Glittering Follies (superficially attractive foolishness)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Notes from the Fourth Teaching Session: “Why? Secret Societies”, Grace Community Church on May 28, 2012 by Rev. R. Wesley Tink



Text:  2 Corinthians 6:14-18;
Introduction:
  • At Grace Community Church of the Nazarene we hold a clear position on secret societies; “We hold specifically that the following practices should be avoided: Membership in oath-bound secret orders or societies. The quasi-religious nature of such organizations dilutes the Christian’s commitment, and their secrecy contravenes the Christian’s open witness. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 7:1; Ephesians 5:11-16; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17; from Church of the Nazarene Manual, 34.3). We believe that secret societies are an unnecessary and even  detrimental choice for the individual and that Christians who are serious about their faith and living in the power and holiness of God should avoid any participation in them.
  • The teaching lesson below presents support for why we hold this perspective.  We do not believe that this perspective is at the absolute core of our Christian faith, such as belief in Jesus Christ as God-incarnate or that salvation is in Christ’s person alone.  However, we do believe that a person’s participation in secret societies is within the realm of personal choices which have a great impact on the quality of Christian life and witness.  At Grace Community Church we are not seeking to build distracted or compromising disciples for Jesus Christ. Rather, we are seeking to build strong, open and bold followers of Jesus Christ who are able to effectively influence others personally and through the Church of Jesus Christ.  As such, participation in secret societies is a distraction that undermines godly influence and directs hope and trust in organizations that do not ultimately point to Jesus Christ.
  • Christians are called by God to be a holy people (e.g., Leviticus 11:451 Peter 1:15) which means in part that we can live in freedom and joy delivered from the things of the world.  One way of experiencing that freedom and joy is by not participating in organizations  that involve pledges, oaths and bonding that do not have Jesus Christ at the core.
  • While God calls us to be a free and holy people, none of us arrive that way when we sense God drawing us to Himself.  Instead, we are sinners in need of a Savior.  We are steeped in patterns and habits that would destroy us if left to ourselves.  If that is your story, we welcome you to read and study this material.  We also welcome to contact our pastors or visit Grace Community Church because together we can move toward the freedom, joy and grace that God has for each person.  May that be your reality!
Main Teaching:
  • God has designed us for fellowship and community!  We really do need each other.  Together, human beings can accomplish things that would be unthinkable otherwise.  Forming into collectives and groups is a normal and basic part of human life.  Groups may range from 2 or 3 people meeting once a month for the joy of collecting and sharing stamps, to a whole nation, such as 330 million Americans united at least by geography and chronology.  While many of these groups are not adverse or incompatible with biblical teaching and Christian ideals, some of them are.  It is imperative that Christians research, know and participate only with groups that do not contravene biblical and Christian values.
  • Definitions: “Secret Societies” includes a vast array of groups with widely divergent goals and methods:  Mafia;  drug cartels such as Juárez Cartel; groups dedicated to oppressing and excluding others such as the Klu Klux Klan; gangs such as Bloods, Crips, MS-13; some fraternities-sororities such as Skull & Bones; Freemasons, Knights Templar, Golden Dawn, Illuminati, Rosicrucians, Shriners.  This would also include religious organizations with secret and exclusionary overtones such as “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” There is no suggestion here that these all have a moral equivalency.  Some of these secret groups have been formed for essentially evil purposes, some purportedly formed for good purposes.  Some have brought much violence and suffering to the world, some have been highly charitable and have brought much good to the world  as well as alleviation to suffering.  What does unite them all is the secrecy factor and, in many cases, a quasi-religious nature through pledges, oaths, rituals and spiritual bonding.  Since the Freemasons, it’s variations and descendants have been the largest, most durable and global of these secret societies, it is the primary focus of this article.
  • Under the oppressive early days of Roman rule, the Christian Church could be construed as a “secret society.”  That remains true in more than 40 nations today where to be a Christian openly is to invite persecution and imprisonment.  But for a Christian, it is the Bible and the teaching and person of Jesus Christ which is the standard, the benchmark, the reference point from which all else it to discerned and assessed.  In light of that, the worthiness of every other secret society must be determined by the Bible and by Christ.  The degree to which an organization aligns with biblical and historic Christian teaching and practice informs us whether participation in that organization is suitable or not.  The degree to which an organization diverges from biblical and historic Christian teaching and practice informs us that it is to be avoided.  It is important to realize that virtually every organization and secret society seeks to present a positive image at some level.  Even the Mafia and drug cartels are often doing generous philanthropic investments and good works for some segments of the community.  It is vital that Christians research well any organization before the begin involvement in it.
  • When a Christian involved in an organization and becomes more informed and then aware of serious divergences from biblical and historic Christian teachings and practices, it is vital that they maintain their Christian witness, speak truth, and, when necessary, remove themselves from participation.  As a striking example, in Nazi Germany there may have been good and godly people that may have affiliated at an early point with the movement.  However, as they became aware of the evil aims and practices of Naziism and how those diverge from biblical teachings and Christ’s ethic of love, a true disciple of Jesus Christ would have exerted their Christian witness by speaking truth, distancing themselves from Nazi practice and implementing Christian alternatives.  The Confessing Movement, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Oskar Schindler are among the examples of those who applied Christian principles.
  • There are also times when good organizations–including non-secret societies–drift far away from godly principles.  When this happens, Christians must remain true to biblical teaching and make the hard and courageous decisions regarding participation and support.
  • In the following list of reason presented, it is the Freemasonry family of secret societies that is particularly in mind (including, but not limited to, Masonic Lodge, Grand Lodge of Scotland, Ireland, England, Prince Hall, Shriners, etc.);
  • This following list is informed by and constructed from a wide range of sources, particularly writings by people who are either in, or have been in, the various forms of Freemasonry
“Why?”  Specific reasons why at Grace Community Church we  advise people to avoid secret societies:
  • Secret societies deny that the Bible is the unique and authoritative word of God;

