This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.
Why should Christians avoid membership in secret societies such as the Masons?
The nature of secret societies is completely contrary to Christian belief. The Bible is an open book inviting all who will, to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (Rev. 22:17). Anyone inquiring into membership in the family of God can investigate, ask questions, read the inspired handbook (the Bible), and make a decision for Christ fully knowing what the cost and consequences of the action will be.
In stark contrast, a secret society welcomes only a restricted number into membership, into the secret oaths and ceremonies, and into the activities of the society. Members of secret orders often compare their organization with the fellowship of believers in a local church. But a secret society is quite different from a church in that it is elitist in nature rather than inclusive. Unlike a church it does not extend its fellowship to any and all persons desiring to identify with the organization, its principles and practices.
Article IX of the Assemblies of God Bylaws includes an entire section on advising against membership in secret orders. The stated reasons for urging credentialed ministers to refrain from belonging to secret orders and for encouraging lay persons to avoid involvement with such orders can be summarized as follows:
- The activities of secret orders demand time and energy that divert the servant of the Lord from efforts to fulfill the Great Commission.
- The binding loyalty to fellow members of the secret society—many of whom are not fellow believers in Jesus Christ and His saving work—is an unworthy joining together of believers with unbelievers.
- The spirit, philosophy, and general influence of secret orders channel activities toward improving only the natural part of humankind instead of changing the heart of the spiritual being.
- Commitment to secret orders and their teachings leads one to a wrong emphasis on salvation through good works and improving society.
The Assemblies of God is not the only church group to have great concerns about secret orders. The largest Christian church in the world does not allow Masons to partake of communion and declares that participation in Masonry is a sin. This stance has grown out of major historic conflict between Masons and that church. Seeking to dispel this negative image, Masons often maintain that there is nothing in their Masonic oaths or obligations that would interfere with duty to God, country, or neighbor. But the historical record proves otherwise. No allegiance can come before one’s allegiance to God.
Secret societies are in conflict with the teachings of Holy Scripture. A Christian must never affiliate with any organization that 1) yokes together believers with unbelievers in unholy alliances (2 Cor. 6:14-18); 2) requires a pledge to unscriptural oaths which are sealed by using the name of God improperly or in vain (Ex. 20:7, Lev. 5:4-6, Matt. 5:34-37, James 5:12); 3) represents itself as providing teaching in harmony with the Bible when in fact it does not (2 Peter 3:16); 4) represents itself as being religious and offers a false hope of salvation through works, yet dishonors the only true God and our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3, 1 Tim. 2:3-6, Col. 2:8-10, Eph. 2:8,9).
The Christian should "be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody" (Rom. 12:17). Secretively meeting behind closed doors in a "lodge" where activities are carried on behind a cloak of secrecy, in favor of fellow members, usually for economic, social, or political advantage hardly describes doing what is right in the eyes of everybody. "Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord" (2 Cor. 6:17). This is God’s advice for Christians and is certainly applicable in regard to secret societies.
Since the statement in the Assemblies of God bylaws on Secret Orders does not mention any organization by name, some have felt that their involvement in Masonry is not what the statement is about. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the original statement was drafted primarily because of concerns about Freemasonry. However, the official statement and the above reaffirmation apply not just to one organization, but to all organizations that make secrecy and oaths a part of their operation.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching. The official delineation of this position is found in the Assemblies of God Bylaws, Article IX, Part B, Section 4 "Membership in Secret Orders."
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.