Amish Religion, Beliefs, History, Pictures and Facts

The Amish are an Anabaptist Protestant denomination and part of the Mennonite sect best known for rejecting many modern conveniences such as electricity and automobiles. They dress plainly and live apart from mainstream society and strictly observe the Sabbath. The largest Amish communities are in Pennsylvania. Many Amish people speak Pennsylvania Dutch, a dialect of German.

The group was founded by Jakob Ammann in the 1690s and began to settle in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana beginning in the 18th century.

General Information

The Amish church, a branch of the Mennonites, is a Protestant religious group descended from the 16th-century Anabaptists. The Amish take their name from Jacob Ammann, a Swiss Mennonite "bishop" who in 1693 broke away from the main body of Mennonites, feeling that they had strayed from the strict austerity of their forebears. He insisted that discipline within the church be maintained by excommunication. This entailed the avoidance, or shunning, by the faithful of those excommunicated. Conventional social relationships with the excommunicated, such as eating at the same table, buying and selling, and, in the case of a married person, marital relations, were forbidden. Ammann's followers began emigrating to Pennsylvania from Switzerland and Germany about 1710, and by 1787 had established 70 congregations there. The Amish later spread to Ohio, Indiana, and Ontario in Canada. Today they still exist in all these areas (and others), numbering about 170,000.

The most conservative are known as Old Order Amish. They dress in a severely plain style, using hooks and eyes instead of buttons to fasten their clothes. They ride in horse-drawn buggies instead of automobiles, and the adult males wear beards. Religious services are held in homes; foot washing is practiced in connection with the Communion service; discipline is enforced by shunning; and marriage with outsiders is condemned. Other Amish groups, such as the Conservative Mennonite Conference and the Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches, are milder in discipline and less set apart from the world. All share the practice of believer's, or adult, baptism and often refuse to take part in civil affairs—to vote, serve in the military, and so forth. The Old Order Amish numbered about 80,800 in the early 1990s; the Beachy Amish about 7000.

The Old Order Amish, who form the majority, reject infant baptism despite the overwhelming biblical evidence supporting it, the swearing of oaths, and military service, and live apart from the rest of society in agricultural communities. They worship in private houses, and each congregation is served by a "bishop", two "ministers", and a "deacon" (all male; and all invalidly ordained). Avoiding modern technology and worldly amusements, they practice simple farming and handicrafts—Amish quilts are notable examples of American Folk Art—and speak a German-English dialect (Pennsylvania Dutch). The horse and buggy is their normal mode of transportation. The Conservative Amish, a smaller sect, differ from the Old Order Amish mainly in their adoption of English and Sunday schools. The Amish are known for their practice of Meidung (shunning of those who have violated church law) and for their use of hooks and eyes instead of buttons. Recognizable by their sober yet picturesque appearance—the men with full beards and broad-brimmed hats, the women in bonnets and long skirts—the Amish occupy a distinctive place among traditional religious groups in the United States and Canada.

As of 2000, over 165,000 Old Order Amish live in the United States and approximately 1500 live in Canada. A 2008 study suggested their numbers have increased to 227,000, and in 2010 a study suggested their population had grown by 10% in the past two years to 249,000, with increasing movement to the West.


The true faith of Jesus Christ is a deposit. It does not fall out of the sky to a man (or society) who lives 17 centuries after Christ. It was revealed by Jesus Christ to His Apostles 2,000 years ago, and it was passed on by the Apostles to the Church.

Jude 1:3 "… it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."

The true faith thus has a historical link to the apostolic Church; and it can be shown to have been believed by those who came before in the Church. It is passed on from generation to generation.

2 Peter 2:1 "But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there shall be among you lying teachers, who shall bring in sects of perdition, and deny the Lord who bought them: bringing upon themselves swift destruction."

Following Martin Luther's excommunication from the Catholic Church in 1520, which marked the beginning of the Protestant movement, over 20,000 different denominations have been created in about 500 years. In 1980, David A. Barrett's World Christian Encyclopedia (Oxford University Press) gave the number of different denominations as 20,780. He projected that there would be 22,190 denominations by 1985.

