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Beliefs of the Amish

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Amish beliefs which are shared by Evangelicals:

The Amish are a very conservative Christian faith group, with an Anabaptist tradition. Many of their beliefs are identical to those of many Fundamentalist and other Evangelical churches, including:

bulletAdult baptism is done after one makes a commitment to the church.
bulletBelief in the Trinity, the virgin birth, incarnation, sinless life, crucifixion, resurrection ascension, and atonement of Jesus Christ.
bulletOne lives on after death, either eternal rewarded in Heaven or punished in Hell.
bulletSalvation is a gift from God, through unmerited grace.
bulletThe Bible's authors were inspired by God. Their writings are inerrant. The Bible is generally to be interpreted literally.
bulletSatan exists as a living entity.
bulletEtc.

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Amish beliefs that are not shared by most Evangelicals:

bullet Salvation: Essentially all conservative Protestants, including Amish, look upon salvation as an unmerited gift from God. However, 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. The Amish have always looked upon salvation as being experienced in everyday living. Salvation is "...realized as one's life was transformed day by day into the image of Christ." 1

bulletKnowledge of one's salvation: For Evangelicals and other conservative Protestants, salvation is an unmistakable experience which happens when one trusts Jesus. Amish are different. They 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." 2 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. 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. This lack of certainty has made the Amish church susceptible to raiding from other Christian evangelists at various times in its history. 2

bulletThe state: The Amish are enthusiastic supporters of the principle of separation of church and state.

bulletAuthority: They believe that their church has received the authority from God to interpret his will. "Submission to church is submission to God." 2

bulletRituals: Evangelicals look upon their two ordinances -- communion and believers' baptism -- as rites that are primarily between an individual and God. 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." 1

bulletThe world: They 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. 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.

bulletNonresistance: 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. Their rejection of violence does not extend to the disciplining of their children. The Faith Mission Home in Virginia housed mentally retarded children and adults. They used physical punishment to control the children. It took "...the form of slapping the hand several times or spanking the buttocks a maximum of four strokes with the hand or a 'simple light paddle." 3 Bruises on a young woman led to the state Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation obtaining an injunction which prohibited the use of force by staff in the Home. The case caused Professor Alvin Esau to comment: "There is of course great irony on this issue, as groups such as the Amish and Hutterites use physical punishment, sometimes excessively, while supposedly believing in nonviolence in human relationships." 4

bulletLocal control: They believe that each congregation -- called a "district" -- is to remain autonomous. There is no centralized Amish organization to enforce beliefs and behaviors.

bulletEvangelization: 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.

bulletCustoms: 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.

bulletSex 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.

bulletOaths: Their faith forbids the swearing of oaths in courts; they make affirmations of truth instead. 5

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References used:

  1. Steven Nolt, "A history of the Amish," Good Books, (1992), Page 88. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  2. Susan Rensberger, "Understanding the Amish," Alpha Books, (2003). Read reviews or order this book
  3. "Howard M. Cullum v. Faith Mission Home," (1989) 237 Va. 473; 379 S.E. 2d 445 (S.Ct.) at 446.
  4. Alvin Esau, "Notes and Writings: The Amish and Litigation, University of Manitoba, 1998-JUL. See: http://www.umanitoba.ca/
  5. R.A. Oldaker, "How much do you know about the Amish?," at: http://www.wvup.edu/

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Copyright © 1996 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-JUL-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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