  • Secret societies deny that the Bible is the only text necessary for understanding God’s plan of salvation;

  • Secret societies deny that the Bible is the only text that fully gives insight on the God’s plan for human spiritual growth, sanctification and fulfilling God’s will;

  • Secret societies utilize images and passages from the Bible thereby appearing to be in harmony with the Bible, but often do not employ these images and passages in accordance with orthodox Christian understanding;

  • Secret societies perpetuate the ancient gnostic heresy that that salvation is through knowledge available only to their participants;

  • Secret societies often affirm a higher power or a divine force, but they resist or reject the divinity and uniqueness of Jesus Christ;

  • Secret societies may affirm a higher power or a divine force, but they resist or reject the truth that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone;

  • Secret societies further the religious pluralistic perception that there is no ultimate truth, it doesn’t matter so much what you believe, as long as you believe;

  • Secret societies tend present a “meta-ecclesiastical” understanding, inferring a superiority to any specific church;

  • Secret societies, while professing openness to the member’s individual belief, do not necessarily affirm, align with and support that belief;

  • Secret societies build an infrastructure that withhold from the participants the true objectives for prolonged periods of involvement;

  • Secret societies create spirit of pride based upon human accomplishment;

  • Secret societies hold a “works salvation” that emphasizes a person’s power to effect and achieve their own redemption;

  • Secret societies place salvation in the arena of man’s effort rather than the free gift of God through Jesus Christ;

  • Secret societies do not perform any good function that could not also be performed in and through the true Church of the Jesus Christ;

  • Secret societies present an illusion that distracts from the one organization that God has created—His Church.  Jesus said, “I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). 

  • Secret societies sap energy and resources from the Church of Jesus Christ in directions that are not eternally effective;

  • Secret societies are by invitation only unlike Christian faith which is available to every person.  Jesus says, “…whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37) and “Come unto me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), also “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

  • Secret societies tend to build a homogeneity demographic which historically has excluded people by race or gender;

Concluding Remarks: 
  • There is a better way.  We are called by God to seek the better way.   Committing to a semi-religious organization that does not affirm Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is a distraction from eternal goals and values;
  • There is an attractiveness to joining a secret society.   Virtually everyone wants to belong to groups and there is the added benefit of being “in the know”—knowing what others do not know.  A secret society sounds much more compelling than “going to Church,” especially for men.  On the surface, there may seem good and worthy reasons to join: continuing a family tradition, affiliating with other people of apparent quality and class, personal advancement in career, morality or leadership, being involved in positive community ventures and acts of charity.

  • It is the nature of a secret society that one does not know what they are getting into until they have been well immersed into it.   Why would a Christian join a voluntary organization that will not tell you what it is about until you have participated for years?  Why would a Christian join an organization that does not welcome everyone?  Why would a Christian be part of a society that does has religious words and symbols but does not clearly honor the specific teaching and Person of the Lord Jesus Christ?    Dwight L. Moody said, “I do not see how any Christian….can go into secret lodges with unbelievers. They say they can have more influence for good: but I say they can have more influence for good by staying out of them, and reproving their evil deeds. Abraham had more influence for good in Sodom than Lot had…..I would rather have ten members who are separated from the world than a thousand such members. Better one with God than a thousand without Him.”

  • Perhaps you are in such an organization.  You are likely a good, moral, virtuous, honorable, hardworking member of society.   Is there anything of value in your society that cannot also be achieved in and through the true Church of Jesus Christ?  His church comes in many different denomination and with many “para-church” organizations doing good work in the community.  Wouldn’t it be better to plant both of your feet squarely in what is clearly the Kingdom of Jesus Christ?
  • God has designed you for community.  He invites you to completely join His Church—the organization He has established. While imperfect, it is by far the greatest organization in the world for teaching and accomplishing God’s will and purposes.  It is God’s one and only plan for bringing the Gospel and Christ’s love to the world. Perhaps you are already part of a believing, Christ-centered church.  Are you in “with both feet?”  Do you see great consistency between the Bible and your secret society?  We know God has called you to the Church, can you truly say He has called you into a secret society or what that your own choice?
  • If you are seeking a better way in relation to the communities you are part of—or not part of—we welcome you to contact us and we will work with you for the loving fellowship that God has for you.  Be in community…..God’s way!

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