Amish

Amish

Amish ChurchThe Amish are a private people who believe that God has called them to a simple life of faith, discipline, dedication and humility. They believe that the Amish religion should be practiced, not displayed, and translated into daily living rather than focused on tangible symbols or complicated religious rituals. Their belief is that God has a personal and abiding interest in their lives, families and communities is the force that holds them together in spite of the pressures of the outside world.

Faith-based Amish traditions include wearing plain clothing, living in a simple manner and helping a neighbor in need. Church buildings with pews are traded for services in community homes, choirs for solemn hymns without music and professional pastors for community leaders. Are the Amish true Christians? 


PERSONAL TESTIMONY: This page is composed from having had the personal opportunity of befriending an Amish family near Hopkinsville, Kentucky where I have and visit family. What began as visits to the family store owned and operated by an Amish family resulted in being invited into the home, subsequent visits, and “snail-mail” correspondence with Jacob and Lydia who, as of this writing, have 7 children ranging from 12 years old down to 2-week old newborn Isaiah.

It was during our first in-home visit that Jacob and I entered into discussion sharing the elementary principles of our faith. Our relationship quickly evolved to where we were able to ask pointed questions without fear of offense; and I asked, pointedly: “Do the Amish believe that one must be Amish in order to be saved?” Jacob quickly responded saying, “Our bishop teaches emphatically that, just because you are Amish does NOT mean that one is saved!” Jacob added, “Neither do we believe that being saved is because we are Amish. We are saved because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross!”

We spent almost an hour discussing the “church” and I think that he was as “surprised” as I that there are no less “problems” in the “English” church, as the Amish call us than there are in the Amish. Worldliness, apathy, family problems and divorce, false doctrine- these issues are faced as much in the Amish community as in our more “worldly” congregation.

Since having this relationship with Jacob and Lydia, I am of the firm conviction that there are saved and redeemed followers of Jesus Christ having come to saving faith by believing the true gospel of Jesus Christ. 


WHAT DOES THE AMISH BELIEVER BELIEVE?

Amish are generally referred to as “Anabaptists (Wikipedia). “Anabaptists” are characterized as:

  • Christians who believe in delaying baptism until the candidate confesses his or her faith in Christ, as opposed to being baptized as an infant.
  • the name Anabaptist means “one who baptizes again” and was given them by their persecutors in reference to the practice of re-baptizing converts who already had been baptized as infants
  • The early members of this movement did not accept the name Anabaptist, claiming that infant baptism was unscriptural and therefore null and void; thus, the baptizing of believers was not a re-baptism but in fact their first real baptism.
  • Balthasar Hubmaier wrote:
    • I have never taught Anabaptism. …But the right baptism of Christ, which is preceded by teaching and oral confession of faith, I teach, and say that infant baptism is a robbery of the right baptism of Christ…
  • Amish are a Christian movement which traces its origins to the “Radical Reformation”.
    • The “Radical Reformation” was the response to what was believed to be the corruption in both the Roman Catholic Church and the expanding Magisterial Protestant movement led by Martin Luther and many others.
    • Beginning in Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century, the Radical Reformation gave birth to many radical Protestant groups throughout Europe.
    • The term covers both radical reformers like Thomas Müntzer, Andreas Karlstadt, groups like the Zwickau prophets and Anabaptist groups like the Hutterites and Mennonites.

Amish Historical Overview (http://www.religioustolerance.org/amish.htm)

