and said no more?
The genius of The Shack is how cleverly it has clothed itself in a loose and nebulous garment of Scriptures—just enough to justify the complete butchering of the true nature of God and morph Him into a Trinitarian hybrid god that represents whatever will make you feel better about your horrible tragedies and “great sadness.”6 The fact is, though, God will not appear as whatever we want. One person said, “God appeared as a fiery bush, but I know he’s not a bush!” But He did not appear as a bush. He appeared in a bush. God will not appear as Shiva, Buddha, or Sarayu, because He says, “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14). We can say God is like a rock, but we cannot say God is like Baal. It’s not about imagery; it is about the nature and character of God. And The Shack gives a false representation of both of these.7
Look, I get it. I’ve suffered innumerable losses my entire life, and every one of us at some point cries out, “WHY, GOD?” And in those moments, people either reject Him as uncaring, or call upon His name wherein He brings us into His Kingdom, and we learn to trust Him in the midst of, sometimes in spite of, tragedies that seem to have no reason.
We may find ourselves once again crying out in pain, “Why God!?”
He has answered this in His Word. It’s called having faith, trusting Him, and knowing He loves us.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. (Psalm 18:30)
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. (1 John 3:1)
The Shack is a quick fix to feeling better, a panacea, a spiritual drug that allows you to embrace a conception of God that may temporarily take away the pain but leaves you with an open door to deception because it is not the God of the Word. It is not the real thing! And the Jesus it presents is not the real Jesus.
Is The Shack the God portrayed in Scripture? Is God a woman? Is Jesus a clumsy Jewish kid? Is the Holy Spirit a Japanese girl named after a Hindu river? Is the judge of our lives Sophia? Is everyone saved? Is Jesus just the best way to the Father, as the book suggests, or is He what the Bible says—the only way?
“But they’re just parables! Stories! It’s not the Bible!” some argue. So is it acceptable to distort the truth in the guise of fiction just to make a point? How is that ever acceptable? The Shack presents a God who does not judge, one who can change, and one who suggests Jesus is simply a better way to God, not the only way. But feeling has trumped truth, and the book has become a multi-million bestseller. To simplify the responses I have heard, “Don’t confuse me with biblical facts. It makes me feel good!”
It did not bother leaders and publishers that Young’s second book, Eve—a “reimagining” of the Adam and Eve story—was laced with kabbalistic themes and occultic, gnostic fairy tales. “It’s just a story.” The door opened wider. . . .
You see, Satan keeps pushing the goalpost deeper and deeper into the center of the church, and every time he sees no resistance, he is emboldened and takes it to “the next level.”
In March of 2017, The Shack movie was released. People seem just as fascinated with the movie as they are with the book. But I notice one difference—those who support The Shack appear to be much angrier at those with questions than before. “You’re so judgmental!” “Who do you think you are?” “You must be looking for a book deal or something.” “You’ll never lead anyone to Christ, and I doubt if you ever did before.” I’ve had it all thrown at me with the release of the movie as I have tried to reason it out with folks. And I have come to realize that the level of deception has gone so deep that not only are people willing to embrace a lie and ignore the error, but worse—they see themselves as loyal Christian believers while at the same have no problem promoting a story by a man who claims that everyone is “in Christ” already. And you cannot reason with that level of delusion. It’s gone beyond the intellectual. It’s now in the realm of “seducing spirits” (1 Timothy 4:1).
A Church Enamored with New Age Mysticism
Universalism—the “all paths lead to God” religion—is exactly what is needed to turn millions of proclaiming Christians into participants of the one-world antichrist mystery religion that Alice Bailey wrote about and all Luciferian world leaders are counting on.
We did not accept Rob Bell’s universalism. But now we are willing to ignore William Paul Young’s. That is the malignancy of deception unchecked.
The Shack movie comes at a time when eastern meditation techniques are being welcomed wholeheartedly into the public educational system under the guise of “mindfulness.”8 Mindfulness is a Buddhist technique of detachment, leading practitioners to realizing the “divine within,” which eventually supposedly leads to Nirvana—nonexistence. North American children, as young as pre-school age, are being taught how to meditate and do Yoga to reach this Nirvana state.
This eastern meditation paradigm shift is occurring in the church as well via contemplative prayer and the “spiritual disciplines.”9 In 2017, several “Christian” books came on the scene promoting meditation and mindfulness practices under the guise of “devotional” books and “adult coloring books.” One book on contemplative meditation is The Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age by Tricia McCary Rhodes. Her book “reintroduces us to the classic disciplines of Scripture reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.”10 Rick Warren was promoting Rhodes book, The Soul at Rest: A Journey into Contemplative Prayer, as far back as 2003 on his website that stated:
This book is a quiet-time companion for those who hunger for a greater intimacy with God. It offers fresh insight into little understood aspects of prayer and introduces a step-by-step journey of learning contemplative prayer.11
The site referred to Tricia Rhodes as “one of our favorite authors on contemplative prayer.”12 In The Soul at Rest, Rhodes gives instruction on contemplative prayer:
Take deep breaths, concentrating on relaxing your body. Establish a slow, rhythmic pattern. Breathe in God’s peace, and breathe out your stresses, distractions, and fears. Breathe in God’s love, forgiveness, and compassion, and breathe out your sins, failures, and frustrations. Make every effort to “stop the flow of talking going on within you—to slow it down until it comes to a halt.”13
Rick Warren’s promotion of her book in 2003 helped to make a solid place for Rhodes in the evangelical church, and today she, along with so many others like her, is securely wedged in, all the while presenting a panentheistic (i.e., God in all) eastern-style meditation belief system to an unsuspecting church that’s proved itself to have little or no discernment. Does that bother Rick Warren or any of the others who endorsed her? Do they feel the need to warn the church about an author they promoted to millions of people? The answer to that is a resounding no!
So, the church just keeps on going further on the path to the New Age goal of “east meets west,” where we all become one under a false one-world religion and we all recognize the “Christ spirit” or godhood in each other.
Tragically, young Christians are perhaps the biggest target of Satan. The emerging church got the ball rolling and convinced millions of church-going young people that their parents way of seeing Christianity was old fashioned, colonial, and ineffective. And emerging church leaders had the perfect tool to get a hold of the minds of the youth—meditation. It started back in the late nineties and is in full swing today. A 2013 book titled, God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God by Canadian pastor Ken Shigematsu, is being used in Christian youth groups. According to the publisher, Zondervan, the book “draws on both eastern and western perspectives in writing and speaking.”14 Those are buzzwords for introducing a mixing of eastern religion thought processes with Christianity. The book is packed with quotes by and references to numerous mystics such as Thomas Merton and Basil Pennington. Catholic priest and panentheist Richard Rohr is a major advocate for mystical prayer. He said in an interview that his publisher told him his biggest audience is young evangelical men!15 Are Christian leaders and pastors shocked that their young people are being taught by mystics, panentheists, universalists, etc? Apparently not.
All of this is producing Christian minds that are malleable, soft, undiscerning, half-drugged, feeling good, and completely open to the power of suggestion from . . . whoever, and whatever. That is what eastern meditation techniques do. You empty your mind, “turn off distractions,” enter your “sacred space,” and accept that whatever comes must be good and right and from God.
The High Price of Having Our Ears Tickled
The church has become an entity seeking to have her ears tickled. Christians are seeking to feel better about their painful lives. Seeking to be successful, happy, and prosperous. What is it you seek? Step right up folks . . . we’ve got everything for you right now.
Everything except the whole truth of the Word of God, the way of the Cross, the power of the blood to save and heal and forgive, the altar of God where we come to be broken and changed, healed, and set free. Everything which made the Gospel powerful has and is being systematically removed by the enemy of our souls—not because it is not powerful, but because we no longer wish to humble ourselves, bow to its holiness and its truth. The church has exchanged the truth for a lie.
