A Word on
THE B 0 N D A G E 0 F F R E E M A S 0 N R Y
and allied liberties against the faith, including a spectrum of religions
Fine works are available on this topic of freemasonry, such as CHRIST OR THE LODGE, published by Great Commission Publications, originally put out on behalf of Westminster Theological Seminary of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.
This seminary presented a copy to me at the time of my graduation. Again, Hannah's
Christian by Degrees, and the later, DARKNESS VISIBLE, asking whether freemasonry be
friend or foe ... supplies no uncertain answer to the question.
A few pertinent points may now be supplied to any interested reader.
1. When Pastor of a New Zealand Presbyterian Church, I had occasion to challenge the Session Clerk, a medical specialist who seemed a reasonable man. Pointing out that there is no such thing as that which WILL not come into the light, and yet which is right (John 3:21, I John 1:5‑6), 1 sought an outcome.
We were not discussing branches of government which ‑ in view of their own composition in wartime pursuits, may withhold items which, if revealed, might help the enemy. The battle would reveal their plans, though their overall intentions are clear; and in their office, they are open to each other. Rather we concern ourselves with systematic principles of light, found in a religion which is concerned to disseminate principles of light, in the light. That is Christianity; and of this, the Masonic work is the entire opposite. We are speaking, in the case of freemasonry, of spiritual secrecy in spiritual matters; indeed, of a general unwillingness to make visible and obvious what is in mind, to those who join.
What is to follow in advanced steps or 'degrees' is hidden from the early apprentice. Now since freemasonry is by nature a secret society which requires such things of its candidates as this: that they offer their torn out tongues to be buried in the place where the tide waters will wash over them, should they expose the secrets of this secretive society: it must fairly be acknowledged that it is not only emphatically but dramatically not in the light. It hides. It uses the shadows of intrinsic authority to keep away from even its own very often, in stealth, the nature of what it does. If that is 'coming into the light', then so is midnight noonday., It is at once therefore scripturally condemned. Therefore, at once it is excluded from the path of the Christian. What the Bible condemns is not for the Christian; and hence no Christian should enter it.
Any endeavour therefore to cover over rebellion, in entering freemasonry, with the whitewash of 'ignorance' will not do. Systematic darkness is explicitly forbidden in the Bible, and you must come into the light to show that your deeds are of it. Moreover, you must test all things, and darkness is not so good for testing what you therefore do not see! (I Thessalonians 5:21).
A Scotch College science teacher once put the matter adroitly and relayed the occurrence to the author. On this topic, he related the following. Once approached to join freemasonry, he replied: What's in it ? If you want me to buy a car, I ask, What's in it ? So here, I need to know what you are offering, or what it is to which you invite me.
Now the man approaching him apparently then noted to him that this or that person was a member of the freemasonry group. I did not, returned the teacher, ask ‑ Who's in it ? What I said was this: WHAT'S IN IT ?
This, then, was the general thrust of the way he treated his invitation to join. As with a car, if the seller did not tell him what was in it, he would not buy!
Now this is simple common sense; but it is more. There is the breach of the word of Christ in coming into what does not come into the light ‑ that is, into what abides in the dark. IF it is not in the light, THEN it is in darkness, says Christ. To darkness then does the follower of Christ consign him/herself ? The question scarcely needs to be answered for those who hear Christ's word: WALK WHILE YOU HAVE THE LIGHT, LEST DARKNESS OVERTAKES YOU; HE WHO WALKS IN DARKNESS DOES NOT MOW WHERE HE IS GOING (John 12:36).
Further, it would be DISLOYALTY to Christ. If HE, the Lord, insists on the light, declaring openly what He is about, what all need to know, where man is from, how he is to go, where he is to proceed and if He, exposing Himself even on the Cross to the deluges of human darkness in the incandescence of His public opening even of His veins to the sword: then will His 'followers' proceed they know not where! Will they be led by mysteries which would AT THE OUTSET have him seek membership, or entrance, unknown, leading to who knows what, in what principles, with what message ?
Will they indeed do this in such a way as that of the Heirloom Masonic Bible of 1964, published in Wichita, Kansas ? On p. 10, it puts it as follows:
"Of his own freewill and accord he petitions the Lodge, and seeks admission that he may begin his search for the Light, the light of divine Truth."
The apostle John exulted (I John 1:1‑7) ‑
"If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanses us from all sin";
and again, in John 9 we read, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world", and again we find this: " I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of light" ‑ John 8:12. How then will believers in THIS SAME JESUS look into something other than He for light, when He already is it, is it definitively and gives it to His! How will they SEARCH for the light which he has already found ? how will he ALLOW the name of Christ to be so trampled upon, that he dare speak of search with those who are not by name Christians, a body which is other than this, so that they are there to bring him to the light! It would be like Australians in World War II, asking to join a Japanese society in order to find what the correct way was in seeking a solution for the South Pacific! WHERE CHRIST is the light, it is only insult, offence and betrayal to talk of finding it under some other name, for there is no other name given to men, under heaven, by which they must be saved, and the Saviour is THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD! (Acts 4:11-12).
Or should they look in the secrecy of darkness to find the light which Christ has already given, with such astounding freedom (Luke 12:36) and abundance!
