What Do the Amish Believe?
Following are answers to questions we received as part of our “Ask the Amish” feature. The answers were given by the Amish-Mennonite experts at the Mennonite Information Center in Lancaster:
What are the beliefs of the Amish?
“It is difficult to explain in a few sentences what the Amish people believe. This is a very simplified statement. As Amish and Mennonites, we believe that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die on the cross and that through faith in the shed blood of Jesus we are reconciled to God. We believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, that as Christians we should live as brothers, that the church is separate from the State, that we are committed to peace, and that faith calls for a lifestyle of discipleship and good works. More information on Amish and Mennonite beliefs can be obtained by contacting the Mennonite Information Center, 2209 Millstream Road, Lancaster, PA 17602-1494.”
What are the basic beliefs of the Amish?
“Both Mennonites and Amish believe in one God eternally existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-17). We believe that Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, died on the cross for the sins of the world. We believe that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and also empowers believers for service and holy living. We believe that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, a free gift bestowed by God on those who repent and believe.
One scripture often quoted in Amish worship services is: “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) They are admonished to live a life that is separate from the world.”
What is this thing called the Ordnung that the Amish live by?
“Donald B. Kraybill in his book, The Riddle of Amish Culture, writes: ‘The Amish blueprint for expected behavior, called the Ordnung, regulates private, public, and cermonial life. Ordnung does not translate readily into English. Sometimes rendered as “ordnance” or “discipline,” the Ordnung is best thought of as an ordering of the whole way of life . . . a code of conduct which the church maintains by tradition rather than by systematic or explicit rules. A member noted: “The order is not written down. The people just know it, that’s all.” Rather than a packet or rules to memorize, the Ordnung is the “understood” behavior by which the Amish are expected to lfe. In the same way that the rules of grammar are learned by children, so the Ordnung, the grammar of order, is learned by Amish youth. The Ordnung evolved gradually over the decades as the church sought to strike a delicate balance between tradition and change. Specific details of the Ordnung vary across church districts and settlements.’”
Do the Amish practice shunning fellow church members?
“The term “church members” means those who are baptized as adults and voluntarily commit themselves to a life of obedience to God and the church. Yes, those who break their baptismal vows are shunned by the Old Order Amish. “Belonging” is important and shunning is meant to be redemptive. It is not an attempt to harm or ruin the individual and in most cases it does bring that member back into the fellowship again. Actually, the number of members excommunicated and shunned by the Amish is small.
The Biblical basis for shunning is found in these two verses: “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (I Corinthians 5:11)
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and of fences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17)
The families of a shunned member are expected to also shun them. Families shun the person by not eating at the same table with them. The practice of shunning makes family gatherings especially awkward.”
Why do Old Order Amish not like having their pictures taken?
“Old Order Amish and Mennonites forbid photography of their people, and their objection is based on the second commandment, Exodus 20:4: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth”.”
Do the Amish look upon the rest of society, those who are not of an Anabaptist tradition, as heathen?
“The Amish have deliberately made decisions as to what will or will not be allowed among members of the Amish community. The Amish do not pass judgment on outsiders.”
If the Amish interpret the Bible literally, how do they relate to Christ’s command to go “into all the world and preach the gospeI to every creature?
“Early Anabaptists, the ancestors of Amish and Mennonites, were very evangelistic, going everywhere preaching and teaching. This was a sharp contrast to the “Christian” society in which they lived. Persecution followed and many Anabaptists died for their faith and their zeal for evangelism. In the years that followed, missionary zeal decreased. The church succumbed to persecution and discrimination. Gradually Amish and Mennonites became known more for their traditional practices and their quiet, peaceful way of li fe and less for their active evangelism. This trend continued until it seemed almost wrong to send members out of the close community to evangelize. Old Order Amish, along with some Old Order Mennonites, have retained this position and desire to remain “the quiet in the land.” However, missionary zeal experienced a strong rebirth around the beginning of this century in Mennonite circles and more recently among the Church Amish. As a result of this rebirth of evangelism, Mennonites today number more than one million people in over 60 countries around the world and speak 78 different languages.”
“I understand your belief in nonresistance and pacifism. Does this principal extend to personal situations where you are confronted with imminent evil – say a known murderer confronting you and your family in your home? Can you use force to preserve your life in this situation? To what extent? What is the Biblical basis for your position?”
“Both Amish and Mennonites are committed to a lifestyle of peace and non-violence. Yes, this pervades every aspect of life. However, no one can predict with certainty how anyone would really react to an absolutely unprecedented crisis such as described above. Emotions as well as thoughts are involved and the situation is personalized. Having said this, we would hope that as people who have practiced a lifestyle of peace, we would not resort to force and violence in a crisis situation such as the one described.
We must briefly make several points:
- There is no assurance that use of force would save my life or the life of my family if confronted by an attacker.
- We could recall many accounts of unhoped for deliverances, whether by mediation, nature, or divine Providence, when Christians refused to use force when confronted by an attacker.
- If the result is death at the hands of the attacker, so be it; death is not threatening to us as Christians. Hopefully the attacker will have at least had a glimpse of the love of Christ in our nonviolent response.
- The Christian does not choose a nonviolent approach to conflict because of assurance it will always work; rather the Christian chooses this approach because of his/her commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.
The analogy to war in the situation described above tends to break down when we think of the vast preparations for war — accumulation of weapons, training of the military, etc. War is planned and seldom is aggression so clearly defined with the defense staying on its home turf.
Some of the Biblical references for peace and non-resistance are: Matthew 5:38-48; John 18:36; Romans 12:18-21; and I Corinthians 6:18.”
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