We are seeing the “fruit” of nearly thirty years of dumbing-down and de-prioritizing the Word of God, giving it a mini-place in our lives while shiny things and baubles and the newest “move” catch our attention and send us off on a fruitless quest for the next experience. It’s no wonder young Christians are falling for it so rapidly—their parents and grandparents have had no discernment and therefore could hardly lead and warn the younger generation of spiritual deception. The seed of the Word of God has corporately fallen on stony ground, without depth, where it grows up quick, shrivels, and dies.
I know I am very passionate about this, reluctant to even use the word passionate, so overused it is in today’s “New Spirituality.” However, I have every reason to be this way. I grew up in the occult—a world of delusions, lies, and darkness. When I tried to turn to New Age thought to dispel the darkness—turning to Hinduism, Buddhism, and becoming an avid follower of Paramahansa Yogananda in my little bedroom devouring his every word as “truth”—I ended up deceived, wrecked, and in utter darkness, even though some of it temporarily numbed my pain and made me “feel good.”
I understand many of these Christians who are so emotionally bound to The Shack and Jesus Calling that they have thrown caution to the wind and ignored the dangerous reality that in fact promotes unbiblical lies. I was a universalist when I got saved. I didn’t know what the Word of God said. I still believed all paths led to God! I was totally brainwashed. Then came this “mean man,” this “judgmental Christian” Bible study leader who dared to get out the Word of God and without holding back challenged me about my beliefs. This “judgmental, mean man” saved my spiritual life. (I thank God for Dave; may his memory be blessed!) I needed a hard word to break through the lies.
In all my dealings with everything from Rob Bell to The Shack, I understand that simple logic and reason isn’t working with people who are emotionally invested in the teachers or the stories. People need a wake-up call, and that may not feel good or seem loving. But I cannot apologize for my approach because I see that in the end, The Shack is not just a book or a movie but a game-changer that is extinguishing some of the last lights of discernment out of the hearts of who knows how many thousands (even millions) of believers. I know how they feel. I have been there. And I thank God that someone cared enough to hurt me with the truth. When a house is burning down and people are asleep inside, one cannot afford to meekly whisper, hoping the people hear. You have to shout at the top of your lungs, “Get out, quickly!” In dealing with these new delusions, it may be necessary to jar people awake.
Jesus said in Matthew 24 that all of this would happen. Paul said, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). The great falling away is at hand. But a remnant will remain faithful. I can only pray humbly not to be one who falls for the lies in a moment of vulnerability, or weakness, or pain or giving up, for we are all vulnerable, and it’s only by the grace of God we can stand. That is where I understand the motto of the French foreign legion that a friend shared with me: “If I falter, straighten me out. If I stumble, pick me up. If I retreat, shoot me.” Blunt, but as a spiritual warrior, it resonates in my heart. None of us is exempt from having to diligently guard against the lies of this age, outside and inside the church.
These progressive deceptions over the last few decades have been just the build-up to the next great delusion, which could be the final one. God help us to turn away from the slow poisoning taking place in the church through breath-prayers, eastern meditation, mindfulness, Yoga, etc. God help us to surrender our soulish ways of perceiving God based on a book written by a wounded man, William Paul Young —unhealed from abuse and bitter church hurts—whom those seeking to make a profit have promoted regardless of his spiritual fragility and woundedness—a man who rejected the God of the Bible for a god who would somehow ease his pain—one that eases your pain as it kills your soul. The Shack is the spiritual Jack Kevorkian of our age.
Pray for William Paul Young, that God would pull him out of this most dangerous and deadly strange fire. Pray for the multitudes who are believing lies. And may God deal with those mercenaries and moneychangers who care more about what sells and profits them than about the care and protection of the flock of God.
Alice Bailey’s plans are about to come to full fruition. The greatest lie is just around the corner.
Stay strong, saints. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28)
To order copies of Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next, click here.
1. Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy (Lucis Publishing Companies), p. 510.
2. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
3.Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1998), p. 51.
5. See Greg Reid’s booklet/article: Confused by an Angel: The Dilemma of Roma Downey’s New Age Beliefs. Online at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16968 or order from Lighthouse Trails.
6. Chapter four of The Shack is titled “The Great Sadness,” and the term is frequently used throughout The Shack.
7. See The Shack and Its New Age Leaven by Warren B. Smith. Online at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=12290 or order from Lighthouse Trails.
8. Kris O’Donnell, “Mindfulness, Meditation Techniques Being Used in Public School Classrooms Across County on 750,000 Students” (Ivanhoe Newswire, http://www.ksat.com/health/mindfulness-meditation-techniques-being-used-in-classroom).
9. Visit the Lighthouse Trails Research blog for extensive information on contemplative spirituality and the “spiritual disciplines”: www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog or request their bi-monthly research journal mailed to homes and offices.
10. Tricia McCary Rhodes, The Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age (from the publisher’s description, found on the NavPress website where the book is being sold: https://navresources.ca/product_details.php?item_id=5458).
11. Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox, (September 3, 2003, http://web.archive.org/web/20081227031846/http://legacy.pastors.com/RWMT/?ID=118).
12. Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox (February 18, 2004, http://web.archive.org/web/20081227044251/http://legacy.pastors.com/RWMT/?ID=142).
13. Tricia Rhodes, The Soul at Rest (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), p. 28.
14. Ken Shigematsu, God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013); from Zondervan’s website: http://www.zondervan.com/god-in-my-everything.
15. “The Cosmic Christ with Richard Rohr” (http://podcast.theliturgists.com/e/episode-35-the-cosmic-christ-with-richard-rohr/).
To order copies of Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next, click here.
NEW BOOKLET: ATONEMENT REJECTED! How the Emerging Church Views Christ’s Death on the Cross by Roger Oakland is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 10 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of ATONEMENT REJECTED! How the Emerging Church Views Christ’s Death on the Cross, click here.
ATONEMENT REJECTED! How the Emerging Church Views Christ’s Death on the Cross
By Roger Oakland
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
The heart and core of the Christian faith is based upon Jesus Christ’s shed blood at Calvary as the only acceptable substitutionary atonement for mankind’s sins. The Gospel message requires this foundation. The Bible says the wages of sin is death—thus every person alive should receive the penalty of spiritual death because none of us is without sin. Satan hates the Gospel message. He understands what the Gospel means, and his agenda is to deceive mankind from understanding and believing so they can suffer eternally with him. While Scripture is very clear about the necessity of Christ’s death in order for us to be saved, some believe this would make God a blood-thirsty barbarian and that a loving God would never send His Son to a violent death. Embedded within the structure of the emerging church is just such a belief.
Many in the emerging church movement (i.e., the “new” Christianity/New Spirituality) would vehemently object if someone told them that emerging church leaders don’t like the Cross. They would jump up and say, “Yes, they do. I’ve heard them talk about Jesus and His going to the Cross. They say they love the Cross.”
Some emerging church leaders do say they love the Cross, but an underlying theme has entered the church. It says that while Jesus’ going to the Cross was an example of sacrifice and servanthood that we should follow, the idea that God would send His Son to a violent death for the sins of mankind—well, that is not who God is. A loving God would never do that! Such a violent act would make Christianity a “slaughterhouse religion.”1
Liberal theologian and pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City, Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), believed that the doctrine of the atonement, where “Jesus suffered as a substitute for us” because of our sins, is a “precivilized barbarity.”2 In his book, The Modern Use of the Bible, Fosdick says that Jesus’ going to the Cross should be seen as an example of a life of service and sacrifice and not compared with “old animal sacrifices” and “made ‘a pious fraud’ played by God upon the devil.”3 In Fosdick’s book Dear Mr. Brown, he states:
Too many theories of the atonement assume that by one single high priestly act of self-sacrifice, Christ saved the world.4
Fosdick ends that statement with a pronounced—“No!” He insists, “These legalistic theories of the atonement are in my judgment a theological disgrace.”5 Fosdick considered the idea that God would actually send His Son to die on a Cross to take our place to be the basis for a violent and bloody religion. He rejected the biblical message of an atonement and substitutionary sacrifice.