2. What of this then ? If one is wholly sold to Christ, if He has altogether bought one, then is one not one of His ? Is one then free for the whole carnal pottage and mulch of psychology and sin which would find strategic or other value in disobeying Him ? Would one sin in principle and rebel in essence ? Or would one thus reason:
If I am wholly sold to Christ, then as His I have no rights, no options, no future and no present which is not already a present to Him. Thus I am never free to 'give' any part of my being or my actions or any assurance to obey any other law, person, power or society, except where it accords with His will and commands. Wholehearted loyalty CANNOT be given to two independent parties, since as Christ put it, in Matthew 6:24:
"No man can serve two masters:
for either he will hate the one, and love the other;
or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other."
If then a secret society want me to give them open cheque on what I will or will not do in the future (such as never reveal secrets about to be shown in the various masonic degrees and so, as is the case), it is obviously in collision with Christ: biblically, it an adulterous act spiritually, making me a mere reek of reality, a false swearer as if to turn me into a depraved man of deceit.
How wholly serve one and donate unknown elements to another ? Is this better than Baal ? or than those who feared God and served other gods (II Kings 17:23)? Is it not for such things Israel reeled ? I will surely not so sorely tempt the Lord or sacrifice my commitment to Christ.
a man wallow in the folly noted in Revelation 2:14 ? he might also ask, if
he knew what was coming in later steps in the 'craft' . 'Baal' means lord, and
there is ONLY one, whatever may be the desires of the paramour 'lord', who like
some adulterer, seeks the heart of the one already committed to another
'husband', even the Lord (Isaiah 54:5): "For your
Maker is your husband, even the LORD of hosts."
There is but one, and the Christian knows that it is He who became flesh, whom Thomas worshipped, saying to Him, "My Lord and my God," literally, "the God of me"! There is ONE LORD, ONE GOD, ONE FAITH (Ephesians 4:4). If then a person wants two, he wants what is not there; and if someone wants ONE Lord, then it is Christ; and if he has Christ, then what honours Him does EVERYTHING IN HIS NAME (Colossians 3:17), and Freemasonry is very far from this.
Such a coming to freemasonry is therefore an adventure into another advent, another religion, embracing much, damaging to the Lord, contemptuous of the one truth which He declared Himself to me. NO ONE comes to the Father but by Me! John 14:6, He declared. You are His ? Then follow Him. You will not follow Him ? then you are not His (Luke 14:33). You must forsake all that you have to be His disciple, and you CANNOT be so unless you do, He there declares. Freemasonry is one of those things!
Will I invite the force of Revelations 2:16,so richly deserved in such a case ? The pertinence of this will be perceived in point 3 below
Such considerations should at once save any man from the abomination of entering masonry or the rebellion of continuance in it. In the case of the Session Clerk noted, he acknowledged at once that he would have to leave it.
3. But if neither common sense, nor the command of Christ, nor loyalty to Christ mean anything ‑ and what then after all is the use, for where then is Christianity, which Presbyterianism in particular, is to supposed to uphold, not replace ... yet there is more. If superabundance might seem a burden, how much more freemasonry in members !!
In one of the masonic degree exposed by Hannah comes the interesting and often noted (for many masons have left and not been dumb thereafter), and the last of the reference works noted at the outset, shows how freely such materials may be found ), appears the JB0 approach to Gad. This, it appears to be a combination.
Jehovah, Baal and Osiris: Syria with Egypt, Egypt with Jerusalem. Quite a syncretic mixture is this, just as was the case in Israel, in its worst days of old (cf. II Kings 16:3-4, 10ff). It is not bad, eh ? Elijah it is true, would not approve. Jehovah would disagree. SO why should not a 20th century Presbyterian or other member in some historic Protestant denomination based on biblical grounds, mix his gods ?
It is chic ? Is that it then ? It is the act of the spiritual savant ? It is original ? It is worthy of a monarch (and this is not an idle question, for monarchs indeed have been involved) ? It is, as some have claimed for Anglicanism (rather glibly, in view of the long-established Prayer Book which for generations was in that Church, and came so near its first times), an exceedingly 'broad' approach. Now if Presbyterianism at its best, in line with its origins, is remarkable for a measure of tolerance for its people, lest it merely dictate, and insists that there is to be nothing bound except what the word of God, the Bible, clearly binds, and for spiritual maturity, then perhaps it too could mix the drinks here ?
Do you not see how the hoped-for virtues of a body can be twisted so to become its halter, or even noose ? Pride goes before a fall, and where BIBLICAL care lest one impose, becomes unbiblical indifference, lest one's wings be cut, then there is perversion of purity indeed.
Certainly, some may say, let us fly freely away as we will, and why not! True there is only one God; but why stick with Him ? It is just that little word 'Lord', and that big word, 'Jesus Christ'. As the truth, He is exclusive and excludes what either excludes Him or joins Him to what is other than He. NO MAN... EXCEPT BY ME, I AM THE TRUTH. These are His words. Truth has, by its very nature, to be exclusive of error; for otherwise it would not be true.
Why stick to Him ? the vagrant ask. The liberals did not.
