The term Holy Scriptures?

Discussion in 'Masonic Jurisprudence' started by rhitland, Jul 3, 2010.

  1. rhitland

    rhitland Founding Member Premium Member

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    We recently had a candidate that took his obligation on another book beside the bible and he had some question with the word scripture as a few other petitioners have had when filing out the petition so I became curious as to why the GL chose to use the term Holy Scriptures as it is universally associated with the bible which is not always easy to explain to non-Christians. Why was the wording Sacred Volume of Law not used or why is that question in there at all? I cannot find in our Ancient Charges that we have to swear belief in the divine authenticity of any book so why is that question there? The candidates that really put me on the spot about it I was forced to discuss what divine authenticity meant and how we interpret the word scripture and as cool as I am :laugh: those were tough moments that no Mason should have to go through in my opinion. Anywho, as I read into the law for further explanation on this I see even it has a little disclaimer under it after it uses the term Holy Scriptures. Has this been an issue for any of you and how do you handle it so not to end up in a religious discussion which is prohibited by GL law?

    Art. 397. (434). Religious Belief. A firm belief in the existence
    of God, the immortality of the soul, and the divine authenticity of the
    Holy Scriptures is indispensably necessary before a candidate can
    be initiated, but this Grand Lodge does not presume to prescribe any
    canonical books or what part thereof are inspired.
    It is the policy of
    this Grand Lodge to permit a candidate whose religious persuasion
    is based upon other than the Holy Bible to be obligated upon the
    book of his chosen faith, and same may be situated upon the Altar
    in front of the Holy Bible during the conferral of the three degrees of
    Masonry. In which event, all esoteric references to “The Holy Bibleâ€
    during the conferral of the degree(s) and the lessons appropriate
    thereto shall be substituted with “The Book of your (my) Faith.â€
     
  2. Huw

    Huw Guest

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    Hi Rhit.

    Over here in UGLE, we don't use the terms "Holy Scriptures" or "Bible". What we have done for the last two centuries is exactly what you suggest: we always refer in our rituals to the Volume of the Sacred Law or to the Sacred Volume, carefully avoiding saying which particular VSL we mean, in order that every Brother can interpret every reference as being to his own Book. (We then have an explanation in our Rules, but not in our ritual, saying that VSL means the Bible by default but also means whichever other Book applies for particular Candidates.)

    As to why you do it differently in GLoTX (and in the US generally), it's because when Thomas Smith-Webb wrote the version of ritual upon which most subsequent American work is based, his starting-point was William Preston's version of English ritual, which Preston wrote at a time when English freemasonry was still in the process of adapting itself to the then-new idea of admitting non-Christians, and therefore many explicitly-Christian references were still in the work from the earlier exclusively-Christian phase of freemasonry. A few years later, UGLE completed the task of replacing explicitly-Christian references with more universalist references, but Smith-Webb didn't do that and left the Christian content as it was. Hence you still have your references to the Bible, to the Sts. John, and so on, all of which we no longer have in UGLE.

    As a matter of general principle, I do think your work is outright wrong on this point: now that freemasonry is open to non-Christians, you should have replaced the explicitly-Christian references, as we did. I've never understood why American GLs failed to see through this task, and instead chose to keep using a half-finished adaptation. Perhaps the early American GLs were not really convinced that they wanted to cease being exclusively-Christian? However, obviously it's up to you.

    T & F,

    Huw
     
  3. JTM

    JTM "Just in case" Premium Member

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    got any references on that, Huw? good information.
     
  4. rhitland

    rhitland Founding Member Premium Member

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    What is the importance of this question in the first place?
    Sacred Volumes of Law are furniture of the lodge to symbolize His ability to reveal himself to us and our ability as well to perceive Him and His ways, which separates us from the beast of the field and the vultures of the air. But having to say a certain book is divinely authentic is very deeply a religious discussion and not able to be had in most Masonic Lodges without knocking the pillar down that holds up peace and harmony.
     
  5. mch4970

    mch4970 Premium Member

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    Rhitland, I had the exact same thought. At first, I wondered how a person who did not see his choice of book of his religion as being divinely authentic would pass this. I for one see it in this light....

    ...Considering the belief in a Deity, and that Deity as being divine.....Man's thoughts toward a Supreme Architect could be described as divine. A man's actions and desire to act as essentially necessary to gaining admission could also be described as divine. Would it not then lead one to believe a book acting as our guide could be described as divinely authentic?
     