Fosdick was the pastor of Riverside Church of New York City from 1925 to 1946. While he has been long gone, his ideologies have remained intact and have drifted right into the evangelical church through emergent leaders. In October 2006, Riverside Church held the 5th Fosdick Convocation in honor of their former pastor. Two of the emerging church’s most influential teachers were there as speakers in honor of Fosdick—Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo.6 As I will show you, McLaren resonates with Fosdick’s view of the Cross.
False Advertising for God
In an interview, Brian McLaren questioned the idea of God sending His Son to a violent death, calling it “false advertising for God”:
[O]ne of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then—I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary—but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God.7 (emphasis added)
What an extraordinary example of faith under attack. If McLaren is right, all those who have ever lived and believed in Christ’s atonement have been misled and wrong. McLaren has taken the freedom to reconstruct what faith means by distorting the Scriptures, or worse yet, saying the very opposite of what the inspired Word of God says. This is blasphemy! McLaren also states:
And I heard one well-known Christian leader, who—I won’t mention his name, just to protect his reputation. ‘Cause some people would use this against him. But I heard him say it like this: The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you—Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive. And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving. Unless He kicks somebody else.8
To further elaborate on McLaren’s rejection of the message of Christ’s atonement through His blood, we look to Episcopal priest Alan Jones. In his book Reimagining Christianity, Jones carries through with this idea that God never intended Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross to be considered a payment for our sins:
The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it.9
The other thread of just criticism addresses the suggestion implicit in the cross that Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution [the Cross] was the name of this vile doctrine.10
Brian McLaren has endorsed Reimagining Christianity and says of the book:
Jones is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality. His work stimulates and encourages me deeply.11
That God Does Not Exist
This idea of rejecting God’s judgment placed on Jesus Christ instead of us is integrated into the teachings of many others. William Shannon (biographer of Catholic monk and mystic Thomas Merton) said:
This is a typical patriarchal notion of God. He is the God of Noah who sees people deep in sin, repents that He made them and resolves to destroy them. He is the God of the desert who sends snakes to bite His people because they murmured against Him. He is the God of David who practically decimates a people . . . He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger . . . This God does not exist.12 (emphasis added)
So in other words, according to Fosdick, McLaren, and Shannon, Jesus should be seen as a model of sacrifice to follow in our own lives, but to view God the Father as a judge against sin is not a proper view of God. Those who reject the atonement realize the greatest threat to their heretical views is those who take the Scriptures literally and seriously. Fosdick explains:
Were you to talk to that fundamentalist preacher, he doubtless would insist that you must believe in the “substitutionary” theory of atonement—namely, that Jesus suffered as a substitute for us the punishment due us for our sins. But can you imagine a modern courtroom in a civilized country where an innocent man would be deliberately punished for another man’s crime? . . . [S]ubstitutionary atonement . . . came a long way down in history in many a penal system. But now it is a precivilized barbarity; no secular court would tolerate the idea for a moment; only in certain belated theologies is it retained as an explanation of our Lord’s death . . . Christ’s sacrificial life and death are too sacred to be so misrepresented.13
This is a perfect example of how the emerging church turns doctrine it doesn’t understand (or accept) into a mockery against Scripture and God’s plan of salvation. God’s ways are not our ways and to expect them to line up with our own human reasoning is ludicrous:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
The late Catholic contemplative author Brennan Manning (a favorite among many evangelicals) joined the ranks of those who rejected the substitutionary atonement. In his book Above All, Manning quotes William Shannon almost word for word, regarding the atonement:
[T]he god whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger . . . the god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased, is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist.14 (emphasis added)
Dying for the Sins of the World
The late Marcus Borg (another favorite among evangelicals) was a lecturer and the author of several books, some of which are Jesus and Buddha, The God We Never Knew, and Reading the Bible Again for the First Time:
Taking the Bible Seriously But not Literally. His thinking greatly influenced the emerging church movement and its leaders. Brian McLaren had “high regard”15 for Borg, and the two of them participated in a seminar series at an interspiritual center in Portland, Oregon one summer.16 Rob Bell (a major influencer among young evangelicals) references and praises Borg in his still-popular book Velvet Elvis.17 Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary and one of the contributors to Richard Foster’s Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible, considers Borg an essential part of the “new” Christianity. Brueggemann states:
Marcus Borg is a key force in the emerging “new paradigm” of Christian faith.18
Borg explains in his book The God We Never Knew that his views on God, the Bible, and Christianity were transformed while he was in seminary:
I let go of the notion that the Bible is a divine product. I learned that it is a human cultural product, the product of two ancient communities, biblical Israel and early Christianity. As such, it contained their understandings and affirmations, not statements coming directly or somewhat directly from God.. . . I realized that whatever “divine revelation” and the “inspiration of the Bible” meant (if they meant anything), they did not mean that the Bible was a divine product with divine authority.19
This attitude would certainly explain how Borg could say:
Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world.20
If what Borg is saying is true, then we would have to throw out John 3:16 which says God so loved the world He gave His only Son, and we would have to dismiss the theme of a blood offering that is prevalent throughout all of Scripture. In the Old Testament, it is clear:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)
But Borg rejects this emphasis:
To think that the central meaning of Easter [resurrection] depends upon something spectacular happening to Jesus’ corpse misses the point of the Easter message and risks trivializing the story. To link Easter primarily to our hope for an afterlife, as if our post-death existence depends upon God having transformed the corpse of Jesus, is to reduce the story to a politically-domesticated yearning for our survival beyond death.21
What is behind this mindset? Listen to one New Ager describe what underlies this line of thought:
Jesus was an historical person, a human becoming Christ, the Christos is an eternal transpersonal condition of being. Jesus did not say that this higher state of consciousness realized in him was his alone for all time. Nor did he call us to worship him. Rather, he called us to follow him, to follow in his steps, to learn from him, from his example.22
Fosdick would resonate with this. When he says, “Christ’s sacrificial life and death are too sacred to be so misrepresented,” he means that Christ is an example to be followed, not an innocent sacrifice for our guilt and thus worthy of praise and worship. Satan wants desperately to be worshiped and adored as God. He hates all that Jesus’ death stands for. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, purchased with His own blood the lives of those written in the Book of Life.
A very popular author today, William Paul Young (author of The Shack) also rejects the idea that Christ’s shed blood was needed to save man. He has come right out and said this openly.23 And yet, many Christian leaders promote both Young and The Shack without any qualms.
The Bible says, “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22), and also, “He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Are we to reject these Scriptures and other ones as well that speak of the atonement because it doesn’t sound logical? Scripture tells us that the carnal mind is at enmity with God. We need to recognize that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is our final authority, and we must adhere to the truth of its teachings.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.. . . And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. (1 John 4:10, 14)
Many in the emerging church may insist they do not hold to the distorted view on the atonement that this booklet has described. But it is important to understand that the underlying nature of this view of rejecting the atonement is panentheistic (God in all) and pantheistic (God is all), which is the “fruit” of practicing contemplative mysticism. To put it in plain terms, one of the key characteristics of the emerging church is engaging in mystical prayer practices (i.e., contemplative). This in turn produces a drastic change in spiritual outlook that over times takes on panentheistic views. And when that happens, a new perspective on the atonement always occurs because when one believes man is divine (god within), then he believes man does not need to have anyone make atonement for him. A substitutionary death (taking a sinner’s place) on the Cross would not be necessary and in fact, would be an insult to man’s own divine nature. It would be humiliating. Like Thomas Merton said, if we really knew what was in each one of us, we would fall down and worship one another.24 He and other contemplatives say that man’s biggest problem isn’t a sinful nature; no, it’s that he does not realize he is divine.
If Jesus’ going to the Cross and shedding blood was merely an act of service and sacrifice, an example for others to follow, and was not actually a substitutionary payment for the sins of humanity, then why celebrate the resurrection as so many churches do? It would make no sense. Churches that cling to contemplative/emergent ideologies and practices should consider this. While they cling to one (contemplative), they’re on the road to denying the other (the atonement) . . . even if they don’t realize it.
To order copies of ATONEMENT REJECTED! How the Emerging Church Views Christ’s Death on the Cross, click here.