This is certainly true of the liberals, those who would make the scriptures of God, the playthings of man, and combine them as they liked. You cannot do that even to the words of a Commanding Officer; and yet it is to be done to God ? If there is faith, this is not an option. If there is not, then the world is your swimming pool: it has nothing to do with Christ (cf. John 14:30-31). With the prince of this world, Christ declares, He has nothing to do, and that one has NOTHING IN HIM! SInce here we are discussing the walk of the Christian, that is as final as any other consideration.
As J. Gresham Machen so well pointed out in his CHRISTIANITY OR LIBERALISM, the liberal mentality assuredly did depart from the living God. Its basis and its procedure alike, knew no Lord who had revealed Himself definitively, but toyed with cultures, philandered with philosophies, and made foundations of human wisdom, witless of the truth.
Why should not a new generation of rescued Presbyterians show a liberty like that of many of their fathers, like the lion of apostasy, that very church in the early 1970s ? some might ask. Was not a new Christ introduced at Ormond College earlier (one which led eventually to the evacuation of the author from that body), one who COULD not know that He would rise from the dead in precisely three days, since philosophy declared that such was not in His power! How readily do men machine their gods, ignoring the testimony of the word of God, alone valid in the midst of warring words and empty visions! (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 - 7, SMR Chs. 1, 3, 5-6, TMR Ch. 5), and alone verified in the turmoils of history (cf. SMR Chs. 8 - 9).
Perhaps such a new generation in this or that land or denomination may do such a thing, but this does nothing to alter the case against such liberties with the Lord, but merely indicates that such Presbyterians would in such cases become like the other sects*1 and sinuosities, never satisfied with the word of God, interested in the words which proceed out of their own mouths, as was the express declaration of those who, rejecting the declaration in the Lord's name, of the prophet Jeremiah, took him with them, but left the word of God rebelliously behind (Jeremiah 44:17).
If a new Christ was made in such a place, why not more gods ? Assuredly. Why not now a series of gods ? No reason at all. if blasphemy is its nourishment, deceit its staple diet, and mockery and folly its very dignity and the essence of its being. After all, for harlots, harlotry (Ezekiel 16,23 makes this point very vividly, using harlotry of the spirit, as an index from the better known variety, to induce a sense of appalling shame)! It is just that for Christians, it is out...
The whole book of Hosea makes the point in the most graphic of fashions, the prophet literally marrying a harlot, by divine direction, in order to show the fashion of the spiritual apostasy, which like an adulteress physically, the nation had followed, in spirit! vexing the Lord, through its combinations of its own culture, that of others and the wayward ways it discovered about itself in the world. Alas, with an Anglican Primate telling that it is not necessary to come to God through Christ, other avenues avail; and the Lutheran body in SA CELEBRATING the rapprochement with Rome, and the Uniting Church authorising homosexual pastors in a way which may lead to thousands leaving, and has led to the talk of it, there is a medley of false association. Freemasonry is merely one of the varieties of the thing. It is not for that reason any better.
Let us then be delighted if any formerly erring body, should repent (and SIN must be confessed, as Proverbs shows - 28:13, I John 1:7ff.). Yet merely to proceed without repentance is not enough. Then is the proud heart too well heeled, and the dysfunction of doctrine too little regarded.
It is now possible that some have repented of the 40 years in the wilderness that brought on the disgraceful schism that is called 'union' in the Presbyterian Church, which in the case of the branch which took most of it, the Uniting Church, has now led to such a departure from the word of God (cf. Section 19, above), that it is not too much to compare it to the use of the Statue of Liberty as a prison, if the contrast were applied to the political life of the USA. If so, let others repent now of their freemasonry and come clean with God ... the one God ... or are the 10 commandments too much of a burden ? Alas, frequently one finds that an evil like this is condemned (as occurred in the PCA), but that it is not enforced. That is the historic prelude to pollution which possesses.
Some may find that the topic is distasteful; but to face the unpleasant, whether in spiritual or
physical surgery, is better than later amputation! Some fear that discipline of any sort, including
this, or any endeavour to be practical about having biblical standards in a denomination, will split
the Church. Perhaps. That depends on the question whether the masons or liberals or neo
orthodox or other deviationists from the Bible, are Christians in anaesthesia or enemies of
the faith. That in turn is not too hard to put to the test, for as I John 3:9 makes so clear, what is
born of God does not make a practice of sin. To err is easy; to insist on the error is harder; and it
is insupportable except as rebellion which the Bible compares to witchcraft (cf. I Samuel 15:23 cf.
In the end, of this we may be sure ‑ if they are His, where as here the issues are declared, defined and clear, they shall not disobeying His commandments, whom they serve, by mere insistence and venturing on a career of disloyalty as their fruit; for if they will live that way, without repentance, then the Lord Himself challenges their love of Him; and if this is gone, how are they His (John 14:24; Corinthians 16:22). The Bible leaves no doubt on these points, and actually, a failure to ensure that the basic minima of scriptural obedience is given its place, making all allowance for the weakness of the flesh for a time, is merely to abandon health for sickness, like those who would REFUSE to put on masks, where SARS reigned!
In whatever church one is, therefore, it is not good to stay where they refuse as a body to
introduce that standard which is the Bible: it is not necessary to be harsh in order to keep clean,
and if one falls, it is not necessary to be unpleasant in restoring him/her; but where the desire is to
stay down, then the church staying upright, the parting of the ways must come. When repentance
appears, it is always possible in forgiveness and love, to receive the one who strayed, back again,
and to praise God if He was patient and turned the heart back again.
