Amish beliefs that are not shared by most Evangelicals:
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."
Knowledge 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
believe that their church has received the authority from God to interpret
his will. "Submission to church is submission to God." 2
Rituals: 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
The 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.
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. 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."
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
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. 5