1. Beka Horton, Church History and Things to Come (Pensacola, FL: Pensacola Christian College, 1997 printing), p. 156.
2. Harry Emerson Fosdick, Dear Mr. Brown (New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1961), p. 136.
3. Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Modern Use of the Bible (New York NY: The Macmillan Company, 1924), p. 230.
4. Harry Emerson Fosdick, Dear Mr. Brown, op. cit., p. 135.
5. Ibid., p. 134-135.
6. Riverside City Church, New York City, http://www.the riversidechurchny.org/getinvolved/?fosdick-speakers.
7. Interview by Leif Hansen (The Bleeding Purple Podcast) with Brian McLaren, January 8th, 2006); Part 1: http://bleeding purple podcast.blog spot.com/2006/01/brian-mclaren-interview-part-i.html; Part II: http://bleedingpurplepodcast.blog spot.com/2006/01/interview-with-brian-mclaren-part-ii.html).
8. Ibid., part II.
9. Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons, 2005), p. 132.
10. Ibid., p. 168.
11. Ibid., Brian McLaren on back cover.
12. William Shannon, Silence on Fire (New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995 edition), pp. 109-110.
13. Harry Emerson Fosdick, Dear Mr. Brown, op. cit., p. 136.
14. Brennan Manning, Above All (Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2003), pp. 58-59.
15. Statement by Brian McLaren on McLaren’s website: http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/000201.html, “What about other websites?”
16. The Center for Spiritual Development, 2006 Summer Seminar called “The Church in the 21st Century” where Brian McLaren and Marcus Borg were two of the speakers, http://www.center-for-spiritual-development.org/DVDCatalog.html.
17. Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), pp. 180, 184.
18. Walter Brueggemann cited on United Theological Seminary website: http://www.united.edu in reference to Marcus Borg’s book, The Heart of Christianity.
19. Marcus Borg, The God We Never Knew (New York, NY: HarperCollins, First HarperCollins Paperback Edition, 1998), p. 25.
21. Marcus Borg, “Easter About Life, Not Death” (Washington Post/Newsweek “On Faith” column, April 7, 2004, http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/marcus_borg/2007/04/easter_not_about_death_but_lif.html).
22. John White (Science of Mind, September 1981), p. 15.
23. This is documented on the Lighthouse Trails Research site: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=22246.
24. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1989 edition), pp. 157-158.
To order copies of ATONEMENT REJECTED! How the Emerging Church Views Christ’s Death on the Cross, click here.
Lighthouse Trails is 15 years old! Every year during this time, we offer our readers an “Anniversary Sale” of all our products. This year, as in years past, we are offering a 17%-off store-wide sale.
We hope you will enjoy this 4-Day Store-Wide Sale.(ENTER STORE) Use the code 17OFF at step 1 of checkout, and you will get 17% off your entire order on all our products.* Plus, remember, we offer $6 FLAT RATE shipping for all U.S. orders (less for small orders). It’s also a great time for our international readers to place orders as the discount helps offset international shipping costs.
THE NEXT FOUR DAYS IS A WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY FOR OUR READERS
Our way of saying thank you for 15 years of support and prayers.
Thank you and God bless you.
From the Editors at Lighthouse Trails
LTRP Note: The Shack movie is about to be released. Millions of Americans will go to theaters to watch the movie. Most likely, the majority of them will be church goers and proclaiming Christians since The Shack book is vetted as a Christian story. Recently, a church contacted Lighthouse Trails and ordered 300 copies of Warren B. Smith’s booklet The Shack and Its New Age Leaven. If you have family, church members, pastors, and friends who might be considering attending this movie, please pick up some copies of the booklet and pass them out. As you can see from the piece below by Lighthouse Trails author Lois Putnam, William Paul Young resonates with panentheists (God is IN all), and we know from our research that The Shack resonates with this concept too. Please do what you can to warn everyone you know. The false “Christ” of The Shack has big plans to deceive many. If you can’t afford to buy the booklet, you can print the content from our blog; but we believe this very inexpensive booklet is a better way to go (in a published bound format, it helps give credibility to the material and the source).
By Lois Putnam
Catholic priest and panentheist mystic Richard Rohr (along with co-author mystic emergent Mike Morrell) recently wrote the book The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation. William Paul Young wrote its foreword. Inside, its dedication says: “From Richard Rohr: To all unsuspecting folks who do not know they are already within the ‘Divine Flow'” [i.e., panentheism]. In the foreword, Young says, “May we feel within us the eternal life of Jesus reaching through our hands–to heal, to hold, to hug–and celebrate the bread of our Humanity, the sanctity of the Ordinary, and Participation in the Trinity.”
Other endorsers include Rob Bell, Brian D. McLaren, and a host of others. As Lighthouse Trails Research points out in “In Case You Still Aren’t Sure About the Shack and Its Author,” perhaps Young’s “Twenty Books Everyone Should Read” will convince you otherwise. Click onto the article here: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17684
And Young, continuing his close association with Rohr, will join him and Cynthia Bourgeault in April 6-8, 2017 to take part in a program titled: “Trinity: The Soul of Creation” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Its online descriptive ad reads, “Rohr, Bourgeault, and Young believe the Trinity . . . has the capacity to change everything. We already participate within this dance whether we realize it or not [that God is in everyone]. But when we consciously engage in loving communion, we open ourselves to being transformed at the deepest levels. Bring your heart, mind, and body to this . . . conversation. Join an ecumenical and inter-faith gathering, moving together through reflective experiences, including contemplative prayer, music, movement (Yoga, Tai Chi Chin, and walking meditation), group and individual processing. …” To read Lois Putnam’s entire article on The Shack, click here.
Note: Cynthia Bourgeault is a name we know well at Lighthouse Trails. Ray Yungen spoke of her to us often. She is an Episcopal priest who is a devoted advocate for everything contemplative. Here is a list of some of her books to prove our point.
NEW BOOKLET: Broken Vessels for Christ by Harry Ironside is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 10 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Broken Vessels for Christ, click here.
By Harry A. Ironside
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:10,11)
This fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians is the apostle Paul’s statement of power for ministry. He shows us in these stirring verses that God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world.
God is looking for broken men, for men who have judged themselves in the light of the Cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to an end of themselves, and whose trust and confidence is not in themselves but in God.
There were those who were calling in to question the apostleship of Paul himself, for he did not seem to them to be what an apostle, according to their estimation of the office, ought to be. There was not the pomp nor the dignity they would expect; he did not come to them with great swelling words, there was no making anything of what he was after the flesh, no drawing attention to his natural ability or education; and in this the method of the apostle Paul was in very vivid contrast to the method pursued by many today who pose as servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. This man went through the world a broken man, a lowly man, a man seeking only the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessing of souls, a man who might have occupied a very high place among the great and distinguished of earth. But he was a man who for Jesus’ sake had turned his back upon all that and could say:
God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14)
That Cross spoke of the deepest shame and ignominy, and Paul gloried in it because through the work that took place upon it, his soul had been saved, and he had learned that the preaching of the Cross, while it is “to them that perish foolishness,” is “unto us which are saved . . . the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). And so he went forth, content to be broken in order that the light of the grace of God might shine out. You will notice in verse 6 that
. . . God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:6,7)
It is easy to see what he has in mind. He is thinking undoubtedly of that very striking incident of which we read in Judges, when Gideon and his three hundred men took their lives in their hands, were delivered unto death, as it were, and went forth against the vast armies of the Midianites. Surely, no other army was accoutered [equipped] as this one. They carried in one hand a trumpet and in the other a pitcher, and in this pitcher was a lamp. The light of the lamp was not seen though it was already lit. It was not seen as long as it was in the earthen jar. They surrounded the army of the Midianites in the middle of the night, and suddenly at the command of their leader, the jars were crashed to earth, and the light shone out, and the Midianites sprang up startled. They heard the crash and saw the light, and thought they were surrounded by a tremendous army, and they turned their swords upon one another. It was God through Gideon that led the army to victory. A broken pitcher in order that light might shine out! The apostle says, as it were, “That is it! If you want to be a light for God in a world like this, be content to be broken, to have your hopes, your ambitions, all dashed to pieces, and then God can take you up and use you in order to carry the light of Christ to darkened hearts.”