This would mean that there are approximately 25,000 (or possibly 30,000) different denominations today. Even if, for the sake of argument, one were to take a conservative estimate, and give the number as only 15,000 different denominations, this equates to more than one new sect having been created every two weeks.

When we consider the fact that the Anabaptists, the Amish and the Mennonites themselves, or even the original founders of Protestantism, didn't even agree with each other on major points of doctrine, such denominational chaos shouldn't be a surprise. Protestantism is man-made religion, in which each person ultimately determines for himself what he thinks the Bible teaches. Martin Luther (the initiator of Protestantism) condemned the doctrinal views of John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli, two other leading Protestant figures. They all claimed to follow the Bible.

Basically all of these thousands of non-Catholics sects purport to be Christian and claim to follow the Bible, even though they disagree with each other on crucial doctrinal matters, such as: the precise nature of justification; whether human works and sins are a part of salvation; whether men have free will; predestination; whether infants need baptism for salvation; what Communion is; whether it's necessary to confess to the Lord; which books of the New Testament apply to us today; the structure of the Church's hierarchy; the role of bishops and ministers; the Sabbath; the role of women in church; etc. ad nauseam. Most of these groups even claim that the individual "Christian" will be led by the Holy Spirit when privately reading the Bible. The disunity of these sects constitutes an irrefutable proof that their doctrine is not of the Spirit of Truth; and that their principle of operation (i.e., Scripture alone apart from the Church and Tradition) is not the doctrine of the Bible and the Apostles.

Ephesians 4:4-5 "One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism."

Amishism, Founded by Man

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in approximately 1520.

If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII (an ex-Catholic) in the year 1534. Henry VIII decided to create his own church when Pope Clement VII would not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.

If you are a Mennonite, Menno Simons (an ex-Catholic) created your religion in 1536.

If you are a Presbyterian, John Knox (an ex-Catholic) founded your sect in Scotland in the year 1560.

If you are a Congregationalist, your religion began with Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.

If you are a Baptist, John Smyth created your sect in Amsterdam in 1605.

If you are of the Dutch Reformed church, your church began with Michaelis Jones in New York in 1628.

If you are a Quaker, George Fox created your sect in England in 1652.

If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, Samuel Seabury created your sect in the American colonies in the 17th century, as an offshoot of the Church of England.

If you are Amish, Jacob Amman created your religion in 1693, as an offshoot of the Mennonites.

If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.

If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your sect in London in 1774.

If you are a Mormon ("Latter Day Saints"), your religion comes from Joseph Smith, who revealed it in Palmyra, N.Y. in 1829.

If you are a Seventh Day Adventist, your religion was created by Ellen White in 1860.

If you worship with the Salvation Army, William Booth started your sect in London in 1865.

If you are of the "Jehovah's Witnesses," your beliefs came from Charles Taze Russell in 1872.

If you are a "Christian Scientist," Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy devised your religion in 1879.

If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as "Church of the Nazarene," "Pentecostal Gospel," "Holiness Church," "Pilgrim Holiness Church," "Assemblies of God," "United Church of Christ," etc., your religion is one of the thousands of new sects founded by men in the last century.

If you are Catholic, you know that your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, true God and true man; and that this one Church, to which people must belong to be saved, will exist until the end of time.

Pope Leo XII, Ubi Primum (# 14), May 5, 1824: "It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth itself, the best, the wisest Provider, and the Rewarder of good men, to approve all sects who profess false teachings which are often inconsistent with one another and contradictory, and to confer eternal rewards on their members… by divine faith we hold one Lord, one faith, one baptismThis is why we profess that there is no salvation outside the [Catholic] Church."

The Proof for Infant Baptism

Many Protestants, including the Amish, do not believe that infants should be baptized. They think baptism should only be given to those who have reached the age of reason and have chosen to receive it. They consider the baptisms of infants to be invalid and unscriptural. This position is false for many reasons.