On the other hand, this is a matter of membership: people may freely come to hear the word of
God even if their ways are wrong.
4. Let us then return from the more the general look at straying, both individual and ecclesiastical, and consider freemasonry further.
If the Lord will not hold guiltless those who use His name in vain, what of ELDERS who misuse it, and lead others to do the same (cf. Ezekiel 8:10‑18)! Well does one remember, when a child, the case of an elder in our local church who wanted one year's leave of absence, in order to officiate in some lofty fashion in the freemasonry field!
Ezekiel gives the picture, for his own day, in what is exceedingly parallel with this (Ezekiel 8), on the way to the removal of the glory of the Lord from the temple (Ch. 10), and it is most poignant that the failure to regard biblical standards - which include patience and compassion but not pollution of the whole body as a sacrifice, when its health is the good of all - resulted in the loss of the entire nation into exile (Ezekiel 8:8-13).
If elders must be sound in doctrine (Titus 1:9‑16) what of this ? Is this sound that they should be masons or liberals or other radical divorcees from the marriage to the Lord ? Is then a church which retains such elders sound ? Most assuredly, it also is in rebellion. If the leaders mislead, and if the standards are so represented what are they ? It is time to ask. No mere hypocrisy of words will do. Action and obedience is required by James, and we had better hear him ( James 1:23, 2:20, 1:22, 2:10). It is of course perfectly satisfactory to Satan, if no action is wrought: but the action is not only of one kind. Remember that Peter, when he fell, was most delighted, after bitter contrition, to serve the Lord and be anointed and appointed for his special work (John 21).He was not however kept on in disobedience, but commissioned in repentance (cf. Luke 22:61-62).
If the object is to found a new religion, then such antics as retaining masonic or other radically divergent elders would fit. For a Christian church however such alliance is an acme of horror, a veritable communion with confusion. an arrogance of assault on the crucified One; and that in His own name! (cf. Matthew 7:21ff.). It would not be possible without supernatural aid, to overstate the case; and if the aid be His, then it will be an indictment indeed! Does not His own word say it - Jude, II Timothy 3:5 ?
A multiplicity of gods is the essence of disobedience, whether or not they be given one name, merey a further blasphemy against the name of the living God; and a multitude of permissions of pollution is the friend of folly, and it is precisely this appalling misuse of the divine name in the processes of formal religion minus actual relish and obedience, that is endlessly etched in the annals of Israel's own rebellion, whether seen in Kings, Jeremiah, Isaiah (esp. Ch. 1), Hosea or Ezekiel; and this charming conceptual chaos of Freemasonry, rich in numerous elements of rebellion historically recounted in Scripture as well as exposed in principle makes for another God and other shores and another destiny, just as Jude expressed it, and Paul depicts (cf. II Corinthians 11:4.)
Titus clearly indicates the procedure in Titus 3:10. It is a NO GO situation: either the church goes or the intrusion.
If an elder is confronted and does not repent, then it is Scripture he rejects, and on that ground alone, he is unfit for the eldership.
5. There is then the cohesion of freemasons in loyalty to one another in their common club aims. The author has met this, when a group offered to rebuild the pastorate in the N.Z. Church which was facing the aweful division based an one's insistence on the bodily resurrection.
Do not attack us, the masonic representatives said to me, in effect. and we will be at your side, and deliver you. Not so! Such an offer, though expressed with affection, and most appealing personally, could not in purity and obedience be accepted. Will one sell one's tongue for one's position ? or become a partial Christian, enslaved to spiritual pathology, in order the better to treat all ? Shall the men of God seek the aid of the ungodly, or give alliance with those who depart from the word ? (II Corinthians 6:14-16)! If the mason be a Christian, let the light instruct him. If not, let him frequent his choice.
Heaven forbid that one do business with such rebellion, when Christ's name is also used. It is not mere cowardice but rebellion, so to compromise. Such cohesion is an alternative to the fraternity in Christ. and thus a disruptive influence on His body (Ephesians 4:13‑17). People may choose their religion, but when they choose to combine what Christ condemns, and what confronts His own words, then those who choose to continue with them are not wise, for it is to join in amicability in spiritual rebellion (cf. I Corinthians 14:31).
6. Another little point is here: the practice of having a would‑be mason enter 'the craft' as it is sometimes called, via the blindfold technique, such as is common. This is interesting. What is then the position ? He comes publicly into the 'presence' of the masonic authorities through the removal of a blindfold, and as this occurs, or at this time, he is said to come from his darkness into the light of the 'Lodge'. As to this, at all events, it is the purport.
Thus, if he were allegedly a Christian, light would thus be found by coming from that darkness which is Christ ? How can you come from darkness, if it is the light of the world ? How come from darkness and into a light which is so bright (masonic) that Christ is so overshadowed as to be dark by comparison ? Those who do these things demean the Saviour; and those who do them for fun or advantage take God's' name in vain as well.