  6. rhitland

    rhitland Founding Member Premium Member

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    Your explanation is beautiful and could not say I disagree with much if any of it but as we both know there are people who believe differently and Masonry should not give the impression it leans toward one believe or the next. The VoSL for Masonry is part of the furniture of the lodge and is symbolic so it can go nowhere but having to profess one believe in something being divine seems not to be a Masonic question but a religious one and adding on the term "Holy Scriptures" seems to be asking a specific religious question.
     
  7. Benton

    Benton Premium Member

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    Hmm, I have to say, I don't associate the term Holy Scriptures strictly with the Bible myself. To me, its a term as ambiguous as Volume of Sacred Law. I suppose it depends on what you were exposed to when you were raised. (As a child, not as a MM. :p)

    I have to say, this isn't an issue my lodge has had to confront as where I live, a vast majority of the population is Christian. I don't know that we've ever had someone from a different belief system petition the lodge. Granted, I haven't been around long, so I obviously don't have our lodges full history. But in small town Texas, this doesn't come up much. :p
     
  8. mch4970

    mch4970 Premium Member

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    Benton, I know what you mean. I grew up in Amarillo. Some of my beliefs would challenge my fundamentalist upbringing.
     
  9. rhitland

    rhitland Founding Member Premium Member

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    The term Holy Scriptures can be any book you are correct but in Texas that is not the case for the majority of people. In the EA lecture there is use of the term scripture to refer to the Holy Bible as well. Not many if any religions especially outside the major 7 refer to their divine writings as scriptures on a regular basis and to me it seems Masonry should do all it should to project an image of complete openness to all religious thought. I also believe that if one lodge has a problem like this then all lodges do as well and the fact it has not come up should make one curious if all people feel comfortable to come in and petition. It seems doing away with this question would be the easy way as it is not a requirement to be a mason or at least changing it to a broader term like Volume of Sacred Law opposed to Holy Scriptures. Just to let you know where this is coming from as well @ Fort Worth 148 and Tarrant 942 I or others deal with it on a monthly basis.
     
  10. Benton

    Benton Premium Member

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    I do agree, the wording on the petition needs to be restructured. I had honestly forgotten about that myself, but that one question in particular does make Masonry seem like a Christian only club. From the petition:

    "Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that you firmly believe in the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the Divine authenticity of the Holy Scripture?"

    In that context, yeah, I see what you mean. It says 'the Holy Scripture', not something like 'a holy scripture'. Changing an article and capitalization can mean a lot. Or just say 'a Volume of Sacred Law' and leave it at that.

    And I'm in Canyon Texas, and almost everyone here is Christian. There are a few Muslim students at the University, but there are very few. Most of our exchange students are from East Asia, and many of them still have significant language barriers. They tend to be a pretty cliquish bunch because of the communication barrier.

    And since most of the exchange students are here just for their degree, then they either go back to their home country, or transfer somewhere else for a Masters Degree, the long term demographics of the town just don't change much.

    (All that said, I hope none of the above sounded insensitive, none of it was meant to. I've known several of the exchange students who are in my department, and most of what I gave you above is in fact what they told me, not my own supposition.)

    But as far as town demographics? Canyon itself doesn't have much diversity.

    Amarillo, however, is just north of us, and I'm willing to bet it's a whole other story. MUCH bigger city, as I'm sure all you Texans know. It's no San Antonio or anything, but it's the 'little metropolis' around here. I have only met some of those brothers in passing, however, so I don't know how much they've encountered Islam, Judaism, or other belief systems.

    I'm originally from Midland, and I have to say coming up here was a culture shock in how homogeneous the culture is on the whole. Midland is quite diverse all things considered. Panhandle region? Not so much.

    "the fact it has not come up should make one curious if all people feel comfortable to come in and petition"

    If I hadn't lived here four years, I might wonder that. If I was in Midland, or the metroplex, I would definitely wonder that. Or even in amarillo. But Canyon is just a cloistered lodge, and relatively small on the whole. To be honest, I do wonder sometimes how many people are aware of our lodge period. It has trouble retaining members, as most of the college students who come in (like myself) often times move away after we graduate, or many of them don't even go through with the masters. It's difficult bringing people in and keeping them in a small college town.

    Ok, sorry, I definitely got side tracked. Sorry to derail the thread!
     
  11. Ashton Lawson

    Ashton Lawson Premium Member

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    This is very easy for me to answer.

    I expect one answer to the question, "In whom do you place your (spiritual) trust?" I expect that answer to be God.

    How a man found God is none of my business. I'm concerned with his acknowledgement of a Supreme God, his path is his concern...as is what he calls his Holy Scripture.
     

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