  • The Amish movement was founded in Europe by Jacob Amman (~1644 to ~1720 CE)
  • Started as a reform group within the Mennonite movement — an attempt to restore some of the early practices of the Mennonites.
    • The Mennonites are Christian groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons (1496–1561) of Friesland (at that time, a part of the Holy Roman Empire).
    • The Mennonites were part of the Protestant Reformation, a broad reaction against the practices and theology of the Roman Catholic Church.
    • Its most distinguishing feature (of the Mennonite) is the rejection of infant baptism, an act that had both religious and political meaning since almost every infant born in western Europe was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. Other significant theological views of the Mennonites developed in opposition to Roman Catholic views or to the views of other Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli. (Wikipedia)
      • Martin Luther, author of “The Ninety Five Theses is regarded as the initial catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.
        • The disputation protests against clerical abuses, especially nepotism, simony, usury, pluralism, and the sale of indulgences. It is generally believed that, according to university custom, on 31 October 1517, Luther posted the ninety-five theses, which he had composed in Latin, on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. However, contrary to popular belief, Luther merely passed around the pages, a move aided by the advent of the printing press around the same time.[1][2]
      • Martin Luther taught that salvation and subsequently eternal life is not earned by good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin.
      • Luther wrote that:
        • Christians receive such righteousness entirely from outside themselves; that righteousness not only comes from Christ but actually is the righteousness of Christ, imputed to Christians (rather than infused into them) through faith.
      • The beliefs and practices of the Amish were based on the writings of the founder of the Mennonite faith, Menno Simons (1496-1561), and on the 1632 Mennonite Dordrecht Confession of Faith.
      • During the late 17th century, the Amish separated because of what they perceived as a lack of discipline among the Mennonites.
      • Some Amish migrated to the United States, starting in the early 18th century.
        • They initially settled in Pennsylvania. Other waves of immigrants became established in New York, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri Ohio, and other states.
      • The Amish attempts to preserve the elements of late 17th century European rural culture.
        • They try to avoid many of the features of modern society, by developing practices and behaviors which isolate themselves from American culture.
        • James Hoorman (writer having hands on experience in working with the Amish culture jheoe@uga.edu) writes about the current status of the Amish movement:
          • “In America, the Amish hold major doctrines in common, but as the years went by, their practices differed. Today, there are a number of different groups of Amish with the majority affiliated with four orders: Swartzengruber, Old Order, Andy Weaver, and New Order Amish. Old Order Amish are the most common. All the groups operate independently from each other with variations in how they practice their religion and religion dictates how they conduct their daily lives. The Swartzengruber Amish are the most conservative followed by the Old Order Amish. The Andy Weaver are more progressive and the New Order Amish are the most progressive.”

Amish Belief and Practice

  • Many of their beliefs are identical to those of many Fundamentalist and other Evangelical churches, including:
    • Adult baptism is done after one makes a commitment to the church.
    • Belief in the Trinity, the virgin birth, incarnation, sinless life, crucifixion, resurrection ascension, and atonement of Jesus Christ.
    • One lives on after death, either eternal rewarded in Heaven or punished in Hell.
    • Salvation is a gift from God, through unmerited grace.
    • The Bible’s authors were inspired by God. Their writings are inerrant. The Bible is generally to be interpreted literally.
    • Satan exists as a living entity.
  • Belief “differences”
    • Amish, look upon salvation as an unmerited gift from God whereas…
    • (based upon outward lifestyle and appearance to the Amish) evangelical Christians have traditionally looked upon the salvation experience as:
      • an intense emotional event which happens suddenly, as a convert repents of their sin and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior.
      • The new Christian’s subsequent ethical behavior and daily routine are of secondary importance to the experience of being saved.
    • Amish don’t believe that anyone is guaranteed salvation as a result of a conversion experience, baptism, joining the church, etc. “…they would consider it arrogant or prideful to claim certainty of salvation.”
      • The Amish believe that God carefully weighs the individual’s total lifetime record of obedience to the church and then decides whether the person’s eternal destiny will be the reward of Heaven or the punishment in Hell, whereas…
      • …(evangelicals believe according to Romans 5:1 “…Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” and Romans 8:1-2 “…There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death…”
    • Amish believe that if a person is baptized into the Amish church and later leaves the church or is excommunicated, they have no hope of attaining Heaven. As a result, an Amish believer lives their life and dies not knowing if they are saved and will attain Heaven.
  • Rituals: Believers Baptism and Communion
    • To the Amish,
      • “The church itself, as a body of believers, shared in communion as a sign of their unity with Christ and with one another.
      • Baptism in the Amish church symbolized a commitment to both God and fellow believers.”
    • Evangelicals look upon their two ordinances — communion and believers’ baptism — as rites that (while practiced communally) are primarily between an individual and God.

