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more light #345

Oaths And James

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

There is so much false information being circulated about Freemasonry it is important for Freemasons, their friends, families, and loved ones to be able to know the truth about what they may hear about Freemasonry and Freemasons.

This issue of Mehr Licht has to do with one of the favorite charges of the anti-Masonic movement; it was posted in the comments section of one of the You Tube Masonic Education Videos we have at here is the comment I’m referring to: “Freemasonry is satanic. Just look at the rituals. You can’t swear an oath to freemasonry and be a Christian at the same time. See James 5:12” [I corrected some of the spelling for ease of reading.]

I wanted to write an answer to this comment in Mehr Licht instead of in the You Tube Comments section, as I have been doing in the past, because I think the questions and comments and the answers to them should be seen by the widest audience possible. In addition Freemasons should not, and do not, shy away from questions and comments about Freemasonry.

The person who posted the above (the poster) gave no identity, such as gender or faith tradition; however, since scripture from the New Testament is mentioned I will proceed from there. This is what James, the writer of James 5:12, says: “Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

This same theme about oaths is found in Matthew 5: 33 – 37 Jesus is quoted as saying: “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes’ or “No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” NRSV

One of the commentaries from a Study Bible may be of interest to you. The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible has this to say about Matthew 5:34: “But I say unto you, swear not at all”. ‘This should not be understood in the strictest sense, as though it was not lawful to take an oath upon any occasion, in an affair of moment, in a solemn serious manner, and in the name of God; which may be safely done: but of rash swearing, about trivial matters.’[i] [Paraphrased]

In this scripture the meaning is that many people of those days did not consider a promise binding unless it was supported by an oath.[ii] It is interesting, when we pursue this idea of swearing to a statement or promise we read in the Authorized Version of the New Testament many instances where Jesus adds to his Yea or Nay by the use of the word Verily, which according to the Oxford English Dictionary was a word frequently used as an emphatic affirmation of the truth of a statement.

Also in Hebrews 5:6 and 7:17 the New Testament Paul tells us that Jesus is to be a Priest in the order of Melchizedek and in 7:20 through verse 24 when speaking of Jesus being made a Priest in the order of Melchizedek: “And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind; you are a priest forever.”[iii]

My purpose in writing about this is not to attempt to poke holes in scripture, but to shed some light on the meaning behind the words in the scriptures: Sometimes scripture is used by some people, (even though well meaning,) to dissuade a Christian from becoming a petitioner, or for an established Mason to quit the fraternity, because they are told the Masonic oath is evil or wrong. I think the learned Mason should be able to speak up and not only tell, but show, that taking an oath in a solemn engagement is not wrong at all – and far from evil.

Brother Jim Tresner, in the booklet “Conscience and The Craft” answers the question; “Can a Christian take the vows or obligations of a Mason? Brother Tresner wrote: “Yes, with the exception of a very few denominations. If a Christian belongs to a denomination which forbids all vows, such as the Oath of Office of the President of the United States or the common oath of the law courts, ‘I solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the Truth, so help me God,’ then he probably could not take the obligation. Any Christian whose denomination does not forbid the Presidential or the court oath, or the oath taken when entering the Armed Services could take the Masonic obligations. Some anti-Masonic writers have complained about the so-called ‘penalties’ in the Masonic obligations. Those penalties are purely symbolic and refer to the pain, despair and horror which any honest man should feel at the thought that he had violated his own word.”

Brother Tresner’s answer to the question points out the truth of part of the slogan we have in Minnesota; “Freemasonry, It’s Not For Everyone.” Here is the entire slogan:

“Political Freedom, Religious Tolerance, Personal Integrity; Freemasonry – it’s not for everyone.”

There are many examples that could be cited to illustrate that the oath we Freemasons have taken does not conflict with Christianity, but I’m not sure any more than what I have shown is necessary now. I will say that studying the Bible is one of the best things a person can do; and using a study bible definitely helps clear up some things that one may wonder about.

Be confident that there is nothing wrong in or with Freemasonry; there is nothing to be ashamed of, or to hide from our houses of worship; and nothing to apologize for. Also you should know that any legitimate charge against Freemasonry and Freemasons can be understood and explained honestly and truthfully. Any attack about Freemasonry not being compatible with Christianity is not true, and we can prove it.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014