7. The Church which tolerates this heresy need not imagine it is safe from the fruits of the failures of Rome, and the other frauds of faith. The church which condemns the craft, but does not discipline its members in these terms (and discipline can be kind and gracious, as can be the cleaning of a hospital, but the result must be holiness), it is then itself at one with them. In biblical terms, it becomes a friend of filthy birds (Revelation 18:2), a participant in the outreaches of that Babylon, whose 'mystery' (Revelation 17) stands for just such a religious syncretism, combination, complex and ruin (cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 2). in ecclesiastical cages, concerned more for man than for the God of the Bible, the Lord of hosts, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is to be the fate of the Presbyterian Church, here and in the matter of lady elders ‑ clearly against Scripture ( cf. Acts 20:17,28 with I Timothy 2:12) ? Whilst the latter is another story. in the end the answer is the same (cf. I Timothy 2:13‑15). It is not enough that professors pled. What does the church DO ? If it freely connives with these evils, what shall be said of its doctrine, its system, its discipline, and indeed, its love of the Lord ? What has He said ? John 14:23 and 14:21 are eloquent. James is not less so ‑ 2:10. Hence Presbyterians, like Anglicans and Lutherans, and those in the sects, have to choose whether they will stay where for years disobedience has ruled, does rule and is now endemic, or whether they will return to biblical Christianity at whatever cost.
It is perhaps of no small interest to consider the introduction to the Masonic Edition Bible. A copy of this found its way to the office of one of the mission directors in my former American denomination, and he keenly retained it. He provided the author with an excerpt (and such a Bible has now also been personally inspected). The material is infinitely blasphemous. It speaks of the one Creator who is supposedly treated with reverence in different 'holy writ' ‑ of which the Koran ... and the Bible are enunerated as examples. The Koran of course is not holy but wholly Satanic, wresting from Christ, quite explicitly, what is His due (cf. Ezekiel 21:26‑27), at the instance of an antichrist by the name of Muhammad (cf. I John 2:22)., one of those whom Christ explicitly predicted (Matthew 24:5,11), and of a type of which He warned.
In this Masonic Bible introduction, streams of disciples, relating to the Bible or the Koran, to Christ or to Muhammad therefore, are spoken of as if proceeding to the same alleged God. They are thought of as tributaries pouring into the same alleged 'god', their divine destination, in this romance, for which the term 'God' is in view! That is infinite, entire and profound rejection of Jesus as the truth by whom alone God is to be found. It rejects the incarnation, just as it rejects the atonement, the redemption and the gift of eternal life. It could not be further removed from the work of God in Christ. (Cf. SMR pp. 1079-1082, More Marvels... Ch. 4).
Now it may indeed be true that much nominal Christianity that bears with such blasphemy and is tied to it will pour to the SAME destination; but since no man comes to the Father but by Christ (John 14:6), as He Himself attests, and this Masonic introduction alleges the contrary: WHICH destination is that ? What of a mixed company going TOGETHER, under auspices which Involve a reconstructed Christ, born of the mind of man, not of a virgin through incarnation, a figment of the imagination, divorced both from His historical epoch by several hundred years, and from Biblical truth, along with Muhammad, all very snugly and sympathetically ? The destination for such as thereby reject the Gospel is not heaven.
Some may be converted from such folly; some may misunderstand; some may be so grossly disorderly as to be somewhat ignorant, yet involved in such time-consuming fantasy: but the formal fact is that this is another gospel, and that Paul indicates in Galatians 1, that if any man preaches another gospel, that man is cursed (yes, indeed even if it were Paul himself, or an angel from heaven who did it!). Such is the authority and the finality of the truth.
Is it then wise for elders in any Presbyterian Church to be tied to infinite blasphemy; and would it seem SOUND DOCTRINE, such as is required of them by Paul, to be so implicated (I Timothy 3, Titus 1)? Infinite blasphemy associated with a cursed proclamation would not seem entirely the best preparation for the rejection of error and protection of the flock from it, and from the wolves which so readily assail it (Acts 20:28-30 and see News 43 on Jude) ...
How holy is the church which allows it ? How disciplined is the church which ... would merely teach this is amiss, and allow the matter PRACTICALLY to lapse ? How friendly would such things be to Christ? of what doctrine is such a body ? James is justly unimpressed with faith that has no legs (James 2:17).
The time for action is to be postponed; and snoozing is not spirituality. When the author's computer is receiving updates, sometimes the 'snooze' switch off for the virus protection agency, lest it interfere with the new material finding its way to the right place. While this is so, one is vulnerable to attack from outside sources, and so does not now allow an internet connection during such phases. The 'snooze' in spiritual things, however, is not therapy but default, and indeed it may already be too late in some churches! We in The Australian Bible Church, an independent Presbyterian Church, such by necessity not desire, for reasons given, could not consider, any more than did Westminster Theological Seminary, that Freemasonry is an option, for ANYONE seriously interested in Christianity, with any reasonable time to study the points: it is indeed as their booklet's title puts it: "CHRIST OR THE LODGE".
The world is full of error, and we are told to 'try the spirits' and to 'continue in His word' (I John 4:1ff., John 8:31, 15:7, Matthew 7:15ff.). This particular error is noted because it is often found IN ASSOCIATION with various churches, as is mistletoe with gum trees. False Christs and false religions are rife; it is necessary to walk at all times in the light, not swept by winds of idle doctrine (Ephesians 4:14), or as Isaiah puts it, to abide in the Lord and find that:
"WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE WILL BE THE STABILITY OF YOUR TIMES, AND STRENGTH OF SALVATION; THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS HIS TREASURE."
