Amish religion is based upon the basic tenets of early Christianity and a desire to be faithful to God. They believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that the Church is the body of Christ fulfilling God's purposes on earth. The Amish in Lancaster County, as well as elsewhere, stress the importance of keeping the body pure and spotless and free from the contaminating influences of the worldly aspects of life.
Amish beliefs also emphasize the importance of humility, obedience, and simplicity. They believe that true Christians should never use violence or force. The Amish will follow the Word of God even if it conflicts with the rule of the government.
The Amish also believe religion is a way of life and not merely ornamental. They express their faith and love towards God in how they behave in the practical duties of life as opposed to wearing fancy clothes or worshiping in opulent churches. Helping a neighbor in need is considered a more religious act than participating in complicated rituals.
shows, Amish religion and traditions grew out of the Anabaptist reformers who rejected to what they felt were corrupt practices in the Protestant and Catholic religions of the 1500's. The Anabaptists believed that formal theological training was not necessary since the lay members of the congregation were just as capable of interpreting the Scriptures as the priests.
The Anabaptists, as well as the Mennonites and Amish, believe the use of religious icons are a form of idolatry and that formal rituals are merely a distraction from true worship. To them, genuine worship can be found in community action.
Key Religious Beliefs
There are several key beliefs that summarize both the Mennonite and Amish religions in Lancaster County and elsewhere. The following is an attempt to summarize those key religious beliefs.
The Mennonites and the Amish believe that God has created and sustains all things. God exists externally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christ will return to judge the world, raise the dead, and usher in the kingdom of God.
The Mennonite and Amish religions believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God and the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. The church is the visible expression of those who voluntarily devote themselves to a life of holiness, love, and discipline.
This focus on the Bible pervades all aspects of the religious life of the Amish and the Mennonites. Ever since the Anabaptists rejected the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church, the Mennonites and Amish have emphasized obedience to the Word of God over mere ritual.
Although the Mennonite and Amish religions assert that the congregation members are just as capable of interpreting the Bible as the clergy, personal evangelism, personal Bible studies, and personal conversions are unheard of among the people. Such behavior would threaten to elevate the individual over the community. Those who do attempt to show of their Biblical knowledge by quoting the scriptures are referred to as "Scripture Proud."
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 and Mennonites are also very humble about personal salvation. They feel it would be an egotistical expression of vanity to ever claim they are certain of their eternal salvation. Instead, they feel it is their duty to live obediently to God's will and, in due time, God will reward the faithful.
The Amish and Mennonites are often considered to be non-conformists because of their belief that Jesus introduced a unique approach to the human situation - an approach which often conflicts with the dictates of modern society. It is no surprise that the Amish and Mennonites are strong proponents of the separation of Church and State.
Not only is Amish nonconformity seen by the way they dress and in their view of technology but also in the importance of community spirit and harmony among mankind. The Amish and Mennonites have traditionally been pacifists and have refused to fight in any wars.
As can be seen, there are many similarities between the Mennonites and the Amish in Lancaster County. What then are the differences?
While both the Mennonites and Amish groups tend to be in agreement in their overall interpretation of Christian doctrine, their primary differences are in the way they practice those beliefs.
Most prominent is the Amish practice of
The Amish interpret the New Testament as stating that it is essential to church purity to excommunicate and avoid members who are unable to adhere to the strict discipline of the church teachings. In fact, the concept of shunning was one of the primary reasons that the Amish broke away from the Anabaptists and Mennonites in 1693.
Other ways in which religious differences are expressed through practice rather than belief range from the way that
are performed to the
that is worn; from how communion is observed to the practice of foot-washing.
If you enjoyed learning about the Amish religion in Lancaster County and would like to learn more about the Pennsylvania Amish people, please take a look at the following pages:
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