How are we broken? By affliction, by trouble, by the discipline of the Lord, sometimes by sickness, by pain, and anguish. All these are the divine methods for breaking God’s pitchers in order that the light may shine out to His praise and glory. Men may misjudge us, misrepresent us, persecute us bitterly; we may not have enough food to eat or water to drink; we may be cast down; we may suffer all kinds of sorrows; but it is all right if it breaks us in order that God may be able the better to use us. And so he says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8,9); for in all these experiences, we are simply “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our body.” He “came from Godhead’s fullest glory down to Calvary’s depth of woe.”
We sometimes sing a little hymn that always stirs the heart. I remember hearing Dr. Torrey say he believed of all the hymns that were used in his meetings around the world, it was the one that seemed to be most blessed of God to the people. It is:
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
But that hymn never had the appeal it ought to have for my own heart until one day I found myself changing that chorus. I was thinking of Him who though He was
. . . in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
He surrendered all,
He surrendered all,
All for me, my blessed Savior,
He surrendered all.
And then my heart said, “O Lord, it will be easy to sing it the other way now, for what have I to give up, to surrender, in comparison with what Thou didst give up in order to redeem my guilty soul from going down to the pit?” It is as you and I realize from day to day what it all meant to Him that we can bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. Dying day by day to our own hopes and ambitions, dying to the good opinion of people, dying to human praise and adulation, to everything that the natural heart grasps, dying in the death of Jesus to it all, because He died for us in order that “the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our body.”
You will notice that in 2 Corinthians 4, verses 10 and 11 are very much alike, and yet the great difference is this: verse 10 suggests something that we do deliberately, consciously, whereas verse 11 is something that God does for us. What is it we are called upon to do? “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus”—reminding ourselves every day that Jesus died for us, “bearing about in the body” and because He died for us, we are gladly to put ourselves in the place of death for Him.
Looking back to the Cross, the apostle Paul could say:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
But this has to be put into practice daily by putting my tastes and ambitions in the place of death. That is my part. But here is God’s part:
We which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11)
You tell God that you are willing to take the place of death with Christ, and He will see that it is made good; you tell God you are going to trust Him, and He will test your faith and show you what it means to trust Him; you tell Him that you are ready to surrender everything to Him, and He will put you in the place where you will begin to find out what full surrender really means. I do not know of anything that it seems should have such an appeal to the Christian heart along this line as the frequent remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ in His death, and I think it is because He realized it is so easy for us to forget that He said to His disciples when He gave them this memorial feast,
This do in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)
And the Holy Spirit said:
As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
Every time we are called upon thus to remember the Lord, it is a new challenge to ask ourselves, “Am I simply remembering Him in a cold, formal, intellectual way because it is customary, or am I truly in my heart remembering the One who went down beneath the dark waters of death for me, and am I truly ready now to always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus?”
What a poor thing it is to come together in assemblies to participate in the communion of the Lord’s Supper and then go out from the building and forget what it all really means, forget that our Savior died, that we are linked up with the One who died, and that He has left us an example that we should follow His steps—that is, we should always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. This seems to me to be linked very intimately with several Old Testament references to which our attention is drawn in Hebrews 11. We read:
By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. (Hebrews 11:22)
Did you ever stop and ask why the Holy Spirit selected that particular incident to dwell upon? He has instanced something that you and I would probably have passed over altogether. What did Joseph do? “Gave commandment concerning his bones.” In Genesis 50:25, we read where Joseph, talking to the children of Israel, says:
God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
That is the close of Genesis. What an odd way to close the book! But God wants us to think about the bones of Joseph. They are there in a coffin in Egypt, but they are to be carried to Canaan.
In Exodus 13, we find that the children of Israel who have been sheltered by the blood of the Passover lamb are starting out for Canaan, and we read:
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you. (Exodus 13:19)
Who was Joseph? He was the savior of Israel. If it had not been for him, they had all been destroyed in the famine, but he was their savior, and now he says, “When you leave Egypt to go to Canaan, you carry my bones with you.” When they left, they were very careful to do as they were told, and all the way across the sands of the desert wherever that great caravan went, they were always bearing about in the body the dying of Joseph.
I think I see that great procession winding its way up over the hills; and the Amalekites and the Midianites looking at them in wonder say, “What is that strange dark casket?”
Presently, they call an Israelite and ask him, and he says, “We were once in greatest distress; if God had not had mercy upon us we would have been left to die, but He raised up a savior for us, one of our own people; his name was Joseph and he delivered us; Joseph saved us. But our savior died, and we are marching on to the land that our God has given us, and until we get there, we carry with us the memorial of death, the bones of Joseph. We can never forget him; he died, but we have the memorials still.” And by-and-by when they reached the land, when they arrived at the place that God Himself had selected for them, we are told that after everything else was properly attended to,
The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph. (Joshua 24:32)
There was no need to carry the bones of Joseph through the wilderness any more, for they were at home now. And, beloved, you and I are passing on through the wilderness of this world, we will soon be at Home, but until we reach there, we are called upon to bear about in the body the dying of Jesus, and as we remember Him in the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup, we should challenge our own hearts: Are we simply looking objectively toward that Cross and saying, “There our Savior died,” or are we seeking day by day to practically make it manifest that His death means more to us than all that this world glories in?
To order copies of Broken Vessels for Christ, click here.
NEW BOOKLET: FREEMASONRY: A Revealing Look at the Spiritual Side by Carl Teichrib is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of FREEMASONRY: A Revealing Look at the Spiritual Side, click here.
By Carl Teichrib
Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. . . . Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any. (Isaiah 44:6,8)
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.—Jesus (Revelation 22:13)
Warning bells sounded in my head. What have you been accused of? The setting was simple; a near-empty restaurant in a sleepy prairie town with two respected community members across the table. I knew what they wanted: my involvement in a local organization, for I had been approached numerous times about joining. As an energetic young man in my mid-20s and very involved in the community, I was a perfect candidate . . . so I was told.
Similar to other conversations, it was evident my dinner hosts were trying to explain something without actually telling me anything. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, but never getting to the point; it was a sales pitch cloaked in ambiguity.
It would be beneficial for you to join, I was told. We make good men better, I was promised. They waxed on about a legacy, doing good work, and having a sense of camaraderie, and the importance of regular meetings. And it all took place in the “building-with-no-windows.”
More meetings? Between family, church, and a host of activities attached to my workplace, my life was busy enough without adding more. Yet these men believed it would be important for me to become a Freemason. So I listened to repetitious non-explanations and interjected where I could.
“Is your group political?” I asked, knowing the answer from previous chats. No.
“Ok, then what are you about?” My query was an open door.
Chairs shifted as they glanced at each other and then back to me. The silence was palpable. And then the hammer dropped.
“We’re not Satanists.” It was said so matter-of-factually, as if it were a normal response when at a loss for something to say. But for me, it was as if a lightening bolt had been shot through a dense fog. Where did this come from?
The thought had never entered my mind, and there was nothing I could correlate this statement to. I was stunned.
Were my dinner colleagues trying to dispel rumors or alleviate fears—but of what? Why say something so outrageous?
In retrospect, they were probably acting preemptively. The year was 1991, before the public had access to the Internet, and television documentaries on the subject were unheard of. If fears of rumors existed, it didn’t stem from the information battleground we experience today. Rather, my board members would have likely viewed it as emanating from a church context. This was what they were probably trying to dispel.
Compelled by the Satan-bomb to find out what the Lodge was about, but not wanting to join, I determined to obtain their rituals and philosophical texts. Books examining and critiquing the Lodge had already been published, but I didn’t know this at the time. What I did know was that a body of internal literature existed. Thus began a quest to collect the texts and materials of the Lodge. Along the way, I talked with current Masons, probed into community archives, and studied the subject.
