Book Review: What Do The Amish Believe?

What Do The Amish Believe?:  The Doctrine Of The Plain People Compared With Scripture, compiled by Aneko Press and MAP Ministry

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Aneko Press.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Admittedly, I do not consider myself particularly knowledgeable about the plain people, although I have a few friends who have that as a family background and have done a bit of reading on the subject [1].  If this book can be believed, though, many of the Amish do not appear to be all that knowledgeable about what they believe.  In reading this book, I was struck by the question of whether the approach of the authors/compilers of this book was a fair one.  If many Amish appear to be unclear in their understanding of doctrine and unaware of what doctrines their churches truly hold to, are they so different than the vast majority of professed believers?  If I walked in to a neighborhood nondenominational church and queried the believers there about their beliefs, I would expect to find a great deal of confusion about law and grace, about the nature of God–it is likely that even those who professed a belief in the Trinity would hold to some sort of modalism, for example–as well as about the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and the corpus of biblical law.  In light of the widespread biblical ignorance among professed believers and the frequent holding to the traditions of man rather than the commandments of God, is it just to hold the Amish to a higher standard than the ordinary Christian would be held to, simply because they have a much more rigorous lifestyle?

This book shows the example of some heroic research into the doctrines of the Amish, which is not a very straightforward process, and looks at what the Amish believe on the following subjects:  God, Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, The Bible, The Church, Angels, Demons, and Satan, Humanity, Sin and Salvation, and The End Times.  There is some useful supplementary information included at the back of the book as well.  Throughout the book there are frequent comments to the effect that there was little problem that the authors had with the doctrines of the Amish but that the doctrines were not clear or well understood.  The authors note that the loss of leadership early in the history of the Anabaptists due to the hostility of neighbors had a dramatic and negative effect on certain aspects of understanding, and the authors spend a great deal of time using unbiblical theological language that the plain people would likely find alien.  Each of the chapters, moreover, ends with a prayer.  One wonders what audience this book is aimed at–Amish themselves would likely find the theological language more than a little bit off-putting, and would-be Amish missionaries might consider themselves better equipped for evangelism than may actually be the case.

Ultimately, what this book demonstrated to me as a writer who is at some distance from both the plain people and from the perspective of the compilers of this work is that there is a substantial amount of appeal to fear in the worship practices of the Amish, and that there are many cases where traditions followed for many generations are simply not well understood but are followed blindly, without being clarified by authorities.  The authors also note an unwillingness to follow the biblical model in ordaining deaconesses among the plain people, showing that like most other people there are aspects of prejudice that believers of all kinds must overcome through the process of living a godly life with the indwelling of God’s Spirit.  This book is instructive concerning the Amish faith, some key doctrines, and where it is that the Amish belief system is written down.  Yet while reading this book I got the feeling that the compilers were pointing fingers at the Amish only to have three fingers pointing back at themselves and at like-minded Protestants whose belief systems are no more biblical than those this book criticizes, however gently.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review: What Do The Amish Believe?

  1. Pingback: The Seed And The Soil | Edge Induced Cohesion

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