Amish “Worldview”

  • The world: The Amish believe in remaining quite separate from the rest of the world, physically and socially.
    • Part of this may be caused by the belief that association with others — often referred to as “The English” — may be polluting. (I happen to agree with them!)
    • Part may be because of the intense persecution experienced by their ancestors as a result of government oppression.
    • Amish homes do not draw power from the electrical grid. They feel that that would excessively connect them to the world.
  • Nonresistance: They reject involvement with the military or warfare.
    • They believe that Amish must never resort to violence or to take up arms in war.
      • However, they do not generally view themselves as pacifists, because this would involve them in political action to promote peace.
    • Rejection of violence does not extend to the disciplining of their children. (I include this comment from the website, but adamantly reject the generalized “characterization” of the discipline of children by the ‘rod’ as “violence”. It is true that excess results in child-abuse in EVERY culture as the “violence” of child-abuse is common to the natural man everywhere).
  • Local control: They believe that each congregation — called a “district” — is to remain autonomous.
    • There is no centralized Amish organization to enforce beliefs and behaviors.
  • Evangelization: Most believe that it is not their role to go out into the larger community and attempt to seek converts among The English.
    • However, some Amish groups have recently become active in evangelization.
  • Customs: The Ordnung is an oral tradition of rules which regulates how the Amish way of life should be conducted. Specific details of the Ordnung differ among various church districts. The rules are generally reviewed biannually and occasionally revised as needed.
  • Sex roles: In common with many conservative Christian faith groups, their family life has a patriarchal structure.
    • Although the roles of women are considered equally important to those of men, they are very unequal in terms of authority.
    • Unmarried women remain under the authority of their father.
    • Wives are submissive to their husbands.
    • Only males are eligible to be become Church officials.
  • Oaths: Their faith forbids the swearing of oaths in courts; they make affirmations of truth instead.

Amish Practices

  • Church Government: Candidates for leadership positions are initially selected by vote. Typically, those who received more than one vote would draw lots to determine who would be ordained. Ordination is generally for life.
    • Völliger Diener: (a.k.a. Full Servant or Bishop). He provides spiritual leadership for the congregation. He preaches, and performs baptisms, marriages and ordinations. He pronounces excommunication on unrepentant members of the congregation.
    • Diener zum Buch: (a.k.a. Servant of the Book or minister). He assists the bishop in preaching and teaching. Most congregations have two ministers.
    • Völliger Armendiener: (a.k.a. Full Servant of the Poor or Full Deacon). This office is rare in North America, but was once common in Europe. He assists with baptism and does some preaching. His main role was as guardians of doctrinal orthodoxy.
    • Armendiener: (a.k.a. Servant of the Poor or Deacon). He reads from the Bible at church services, assists the bishops in various duties, and administers funds for the poor.
  • Language: Members usually speak a German dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch). High German is used during worship. They learn English at school.
  • Education: Schools are one-room buildings run by the Amish. Formal education beyond Grade 8 is discouraged, although many youth are given further instruction in their homes after graduation.
  • Appearance: Men follow the laws of the Hebrew Scriptures with regards to beards.
    • They do not grow mustaches, because of the long association of mustaches with the military.
  • Clothing: Men usually dress in a plain, dark colored suit. Women usually wear a plain colored dress with long sleeves, bonnet and apron. Women wear a white prayer covering if married; black if single. Brides’ gowns are often blue or purple.
  • Photography: They do not take photographs or allow themselves to be photographed. To do so would be evidence of vanity and pride. Also, it might violate the prohibition in Exodus 20:4, the second of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that…is in the earth…”
  • Communion services: These are held twice yearly, in the spring and fall. Before the service, a council meeting is held in which the attendees resolve any disagreements that they have with each other. They also discuss matters regarding proper lifestyle and conduct.
  • Rumspringa: Some Amish groups practice a tradition called rumspringa (“running around”).
    • Teens aged 16 and older are allowed some freedom in behavior. It is a interval of a few years while they remain living at home, yet are somewhat released from the intense supervision of their parents.
    • Since they have not yet been baptized, they have not committed to follow the extremely strict behavioral restrictions and community rules imposed by the religion.
    • Depending upon the behavioral rules of their particular community, they may be allowed to date, go out with their friends, visit the outside world, go to parties, drink alcoholic beverages, wear jeans, etc.
    • The intent of rumspringa is to make certain that youth are giving their informed consent if they decide to be baptized. About 80% to 90% decide to remain Amish.