Freemasonry has long been called a secret society. But this is a misnomer. Properly defined, a secret society is an organization that intentionally remains unknown to all outside of the closed group. Not so with the Lodge. Its existence and the location of its buildings are public knowledge. Moreover, the Craft’s internal secrets of recognition—its grips, signs, and symbols—have long been publicly circulated. Likewise with its ritualistic texts, constitutions and monitors, handbooks and memorization aids, commentaries, encyclopedias, works of history and jurisprudence, and the writings of its scholars and philosophers.
Foster Bailey, who was a Masonic lecturer and the National Secretary of the Theosophical Society, made this statement:
There is little that is not known today about the Masonic work, and nothing that cannot be discovered by anyone who diligently seeks it.1
Others have said similar things.
However, hints of a deeper reality—a spiritual interest—cannot be overlooked. Bernard E. Jones’ Freemasons’ Guide and Compendium points to religious underpinnings.2 And Bailey’s book, The Spirit of Masonry, is devoted to the spiritual endeavor pulsing within the Craft. Others have asserted similar connections between religious philosophy and Freemasonry.
This spiritual association is a point of contention within the Lodge itself. Is it essentially religious and spiritual in nature, or is it something else?
Upfront, it must be noted that Masonry does not have an authoritative text to offer clarification in the way many religions and some ideologies do. Using religion as a comparison, Christianity has the Old and New Testament, Judaism the Torah and Talmud, Islam the Quran, and Hinduism builds on the Vedas. But a Masonic scriptural authority does not exist. Grand Lodge constitutions and monitors offer an official look into the workings of the Lodge, including duties and principles and explanations—with references to the “Great Architect of the Universe” and the Bible—but they lack deeper analysis.
Where does the Mason receive knowledge of the Craft’s meaning? Primarily from three sources: Grand Lodge constitutions and monitors, the writings of Masonic philosophers, and the individual’s experiences within the Lodge. Personally gleaning from his own observations and study, the Mason legitimately asserts that every man interprets Freemasonry in his own way.
Herein we have a dilemma: The claims of Freemasonry are many and diverse from within the Brotherhood itself. Regarding spirituality, two conflicting positions are often encountered:
The Craft is only a beneficial and benign society, a place for good deeds and self-improvement. It is a moral society.
Good deeds and moral lessons are part of the experience, but the Craft carries a deeper spiritual meaning and religiously oriented message.
How will we know what the Craft is about if, after hearing opposing sides from the Brotherhood, we discover everything is subjective?
This leads to an observation I’ve made when discussing this religious-spiritual identity problem with Freemasons: Local Masons and the visible voice of the Lodge, public announcements and openly distributed literature, inevitably proclaim the first position—it is a moral and benevolent body with no religious or spiritual meaning.
Conversely, men who have achieved significant stature within the organization, such as a Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, or who are recognized as noted philosophers or historians within the Craft, are quicker to admit the second position.
Returning to the subjective nature of interpretation, that it rests upon individual observations and study, I was compelled to accept this ruling. I chose, therefore, to interpret the Craft through the second group and not the local Mason whose experience has been narrower. While experience plays an important role in shaping that person’s understanding of the Lodge as an individual, it has little bearing on deciphering the broader meaning and purpose of the Craft.
Manly P. Hall, arguably one of the most important Masonic thinkers of the last century, recognized the divide within Freemasonry:
In fact, there are actually blocs among the brethren who would divorce Masonry from both philosophy and religion at all cost. If, however, we search the writings of eminent Masons, we find a unanimity of viewpoint, namely, that Masonry is a religious and philosophical body.3
To discover the philosophical and spiritual fabric of Freemasonry, we must turn to the voices that have shaped it and who have invested their lives in its application.
—In Their Own Words—
Henry C. Clausen, Clausen’s Commentaries on Morals and Dogma (The Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, USA, 1974)—
[T]he One Supreme God has been known by many names to many races of men. The Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Medes and Persians, the Hebrew Kabalists, the Druids and Norsemen, the Brahmans, the Moslems, the Buddhists and the North American Indians all believed in God as the One Supreme Ruler and Creator of the Universe. This belief, held by the earliest guilds of operative masonry nearly six thousand years ago, is the same belief held by modern Freemasonry today. (p. 161)
Melvin M. Johnson, Universality of Freemasonry (The Masonic Service Association, 1957)—
Masonry is not Christian; nor is it Mohammedan nor Jewish nor to be classified by the name of any other sect. The power which has held it together, the chemical which has caused its growth, the central doctrine which makes it unique, is the opportunity it affords men of every faith, happily to kneel together at the same Altar, each in worship of the God he reveres, under the universal name of Great Architect of the Universe. (Forward)
[Regarding religious universalism] Thus, and thus only, can we furnish to the world at large a common base upon which all civilized mankind may unite. (p. 10)
Joseph Fort Newton, The Builders: A Story and Study of Masonry (The Torch Press, 1914/1916)—
It is true that Masonry is not a religion, but it is Religion, a worship in which all good men may unite, that each may share the faith of all. (p. 250-251)
Albert G. Mackey, A Text Book of Masonic Jurisprudence (Redding and Company, 1859)—
Masonry requires only a belief in the Supreme Architect of the universe. . . . Masons are only expected to be of that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves . . . the Christian and the Jew, the Mohammedan and the Brahmin, are permitted to unite around our common altar, and Masonry becomes, in practice as well as in theory, universal. The truth is, that Masonry is undoubtedly a religious institution—its religion being of that universal kind in which all men agree, and which, handed down through a long succession of ages, from that ancient priesthood who first taught it, embraced the great tenets of the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. (pp. 95-96)
Allen E. Roberts, The Craft and Its Symbols: Opening the Door to Masonic Symbolism (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1974)—
Freemasonry calls God “The Great Architect of the Universe.” This is the Freemason’s special name for God, because He is universal. He belongs to all men regardless of their religious persuasion. All wise men acknowledge His authority. In his private devotions a Mason will pray to Jehovah, Mohammed, Allah, Jesus, or the Deity of his choice. In a Masonic Lodge, however, the Mason will find the name of his Deity within the Great Architect of the Universe. (p. 6)
Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (The Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction, A.A.S.R. USA, 1871/1944)—
The Holy Bible, Square, and Compasses, are not only styled the Great Lights of Masonry, but they are also technically called the Furniture of the Lodge . . . The Bible is an indispensable part of the furniture of a Christian Lodge, only because it is the sacred book of the Christian religion. The Hebrew Pentateuch in a Hebrew Lodge, and the Koran in a Mohammedan one, belong on the Altar; and one of these, and the Square and Compass, properly understood, are the Great Lights by which a Mason must walk and work. (p. 11)
Masonry, around whose altars the Christian, the Hebrew, the Moslem, the Brahmin, the followers of Confucius and Zoroaster, can assemble as brethren and unite in prayer to the one God who is above all the Baalim. (p. 226)
[Masonry] reverences all the great reformers. It sees in Moses, the Lawgiver of the Jews, in Confucius and Zoroaster, in Jesus of Nazareth, and in the Arabian Iconoclast, Great Teachers of Morality, and Eminent Reformers, if no more: and allows every brother of the Order to assign to each such higher and even Divine Character as his Creed and Truth require.
Thus Masonry disbelieves no truth, and teaches unbelief in no creed, except so far as such creed may lower its lofty estimate of the Deity. (p. 525)
Manly P. Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1923/1954). Note: Hall wrote this before becoming a Mason. After joining, Hall ascended to become a recognized authority within the Craft—
No true Mason is creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer. He worships at every shrine, bows before every altar, whether in temple, mosque or cathedral, realizing with his truer understanding the oneness of all spiritual truth . . . No true Mason can be narrow, for his Lodge is the divine expression of all broadness. (p. 65)
Foster Bailey, The Spirit of Freemasonry (Lucis Trust, 1957/1996)—
Is it not possible from a contemplation of this side of Masonic teaching that it may provide all that is necessary for the formulation of a universal religion? May it not be true, as has been said, that if all religions and Scriptures were blotted out and only Masonry were left in the world we could still recover the great plan of salvation? Most earnestly should all true Masons consider the point . . .