As to THAT Lord, it is ONE LORD (Ephesians 4:4), "THIS JESUS" and not some other 'Jesus' (Acts 1:11, 2:32, 36, II Corinthians 11:4,14), the One who was crucified, whom God has raised from the dead, to whom is given all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18), who requires this: that His people should have and teach and follow 'ALL THINGS THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU', adding, 'AND LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE.'
*1 See for example,
Things Old and New Chs. 9, 10 Epilogue, Appendix
(sects, politics and philosophies, their tedious, tortuous tapestries).
See for "New Age" nebulosities, SMR pp. 866ff., at Extension 2 and also, in its setting,
Highway to Hell.
For other ostensible but biblically reprehensible comrades in arms, contrary to
Christ, see SMR pp. 857ff.; and on Liberalism, and similar dissidences
see SMR 259-267, 362, 393, 429, 457ff., 475, 699ff., 857-884, 976ff. including this note.
The 976ff. reference deals also with false religions more generally, also relevant in Highway to Hell. For the former, be sure to take the next Section, available at the end of that file, also.
Buddhism in particular has an extended treatment in pp. 1011ff..
Moslem beliefs are covered extensively in the index , and especially in More Marvels ... Ch. 4.
See also SMR pp. 1080ff., 986ff., 1088Dff., 829ff.,
For the restlessness of an array of religious divergencies, sometimes cultural, sometimes
quasi-Christian in type, or heretical yawings, see Say of its Own, which also treats of rest,
including its day. On the latter, see 23 above.
32. THE BIBLE ... AND THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
It is good to think a little about what we believe... in terms of Confessions. The Church of Rome specialises in what that religious organisation thinks, even adding traditions on equal footing with the Bible, Canon Law and the like (cf. SMR pp. 981, 1088A). Since we may not add to God's word (Proverbs 30:6) that is pure folly (Mark 7:7ff.), making the candlestick part of the light!
However there are far subtler ways of doing this. Now take the Westminster Confession, surely one of the most chaste and careful creedal documents a church has ever produced; indeed, it was a multi~denominational national assemblage, which in turn drew not least from Scotland, that was at work for years, comparing, considering and formulating!
One of the most beautiful, if not indeed the best, feature of this lovable document is this: it has no great opinion of itself, or indeed of the work of any man, compared with the mighty and overwhelming inspiration with which the Bible was written. How far many branches of the Presbyterian Church, in particular that in USA and Australia, varied from this emphasis, is often exposed on this site, as it becomes relevant to the needs of readers to understand our times; and alas, it is by no means unusual among the larger denominations in this vagrancy and straying which it exhibited. But let us return to its much purer source, or elements of it, at the denominational level, in terms of this outstanding, and outstandingly humble Westminster Confession.
Thus it says, "All synods or councils since the apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as an help in both."
THAT is found in Ch XXXl, v. Indeed, NOTHING not demonstrable from the Bible is to be bound at all, and any such attitude is condemned, so that mere acceptance of a majority ruling is to make a machine out of the church. Demonstration is not probability! What God means is clear, and much of the difficulty which comes to many is just that they INSIST that what is not there in clarity and certainty, is to be assumed to be there. Let GOD do the putting, and let there be not probably there, as if He forgot what His brilliant little disciples find it necessary to advise. Inference is good if it is CERTAIN. Otherwise, as teaching, it becomes addition, or subtraction. In dealing with the word of God a certain modesty is necessary, as becomes the finite dealing with the infinite, and a certain boldness in its proclamation and defence, as becomes those called by One who is infinite to proclaim His word, as distinct from their own.
Now the Presbyterian Church of Australia a little
over a decade ago, made a sadly monumental
error *2: it REMOVED the liberty of conscience relative to details of the Westminster Confession's statements, which was BUILT INTO the creation of this Church in 1901, when it was said that in view of tender consciences, only the SUBSTANCE of the Confession would be required, the Church deciding on particular cases. Now this body has removed the whole category of liberty, breaking its foundational agreement. It has harassed the liberty conferred, on which the Union was conditional!
Worse, it has treated with apparent if not deliberate contempt the above‑quoted statement of the Westminster Confession which forbids JUST THAT : that is, the use of the product of any assembly as A STANDARD or RULE of faith. In so treating the Confession it has shown mere mockery of it.
A barren traditionalism can attach to almost anything; and indeed even the Bible can be mouthed without understanding.
Christ said: "You search
the Scriptures for in them you think you have
and these are they which testify of Me.
But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life" (John 5:39-40).
Here was error indeed, to use the tradition to come to the word which enshrined the knowledge of the Saviour, and His identikit of deeds and Person, and then, when He indubitably came and died on the date declared over half a millenium beforehand, NOT to come to Him, rather TALKING of the word of God, and not following it. Nowadays, some like the Pharisees of old, trust in traditions by which they stifle the word of God (make it "of no effect" as Christ put it), and others like the ancient scribes and Sadducees, move to divest it of its authority or its obvious teaching, and if you like, catcall it, with reverential expressions, as if in the very height of some comedy of Molière, such as Tartuffe, with however a little difference of atmosphere!
