The Amish Belief of Adult Baptism in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
The Amish belief of adult baptism is one of the most important principles of the
In fact, the practice and philosophy of adult baptism was the decisive factor that led to the formation of the Brethren or Anabaptist movement in Zurich, Switzerland on January 21, 1525. The Mennonite and Amish religions later branched off from the Anabaptists. The
of the Anabaptists, Mennonites, and Amish is a fascinating tale of intellectual rebellion, religious purity, devastating persecution, bravery, loyalty, and survival against incredible odds.
Seeking a return to the purity of the early Christian faith, the Anabaptists cited the New Testament as mandating that individuals be baptized as adults. In fact, the name Anabaptists means "rebaptized" or "twice baptized." Since the members had already been baptized as infants under the Roman Catholic Church, they were rebaptized a second time as adults.
It might seem hard to believe but it is because of such divergent concepts such as adult baptism that led the Anabaptists to suffer severe persecution from the followers of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Protestant Reformers of Martin Luther. During the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, adult baptism became a criminal offense punishable by death.
Thousands upon thousands were imprisoned, tortured, starved, drowned, and burned at the stake. "Anabaptist Hunters" were even hired to track and kill individuals of this new movement who threatened the old accepted religious and political beliefs by conducting adult baptisms. The Anabaptists had to hide and worship in secrecy to avoid detection and certain death.
Many people believe that the roots of the Amish withdrawal from mainstream society and the extreme community tightness derives from this period of severe persecution.
Why is Adult Baptism so Important to the Amish People?
Both the Mennonites and the Amish believe that humankind is sinful and that adult men and women must seek atonement through Jesus Christ. They believe that children remain in the kingdom of God until they become adults at which point they are capable of freely choosing or rejecting salvation through the grace of faith.
The Amish believe that it is essential for the individual to willfully and consciously agree to the discipline of their Christian faith. They feel that one needs enough time to develop the faculties and human experience to make an informed choice regarding this lifelong commitment to the church. It is generally, in their late teen years and early 20s that Amish youth are expected to decide if they truly want to join the church.
Amish life is defined by the Ordnung which is an oral tradition that governs the behavior and way of life of the community. Among other traditions, it regulates the type of
that can be worn; the use of the horse and buggy; the use of gas appliances; and, the requirement that steel wheels be placed on farm machinery. Moreover, the Ordnung regulations forbid divorce, owning automobiles, higher education, filing law suits, self-propelled farm equipment, and the cinema.
Adult baptism is seen as a lifelong vow that must be taken seriously. Individuals who break this vow by transgressing the Ordung regulations face
expulsion and shunning
from the Amish community.
To learn more about Amish beliefs and the Pennsylvania Amish Community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, please see the following pages:
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