The study of this position will reveal to any earnest Mason that if Masonry is ever to achieve this ideal it will be impossible for him to be against any man or any religion. He will be for all true seekers and light, no matter what their race or creed. (p. 109)
Allen E. Roberts, The Craft and Its Symbols: Opening the Door to Masonic Symbolism (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1974)—
[Regarding the Entered Apprentice Degree] You have entered a new world. Symbolically and spiritually you have been reborn. This started the moment you were prepared to become a Freemason. (p. 3)
W.L. Wilmshurst, The Meaning of Masonry (Gramercy Books, 1980)—
The Ceremony of our first degree, then, is a swift and comprehensive portrayal of the entrance of all men into, first, physical life, and second, into spiritual life; and as we extend congratulations when a child is born into the world, so also we receive with acclamation the candidate for Masonry who, symbolically, is seeking his spiritual rebirth. (p. 35)
Henry C. Clausen, Emergence of the Mystical (Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 1981)—
[S]cience and religion will be welded into a unified exponent of an overriding spiritual power . . . The theme in essence is that the revelations of Eastern mysticism and the discoveries of modern science support the Masonic and Scottish Rite beliefs and teachings. (p. xi)
Science and philosophy, especially when linked through mysticism, have yet to conquer ignorance and superstition. Victory, however, appears on the horizon. Laboratory and library, science and philosophy . . .outstanding technicians and theologians are now uniting as advocates of man’s unique quality, his immortal soul and ever expanding soul.” (p. 92).
Manly P. Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1923/1954)—
Yet if the so-called secrets of Freemasonry were shouted from the housetops, the Fraternity would be absolutely safe; for certain spiritual qualities are necessary before the real Masonic secrets can be understood by the brethren themselves. (p. 69)
Foster Bailey, The Spirit of Freemasonry (Lucis Trust, 1957/1996)—
Masonry is a quest. Not a material quest, but a spiritual quest, a mystic quest. Not only an individual quest, although as individuals we strive to learn and achieve, but basically a group quest. (p. 122)
George H. Steinmetz, The Royal Arch: Its Hidden Meaning (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1946)—
“Here is the PRINCIPAL SECRET of Royal Arch Masonry, or for that mater, ALL MASONRY. The supreme fact concerning man’s being. That the physical and mental are but passing phases of his evolution toward perfection, that basically and intrinsically he is inherently and OF NECESSITY, if he actually be in the image and likeness of his Creator, ESSENTIALLY A SPIRITUAL BEING!” (p. 73, capitals in original)
The Secret of Human Ascension
W. L. Wilmshurst, The Meaning of Masonry (Gramercy Books, 1980)—
[I]t is clear, therefore, that from grade to grade the candidate is being led from an old to an entirely new quality of life. He begins his Masonic career as the natural man; he ends it by becoming through its discipline, a regenerated perfected man. To attain this transmutation, this metamorphosis of himself, he is taught first to purify and subdue his sensual nature; then to purify and develop his mental nature; and finally, by utter surrender of his old life and losing his soul to save it, he rises from the dead a Master, a just man made perfect. (p. 46)
This—the evolution of man into superman—was always the purpose of the ancient Mysteries, and the real purpose behind modern Masonry is, not the social and charitable purpose to which so much attention is paid, but the expediting of the spiritual evolution of those who aspire to perfect their own nature and transform it into a more god-like quality. And this is a definite science, a royal art. (p. 47)
George H. Steinmetz, The Royal Arch: Its Hidden Meaning (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1946)—
[W]hen the Master of the Lodge has completed his term of office, the square, emblematic of the COMPLETE MAN is taken from him and he is presented the jewel of a Past Master, a compass open to sixty degrees, symbol of the PERFECT MAN. This is placed upon a quadrant to emphasize the thirty degrees which he has progressed from the ninety degree right angle of the square to the sixty degree angle of the equilateral triangle, of which the compasses are but a substitute. It is symbolic of his ‘REBIRTH’ on the spiritual plane. (pp. 54-55, capitals in original)
MAN IS IMPELLED TOWARD PERFECTION! There is that within man—his inner-most divinity—which informs him of the possibility of attaining completeness of being and urges him on to strive for that attainment. (p. 84, capitals in original)
[Regarding the Royal Arch symbolism] Constant, repetitious reminder that man is divine and that the place to seek that divinity is WITHIN HIMSELF! (p. 123, capitals in original)
Foster Bailey, The Spirit of Masonry (Lucis Trust, 1957/1996)—
Masonry, therefore, is not only a system of morality, inculcating the highest ethics through which result, if followed, the conscious unfolding of divinity, but it is also a great dramatic presentation of regeneration. It portrays the recovery of man’s hidden divinity and it bringing forth into the light; it pictures the raising of man from his fallen estate to Heaven, and it demonstrates, through which is enacted in the work of the lodge, the power to achieve perfection latent in every man. (p. 105)
J.D. Buck, Mystic Masonry and the Greater Mysteries of Antiquity (Regan Publishing, 1925)—
It is far more important that men should strive to become Christs than that they should believe that Jesus was Christ. If the Christ-state can be attained by but one human being during the whole evolution of the race, then the evolution of man is a farce and human perfection an impossibility… Jesus is no less Divine because all men may reach the same Divine perfection. (p. 62)
Manly P. Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1923/1954)—
Man is a god in the making, and as in the mystic myths of Egypt, on the potter’s wheel he is being molded. When his light shines out to lift and preserve all things, he receives the triple crown of godhood, and joins that throng of Master Masons who, in their robes of Blue and Gold, are seeking to dispel the darkness of night with the triple light of the Masonic Lodge. (p. 92)
Wrestling with the issue of Masonry, religion, and spirituality reveals two important points:
It demonstrates that the Lodge and its teachings represent much more than just “making good men better,” and that this statement is a type of window-dressing obscuring the bigger spiritual picture.
The Christian man, that is, the person who holds to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and His grace and mercy—the gift of salvation by faith and not by works, “that any man should boast”—finds himself in contradiction to the secretive-spiritual teachings of the Craft; that man can attain perfection and obtain divinity through the works (rituals and degrees) of the Lodge.
Perfection in the Lodge
The use of the word “perfection” is found throughout Freemasonry. For example, in the Scottish Rite, the combined degrees of 4 to 14 are called the “Lodge of Perfection,” and Degree 5 is labeled “Perfect Master.”
Henry C. Clausen, the former Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council (1969-1985), Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, provides commentary on the fifth degree. Notice the connection between what we create—the works of our hands and what we do—and the subsequent attainment of immortality and our highest spiritual enlightenment:
The setting and symbolic color for this Degree remind us that while we die in sin we may revive in virtue. We therefore always should act with regard to justice, equity, honesty and integrity and reaffirm our abiding belief in the immortality of the soul. Thus, we symbolically raise the departed from the coffin and place him at the holy altar as a Perfect Master . . . The universe is created continually. As we participate in the process we partake of the Creator—the Divine of God. This participation as co-Creator is itself a form of man’s immortality regardless of whether, as we believe, his spirit survives the body. We exist and create. Being greater than self is man’s true destiny, dignity and grandeur.
