Beliefs of the Illinois Amish (2)
The basic beliefs of the Illinois Amish Community are central to the lifestyle of the Amish people. Their religion guides their life.
The core Amish beliefs center around their interpretation of the bible.
They believe that:
The Bible is the inspired word of God
There is one God eternally existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-17).
God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, Jesus, to die on the cross for the sins of the world.
Through faith in the shed blood of Jesus we are reconciled to God.
Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, a free gift bestowed by God on those who repent and believe.
As Christians, we should live as brothers
The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and also empowers believers for service and holy living.
The church is separate from the State
They are committed to peace.
Faith calls for a lifestyle of discipleship and good works service and holy living.
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)
The Amish are admonished to live a life that is separate from the world.
Question : If the Amish interpret the Bible literally, how do they relate to Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel 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 life 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.
Question : 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 — not even to eat with such a one (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.
Question : I understand the Amish belief in nonresistance and pacifism. Does this principle 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.
Question : 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.
Question : What are the differences between Amish and Mennonite groups?
It is impossible to answer this question with a few simple sentences. There are so many varieties of Mennonites and Amish around the world that we cannot cover the many shades of belief and practice among them. However, most Mennonite and Amish groups have common historical roots. Both were part of the early Anabaptist movement in Europe, which took place at the time of the Reformation. A group led by Jacob Amman broke from the Mennonites in 1693 and became known as Amish. Amish and Mennonites are Christian fellowships; they stress that belief must result in practice. The differences among the various Amish and Mennonite groups through the years have almost always been ones of practice rather than basic Christian doctrine.
Question : Why don’t the Amish use electricity?
Amish people interpret linking with electrical wires as a connection with the world – and the Bible tells them they are not to be conformed to the world. (Romans 12:2) In 1919 the Amish leaders agreed that connecting to power lines would not be in the best interest of the Amish community. They did not make this decision because they thought electricity was evil in itself, but because easy access to it could lead to many temptations and the deterioration of church and family life.
Most of us today would think it impossible to live without the modern conveniences such as electricity and cars. What makes the Old Order Amish unique is not that they get along without modernity, but that they choose to do without it when it would be readily available. The Amish value simplicity and self-denial over comfort, convenience and leisure. Their lifestyle is a deliberate way of separating from the world and maintaining self-sufficiency. (Amish are less threatened by power shortages caused by storm, disaster, or war.) As a result there is a bonding that unites the Amish community and protects it from outside influences such as television, radios, and other influences.
Question : Do the Amish believe in gas power?
Yes, the Amish use gas. Bottled gas is used to operate water heaters, modern stoves and refrigerators. Gas-pressured lanterns and lamps are used to light homes, barns, and shops. Gasoline and diesel fuel power generators, horse drawn tillage and harvest equipment, hydraulic compressors and line shafts for machine shops and etc around the Arthur area.
The Amish don’t own automobiles, but it is common to see them riding in other peoples’ vehicles. Some even have made a business of offering rides, for a fee, to them. Why will the Amish ride in automobiles if they will not own them?
Maintaining Amish standards, but accepting some modernization to meet needs of living, requires compromise that must not disrupt the social structure. By rejecting certain types of modernity and accepting others, some Amish appear to the outside world to be contradicting themselves – hypocrites. However, from the viewpoint of Amish culture, there is no contradiction. One of the more pronounced inconsistencies is the use of an automobile…although he may not own a car, a member may accept rides and willingly hires an automobile with a driver to transport him from place to place. There was little hesitation when the Amish decided no to car ownership. It would separate the community in various ways. If only wealthy members could afford it, the car would bring inequality. Proud individuals would use it to show off their status, power and wealth. Cars would speed things up dramatically, disrupting the slow pace of Amish living. So, they will use them but not own them, for then things will surely get out of control.
Question : Do the Amish use modern medicine and doctors?
Most Amish and Mennonite groups to not oppose modern medicine. Their readiness to seek health services varies from family to family. Nothing in the Amish understanding of the Bible forbids them from using modern medical services, including surgery, hospitalization, dental work, anesthesia, blood transfusions, etc. They do believe, however, that good health, both physical and mental, is a gift from God and requires careful stewardship on the part of the individual. With few exceptions, physicians rate the Amish as desirable patients: they are stable, appreciative, and their bills will be paid. They do not have hospitalization insurance, but they band together to help pay medical expenses for anyone of their group who needs financial assistance. A designated leader in the Amish community is given responsibility for their mutual aid fund.
Question : 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.
Question : Is the Amish calendar the same as ours?
The Amish use the same yearly calendar that you use. We might add that November is the month for weddings – spring, summer, and fall months there is too much work to be done and in the winter there’s the risk of unfavorable weather. Also, Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days for weddings – these are the least busy days of the week.
Question : How true was the portrayal of the Amish in the movie Witness, starring Harrison Ford?
The movie, Witness, portrayed Amish lifestyle fairly accurately in what was shown, but it portrayed a very limited segment of Amish lifestyle. The Amish people have had a lot of reservations about Witness. The plot seemed to be inconsistent with the lifestyle and culture of the Amish. It was filmed in the geographical area of the Amish, but not on an Amish farm. The actors and actresses in the movie were not Amish.