Question: "Should a Christian be a member of a secret society?"
Answer: As with any question of proper inclination and conduct, a Christian must first have laid down a solid foundation of principles based on God’s wisdom through His Spirit (John 14:26; 16:13–14; 1 John 5:6) and His Word (Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:16–17). This concept is especially important when a Christian considers joining a secret society. The term secret society is often controversial and incendiary, much like the word cult. Those belonging to what most would categorize as a secret society often deny their organization is just that. With this in view, it is important to define what a secret society is.
Alan Axelrod, author of the International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders, defines a secret society as an organization that is highly exclusive, claims to be the purveyor of special secrets, and has a membership that is strongly inclined toward one another.
David V. Barrett, in Secret Societies: From the Ancient and Arcane to the Modern and Clandestine, lists these characteristics:
• It has “carefully graded and progressed teachings”
• Teachings are “available only to selected individuals”
• Teachings lead to “hidden (and ‘unique’) truths”
• Truths bring “personal benefits beyond the reach and even the understanding of the uninitiated”
So, secret societies (such as Freemasonry) are organizations that are exclusive to their members, keep certain “truths” from outsiders, and often, through teaching and rituals, promote a hierarchy of progression its members strive to attain—ostensibly to improve themselves and society at large.
Secret societies pose a number of problems for a believer. First, the very concept of a secret society is extra-biblical at best, and anti-biblical at worst. The Bible sets no precedent that encourages joining an organization marked by secrecy and “hidden truth.” God never commands it, and there are no examples of godly men in Scripture who joined one.
Some tend to relate secret societies to the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem temple, a place where access was forbidden to anyone except the high priest—and he could only enter on one day a year. But there is no true relation. Although only the high priest could enter the Holiest Place, everyone knew what he did while there. He performed no secret rituals or rites. Everything he did was laid out in the Law of Moses. Any suggested similarities between the Holy of Holies and various secret societies are extra-biblical contrivances, and they do not follow God’s prescription for pleasing Him.
Before joining a secret society, a Christian should ask 1) what are they hiding? and 2) why are they hiding it? There are many resources put together by former members of secret societies that can answer these questions truthfully. It would be wise to consult those as well.
Research of the various known secret societies will uncover some common themes, including practices and symbols from ancient Egypt. This fact alone should be enough to steer away any Christian. Egypt in ancient times was known for pharaoh-worship and dedication to various false gods. Some secret societies seek to strip new members of all established notions about their lives and philosophies in order to rebuild them as more “enlightened” beings. This practice is also dangerous.
Death is also a common narrative in secret societies. Anything that embraces or heavily relies on death as a theme is inappropriate. Death is the enemy (1 Corinthians 5:16). God gives us life (John 3:16; 1 John 5:11), and everything godly promotes life.
Further, Christ commanded His followers to be a light in the world. We are not to hide our personal development in darkness (Matthew 5:14–16). Light exposes things in the dark, and light is even used to describe God (1 John 1:5). Darkness signifies sin and death (John 3:19).
Also, on a practical scale, membership in a secret society can easily sow seeds of distrust of outsiders and can cause strained relationships. This is counter-productive to a chosen people who are commanded to make disciples of men (Matthew 28:19). Indeed, why would a Christian take the time to learn all the intricacies of a new philosophy when God has given us His Word and His Spirit? Christians should not take time away from biblically based spiritual endeavors.
Finally, secret societies concentrate on self-fulfillment and improvement, rather than love for the One True God and love for others. God’s Word, the power of His Spirit, and the fellowship of other believers are within the scope of His design to draw us closer to Him and to each other.