Man’s will to believe in something greater than self is the springboard from which we can touch the Divine. Talk with men of faith. Read the books that tell of spiritual achievements. Meditate as you gaze at the stars of the first magnitude. Then you, too, may attain that conclusive spiritual revelation which is the highest human development.4
When the Mason enters the 14th level of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, he has attained the degree of the Perfect Elu, or the Grand Elect Perfect and Sublime Mason in the Canadian division. Speaking to this degree, Clausen tells us:
We press on toward the unattainable, yet more nearly approaching perfect truth . . . Our future well-being depends on how we perform in this life.5
Albert Pike, who was Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction for 32 years starting in 1859 and had a hand in writing the Scottish Rite rituals, provides some philosophical background to the 14th degree:
[Masonry] is the universal, eternal, immutable religion, such as God planted it in the heart of universal humanity. No creed has ever been long-lived that was not built on this foundation. It is the base, and they are the superstructure . . . The ministers of this religion are all Masons who comprehend it and are devoted to it; its sacrifices to God are good works, the sacrifices of the base and disorderly passions, the offering up of self-interest on the altar of humanity, and perpetual efforts to attain to all the moral perfection of which man is capable.6
Many other instances of perfection crop up in the family of Masonic societies. In the Egyptian Rite, we find the Rite of Perfect Initiates, in the Irish branch, we discover the Perfect Irish Master, and in the Order of Noachites, we find the Perfect Prussian. In Rennes, France, there existed a Lodge of Perfect Union, and in 1754, a Masonic oriented lodge was set up in the College of Jesuits of Clermont, in Paris, known as the Rite of Perfection. In Germany, the degree of Perfection was the last in the now-defunct Rite of Fessler. Moreover, when Adam Weishaupt formed his independent body—known as the Order of Illuminati at Bavaria—it was first called the Perfectionists.7
Today, a number of Masonic lodges have “perfection” in their name. In Calgary, Alberta, you can find Perfection Lodge #9. Perfection Lodge #75 is in New Westminster, British Columbia. Jacksonville, Florida is home to Perfection Lodge #11, and Perfection Lodge can be found in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Going beyond the naming of lodges, Masonic symbolism speaks to something more ubiquitous within the Craft. Here, symbols meant to convey perfection and perfectibility are found across the Masonic landscape. One example is the rough and perfect Ashlar: A stone block which is first unfinished, and then, through the work of Freemasonry, emerges perfect and ready for use. Historian Albert Mackey describes it this way.
The Rough Ashlar, or stone in its rude and unpolished condition, in emblematic of man in his natural state—ignorant, uncultivated, and vicious. But when education has exerted its wholesome influence in expanding his intellect, restraining his passions, and purifying his life, he then is represented by the Perfect Ashlar, which, under the skillful hands of the workmen, has been smoothed, and squared, and fitted for its place in the building.8
The non-Mason is the Rough Ashlar, but once he enters the Lodge and is shaped by the rituals and educated in Masonic philosophy, this individual is made new and perfected in the task of what is called the “Great Work.” Sometimes the ashlar is pictured as a single stone being hewn or chiseled, but more often it’s two stones side-by-side: the rough and the perfect. The Masonic Trestle Board too is symbolic of perfection. Allen E. Roberts tells us in The Craft and Its Symbols:
The Trestle Board, used by the master workman to draw his designs upon, is a symbol of perfection. It is symbolically a spiritual board on which a man should lay out his plans to build his ‘living stones’ into a Temple to the Great Architect of the Universe.9
Other symbols employed in Freemasonry have a meaning of perfection, including the square and compass, the jewel of the York Rite’s Past Master, the Equilateral Triangle, the level and the plumb, the ruler with 24 divisions, and the Lambskin Apron worn by all men of the Lodge. George H. Steinmetz reminds the Masonic traveler:
All the symbology of Freemasonry depicts man’s journey back to his lost perfection is intended to assist him to accelerate his progress by teaching him how to more quickly accomplish his purpose.10
So what is this “perfection” that the Craft speaks so much about? It is the attempt through good works, rituals and obligations, and Masonic education to be spiritually perfected through one’s own striving. This is spiritual alchemy: the attempt to transform one’s spiritual imperfection through the science of mysticism and thus be re-forged as a new and perfected being.
Henry C. Clausen explains:
If you follow the true path of Scottish Rite perfection, with an unshakable faith in a Supreme power, you will go from the darkness of slavery into the dazzling, holy light of freedom.11
The Scottish Rite teaches its members how to spell “God” with the right blocks. That truly is the great relevance of Scottish Rite Masonry in the modern world. We teach our initiates there are available for the mind of man vast spiritual forces, vital spiritual powers.
Similarly, we in the Scottish Rite can find in our inner selves a refuge from external distractions and evils, just as peace and quiet are found at the eye of a hurricane. There the sun shines and birds fly. Put your trust in your own inherent capacities.
Buddha attained his own enlightenment and said to his followers: “Be a lamp unto your own feet; do not seek outside yourself.”12
Chalmers I. Paton, in his book Freemasonry: Its Symbolism, Religious Nature and Law of Perfection, tells us that:
Freemasonry itself is symbolic of the highest possible perfection of mankind, and to this its great aim is to contribute; with a view to this object all its teachings are framed.13
J.D. Buck put it this way:
It is far more important that men should strive to become Christs than that they should believe that Jesus was Christ. . . . Jesus is no less Divine because all men may reach the same Divine perfection.14
For the Christian, we know through God’s Word that we are incapable of saving or perfecting ourselves: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Furthermore, Psalm 14 tells us that there is no one who does good, that all mankind is together corrupt, and that all have turned aside from God. Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us; “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, sinneth not.”
Scripture informs us that we must be perfect, yet that we are incapable of such a lofty goal. In Matthew 5, we find the standard for perfection, Jesus Christ, telling us we too must be perfect, “even as your Father, which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). How is this possible?
Hebrews 10 informs us that Jesus Christ, as both the High Priest and sacrificial Lamb, completed this task of perfecting on our behalf—making us holy before God: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
Consider the wonderful words of Ephesians 2:4-10:
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Also, consider how the apostle Paul relates perfection and Jesus Christ in his letter to the Philippians. Here, Paul recognizes that his Savior is the one who perfects, and that Paul himself must continue the race as a believer, knowing that Christ Jesus is He who completes everything.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
When we examine the Lodge and explore its mystical quest to achieve perfection, and contrast this to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we realize that a fork in the road is before us: Either trust Jesus Christ as the one who perfects and finishes or attempt to achieve the impossible—perfect ourselves. For the Mason, he must perfect himself.
The man, therefore, who joins Freemasonry under the pretense that “we make good men better” places himself in a most difficult position where man is ascribed to be God and thereby able to perfect himself through his own efforts. We have, in effect, another gospel that excludes the Cross and leaves man to seek after his own devices. Hence, the souls of all involved may be imperiled by a human method that cannot save.
While this book is just an introduction to the inner spiritual workings of Freemasonry, I believe it provides enough information to show that Scripture runs counter to the ideas of the Lodge and Freemasonry, which seeks mystical perfection through its own works, making it an avenue that delivers the antithesis of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
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1.Foster Bailey, The Spirit of Masonry (London, UK: Lucis Press, 1957/1996), p. 77.
2. Bernard E. Jones, Freemason’s Guide and Compendium (Cumberland House), p. 282.
3. Manly P. Hall, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy (Philosophical Research Society, 1929/1984), p. 434.
4. Henry C. Clausen, Clausen’s Commentaries on Morals and Dogma (The Supreme Council, 33, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, USA, 1974), pp. 24-26. Note: page 25 is a full-page color picture, thus the text flows from pages 24 to 26.
5. Ibid., p. 71.
6. Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (The Supreme Council, 33, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, USA, 1871/1944), p. 219.
7. For the list of “perfect” rites and lodges, see Albert G. Mackey, An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Volume II (The Masonic History Company, 1925), pp. 554-555.
8. Albert Mackey, An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Volume I, p. 81.
9. Allen E. Roberts, The Craft and Its Symbols: Opening the Door to Masonic Symbols (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1974), p. 35.
10. George H. Steinmetz, The Royal Arch: Its Hidden Meaning (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1946), p. 53.
11. Henry C. Clausen, Emergence of the Mystical (The Supreme Council, 33, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, USA, 1981), p. 82.
12. Ibid., pp. 76-77.
13. Chalmers I. Paton, Freemasonry: Its Symbolism, Religious Nature and Law of Perfection (Reeves and Turner, 1873), p. 1.
14. J.D. Buck, Mystic Masonry and the Greater Mysteries of Antiquity (Regan Publishing, 1925), p. 62.
To order copies of FREEMASONRY: A Revealing Look at the Spiritual Side, click here.