Let us return to John 5:39-40. If this stifling of the word of God by simply NOT DOING IT is horrendous, then how much worse is it when they teach for doctrine the commandments of men (Mark 7:7), so condemned by Christ!
However we need also to beware of the divisions and strifes coming from misled souls with the same old errors, spouted again and again, when so many of them have long ago been exposed by the Church of God over the centuries, by scholars just and mighty, reformers true and worthy (cf. SMR pp. 1032ff., and 1042ff., for the areas of error).
What then ? The Presbyterian Church of America, imperfect like all the rest and alas sadly moving astray (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 8), at perhaps a more leisurely pace than some, yet made one great contribution here. It is rather similar in a way to what the Presbyterian Church of Australia used to offer before it was largely strangled and subverted in the 1930s to the 1970s prior to the union; but in this respect the American Church's formulation is better, in that it is more precise.
The point in view ? In this body, of which the author was for decades a Minister before separation, we were required, at ordination, to accept that the SYSTEM OF DOCTRINE in the Westminster Confession contains that in the Bible. There is a wonderful beauty and order in the Westminster Confession's treatment of the system and plan of salvation; and that is one way to keep a minimal check; although of course we ALSO have to declare that the entire Bible is infallible, and this is the first and final word on doctrine, before which, as in the Confession and in the word of God itself (Matthew 5:17ff.), all must bow, and no point made be validly made, sustained or implemented by the Church. (The love of God to the lost is pre-systematic, as the system works without reference to its exact breadth, and as to that love of God for the lost that they might be saved, it is as broad as Colossians 1:19ff. makes it, namely for "all things", yes in heaven or on the earth cf. SMR Appendix B.)
This final point needs to be stressed: the love of God is not deeply treated in the Confession in such elements as you see in John 3:17, 1 Timothy 2:1‑3, Colossians 1:19‑23, John 15:22‑24. To cover this, the Presbyterian Church of Australia in the days of its strength, required the addition to the Confession of just this emphasis, that God is not willing that any should perish. Thus, the heart of God before all system is emphasised in accord with Scripture: the doom of darkness is DESPITE this!
With this said, we need to recognise the excellence of the work done on the plan of salvation in this Confession, and while always looking to the word of God itself for our understanding, realise how much of the truth here exposed is in eminent danger of being bypassed at the present time. In this respect, the Confession can serve as a valuable stimulant to a heart weary world, so long as it is not idolised, idolatrised or trivilialised as some sort of bludgeon, contrary to its own most excellent statement. See on this doctrinal area, also The Biblical Workman Ch. 8.
See The Biblical Workman,
Ch. 8, pp. 125ff.,
to which the hyperlink here points.
33. PASTOR AND ELDERSHIP:
The pastor is one of the agents whom the Lord uses in building up the church. His special work is spoken of in Ephesians 4:11. The same verse refers to 'teachers', and there is such a specialty in spiritual things; although the pastor must himself have this function. The term 'overseer' is used in Titus 1:7, of a superintendent, and the special gifts needed for this work are there listed. It is to be noted that at least TWO 'elders' (the term is plural in Titus 1:5) are needed in the spiritual unit, and having indicated this, Paul then speaks of the gifts of a superintendent. Is then EVERY elder to be a superintendent with these qualities ?
Not necessarily. We are dealing here with 'elders'; but 'the superintendent' ? ALL elders must be able to 'govern' (Romans 12:8). Thus, in Romans 12 the gift to govern and the gift to exhort and expound and teach are separated. Each with one such gift is to use it; but need all elders have the full number of these gifts ?
The term 'ruling elder' is widely used in Presbyterian circles in America to this day. It is a good one. There is such a thing as administering knowledgeably together with a good understanding of spiritual things. There is also such a thing as expounding the scripture, teaching and specialising in that sphere.
Need each elder be good at both, in a marked degree ?
Much turns on this: Does Paul's reference in Titus, which specifies ELDERS but speaks of 'the. SUPERINTENDENT' mean that there must be a plurality of elders, and that from such one is to be chosen to do the full work of the Christian ministry: the eldership being the BASE, and this a teaching, reaching prong from it ? HE speaks in the plural as a necessity for the church, in terms of elders, and in the singular for the superintendent. That is, the pastor and the administrators would all be elders, but only the pastor would specialise in WORD, as they in RULE. There would be a diversity WITHIN the superintendence. (The Greek has: the superintendent, incidentally, nothing about what is commonly thought of some elevated, authoritative, over-ruling 'bishop'.)
First then let us consider it further. Thus, the fact that Paul in Ephesians 4 SPEAKS specifically of a pastor in terms of an office, (in fact, an 'evangelist' is also an office), and in Romans 12 separates gifts of government from exhortation and proclamation, indicates that there is a certain distinctiveness to the pastor's work. Second, the example of Christ (John 10), in this respect merely emphasises the fact that sheep and a pastor go as one concept. He is all-containing in gifts, for the Spirit was with Him, the Son of the living God, naturally, without measure, just as His goings are from eternity (Micah 5:1-3, John 3:34).
Third, Timothy and Titus act in such capacities, although perhaps at times also as 'missionaries', and they did not act in pairs; while Paul apostolically, would happily act alone though he was usually to be found with an associate, like Titus, or Timothy, or a group as in Acts 20:1-12, or with Barnabus. Yet he could speak in very singular fashion (as in II Corinthians 13:5-10).