=============================================

Practices of the Swartzengruber Amish:

  • The Swartzentruber Amish broke away from the True Old Order Amish in 1913 because they felt that the latter were too modern.
    • The Swartzentruber church does not recognize other Amish faith groups as being true Christians.
    • Their set of behavioral rules, the Ordnung, is particularly strict and governs almost every area of their life.
    • Style, color, and dimensions of clothing are closely regulated.
    • German language is spoken in the homes; children do not learn English until they attend school.
    • Women are not allowed to cut their hair, shave their legs or underarms. They are not allowed to use any type of birth control, makeup, nail polish, perfume. They cannot smoke.
    • The rules for men are more relaxed.
    • Their furniture must be built to specific sizes. The wood has to be stained a dark color; no lighter stain that would bring out the grain of the wood is allowed because it would make the furniture look too fancy.
    • The widths of the home’s door casings and windows are specified, as are the interior wall colors, curtain colors, design of dishes and silverware, bed sheets, pillowcases, comforters, etc.
    • Sexual behavior between spouses is severely restricted to what is needed for reproductive purposes. They cannot engage in sexual intercourse on the many fasting holidays.

SUMMATION: After completing this research, I have no doubts about the assurance of salvation to believers who practice their faith as Amish.

I would wish that my Amish friend could be more like me in terms of the certainty of Jesus Christ’s righteousness and not mine being sufficient for eternal life. However, the desire of my own heart is that I would be more like my Amish friend as the better outward expression of holiness that OUGHT represent one’s gratitude for salvation by grace!

I would NOT want him to, outwardly, become me; neither would I want me to, inwardly (having to rely upon my own righteousness), become him.

I would want that he would envy my peace as I envy his practice.

  • I heard the testimony of my Amish friend who said flat-out (and I paraphrase rather than quote): “Our bishop teaches emphatically that simply being “Amish” does NOT mean that one is saved”.
  • I am in agreement with the understanding of “Anabaptists” concerning the relationship to salvation and invalidity of “infant baptism”. See Balthasar Hubmaier quote below. I agree!
  • At the very roots of their belief are the FUNDAMENTALS that are ABSOLUTE and TRUE:
    • Belief in the Trinity, the virgin birth, incarnation, sinless life, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and atonement of Jesus Christ. One lives on after death, either eternally rewarded in Heaven or punished in Hell, and salvation is a gift from God, through unmerited grace.
    • What differs (and I say with sadness) is that:
      • we “evangelicals” dismiss the commandments and importance of works as works speak to EVIDENCE of true salvation,
      • whereas the Amish “pendulum” swings (in my opinion) too far so as to diminish that which our merciful and gracious God intended that we might enjoy peace and security in our salvation by their imposing “works” as necessary for salvation.

In the end, myfear would be, that in the effort to try to “teach” my friend the un-necessity of works “in order to be saved”, I would be the cause of great turmoil and even destruction by my effort to “be right” and try to fix my friend’s “wrong”…when my friend is ALREADY RIGHT WITH GOD through Jesus Christ. I would wish to ASSURE him without overturning his Amish “buggy”; I would wish that my effort would bring CERTAINTY to him and his family WITHOUT diminishing his desire for holiness and holy living as it pleases God!

SHAME ON ANY PERSON- ESPECIALLY ONE CLAIMING TO BE A CHRISTIAN- WHO WOULD SAY THAT THE AMISH ARE “UNSAVED” BECAUSE THEY ENDEAVOR TO BE OBEDIENT.

Comments are closed.