These things indicate a certain singularity in the work. On the other hand, the eldership in Titus is plural; and Paul in Acts 20:28 calls ALL the elders 'overseers'. In some sense they ALL superintend the work of the Church. Some are 'worthy of double honour', if they are skilled in the impartation of the word of God ( I Timothy 5:17). This does not mean some authoritarian folly (contrary of course to I Peter 5, where supervisors are NOT to be lords in dominion, but helpers of the joy of the saints), but it does signify that there is a specialisation which is to be sought, helped and looked for, in the midst of the eldership, in this region of the WORD of God and its ministry.
It is NOT an administrative superiority; it is purely a matter of comparative gift in the word of God, for service. NO division in status in the eldership is EVER given; only this in respect for function, in terms of the presentation with the word of God, by a skilled elder. 'Bishop' in the AV, is merely 'supervisor' in the Greek. ALL elders have this entitlement. NONE is given a superior oversight in the Bible.
In what sense however are the elders to be all one, and yet have specialisation ? In such a way, then, that they all act with a supervisory love, concern and skill, but have a specialised speaker‑teacher‑exhorter‑proclaimer‑preacher who MUST possess whatever is needed in these spheres, yet MUST exercise no lordship, just as ALL elders must abhor this, rather seeking to be helpers of joy (I Peter 5:1-3). Again, they must be able to exhort, rebuke with all authority, but NOT at the personal level, ONLY in terms of the word of God. ONE is your Master, said Christ: ALL you are brothers.
Should then the elders NOT need any power to teach, exhort, proclaim ? WHATEVER oversight requires, is required; and the minimum is AUTHORITY (the very term 'supervisors' in Acts 20:28 MEANS this, and it is applied to ALL the elders indiscriminately, from their various locations). They do not have degrees of such authority, but some only have a more developed gift in exposition, and defence. Independently of their mode or station, place or occupation in this world, they are ALL SUPERVISORS, as addressed there by Paul.
Authority, moderated and loving, is precisely what the elders have (cf. Hebrews 13:17, with I John 2:27), provided they keep to the word of God. This is so, whether in the generic supervisory capacity which Paul attributed to them, or in proclamation of the word of God, provided always, as in Nehemiah 8, that it is the sense of it that is correctly conveyed, not some authority of some little 'master' or 'maestro' who exercises his egotism in seeking pre-eminence (cf. the sad case of Diotrephes in III John, who "loves to have the pre-eminence" a sort of spiritual disease). They are to advance the kingdom, help in delivering from wolves, not to advance themselves!
THAT is why a woman CANNOT according to the Bible be an elder, exercising authority in oversight (I Timothy 2:12 cf. A Spiritual Potpourri Ch. 10). She may do any other task but this - and just as a man may not bear children, so a woman in the New Testament may not bear authority over men in ‑the Church‑ as all elders statedly do. Ladies may exhort, counsel and care; and there is more than enough of this needed. In teaching role in church, silence is required (I Timothy 2:9-12), because of history (I Tim. 2:11-15), not because of any current action at all. We must not add to the word of God. Nor is subtraction holy: thus a woman may indeed pray in a meeting of the Lord's people, provided it is not to determine with authority (I Corinthians 11:5). Paul is not saying how a woman should dress when doing what she cannot!
As to counsel, there is indeed a special gift in such areas; and the ladies may naturally exercise authority over the young when this is required of them. Crucially, they must never be foolish enough to construe a husband's authority in the house as sufficient for one moment to overthrow that of the Lord who gives it! What is commanded of a Christian, she must do, as anyone else; and what is forbidden, omit. There is the dignity of being a servant of the Lord, for one, for all who bear the name Christian, male or female, and each must stand before the Lord. Gender is no provision for breach of the word of God, by which all must stand, to which all must heed, from which none must err, for anyone or anything.
The LEAST an overseer may do is of course oversee! The MOST is exhort, proclaim, teach, preach and so forth. Jointly all this must be covered through the total of the oversight. Obviously if each elder can do more of the oversight, all the better; and clearly in order to oversee, the minimum requirement must also include SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING and competence to make routine expression in this pursuit. As to the mode of it, note Matthew 20:25-28:
Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the
But it shall
not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your
Not all however are operating like Stephen (who, incidentally, at death was simply a deacon, dealing with administration to meet need); and the gifts of some overseers may specialise in other areas of oversight, with the same parity that is supervision, undifferentiated as to administration in the Bible.
You may also notice in II Timothy 2:3‑26, the singular character of Paul's exhortation to Timothy. Nevertheless, even if you think of him as an apostolic delegate, it is still apparent that in a settled condition, he is acting with a supervisory distinctiveness relative to the proclamation and responsibilities of the gospel and the teaching of the word of God, one involving him in immense self-discipline and in correcting those who err "with humility" so that they may know the truth, while at the same time, being ready to exhort and rebuke (II Timothy 4:2, Titus 2:7-8). Even then, there is a company of elders, two the minimum, and to these is the authority given, with these immense restraints, moderations and disciplines OVER those who so use authority, so that the ONLY authority of which impact remains, is that of the Lord. No one else is specified, no should any such presume.