It should be pointed out, first of all, that most Protestants agree with Catholics on this point. Most of them practice infant baptism. Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and others practice infant baptism. This is obviously not to suggest that infant baptism is proven true by the fact that these groups practice it; but merely to note that Protestants who reject infant baptism are in the minority, even among Protestants.

Second, the Bible teaches that whole households were baptized:

1 Cor. 1:16 "And I [Paul] baptized also the household of Stephanas…"

Acts 16:15 "And when she [Lydia] was baptized, and her household…"

Acts 16:33 "And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway."

Entire households were baptized. Think about these verses. The Bible refers to a woman and "her household." It refers to a man and his "household." Why didn't the passage just generally include children. Scripture connects the two:

Gen. 18:19 "… he will command his children and his household after him…"

Gen. 36:6 "And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house."

Since households generally include children – and the Bible repeatedly mentions that whole households were baptized – these passages by themselves make the case against infant baptism extremely unlikely. In fact, if a Protestant who rejects infant baptism believes in Scripture alone, he would have to find an explicit teaching in the Bible that infants should not be baptized. But there is nothing like that.

Third, Jesus clearly taught that every man must be baptized to be saved. We saw this in John 3:5. He does not make any distinctions or exceptions. This is very significant because in John 6:53 – a passage on the necessity to eat Jesus' flesh, which uses language that is similar to John 3:5 – we do see a distinction. In John 6:53, Jesus says:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you."

But in John 3:5, he says:

"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

In John 6:53 (John 6:54 in Catholic versions), Jesus says unless YOU eat the flesh of the Son of man. But in John 3:5, the statement is universally applicable: unless A MAN is born again of water and the Spirit.

The wording is slightly different because receiving the Eucharist is necessary for all who hear the command and can fulfill it, such as those above the age of reason. Jesus said unless you, to those to whom He was speaking and to others who hear the command. But the necessity to receive water baptism is universal. Hence, Jesus says unless a man is born again of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Every man necessarily includes infants. It logically follows from the teaching of Jesus in John 3:5 that infants should be baptized.

Moving to the next point, which is extremely important, we must consider circumcision. Circumcision was the Old Testament counterpart to Baptism. Circumcision was the way that males in the Old Testament entered a covenant relationship with God. If you were not circumcised, you were not in God's covenant. It was a type of baptism.

Like other types, not every aspect of circumcision corresponded to what baptism would be. For instance, only males could be circumcised in the Old Testament, but males and females are baptized in the New. But there is no doubt that circumcision was the Old Testament counterpart to baptism. Colossians 2 teaches that baptism is the New Testament circumcision.

Colossians 2:11-12 "In [Jesus] also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith…"

This passage identifies baptism as the new and greater circumcision. It also says that one rises to new supernatural life in Christ by baptism. Infants were circumcised in the Old Testament. If baptism is the new circumcision, it follows that infants are to be baptized in the New. If not, then God would have been more generous, more universal, more inclusive in the inferior Old Covenant than He is in the New. But this is not the case.

The salvation which is made available in Jesus is open to all peoples: to Jews and Gentiles. It's unthinkable that Jesus would not establish a means to incorporate children into His spiritual Kingdom and to give them His blessings and salvation.

In fact, notice what Peter says in his famous sermon on Pentecost in Acts 2:

Acts 2:38-39 "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. For the promise is unto you, and to your children…"

This passage is speaking of baptism, and the blessings and forgiveness given through it. It says that the promise is also for the children. They receive the forgiveness through water baptism.

Matthew 19:13-15 "Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence."

The fathers of the Christian Church also believed in infant baptism, having received this tradition from Jesus and the Apostles. Here are just three passages; others could be quoted.

Origen, Homilies on Leviticus 8:3, 244-248 A.D. "In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous."

Pope St. Innocent, 414 A.D. "But that which Your Fraternity asserts the Pelagians preach, that even without the grace of Baptism infants are able to be endowed with the rewards of eternal life, is quite idiotic." (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3:2016.)

St. Augustine, Letter to Jerome, 415 A.D. "Anyone who should say that even infants who pass from this life without participation in the Sacrament [of Baptism] shall be made alive in Christ truly goes counter to the preaching of the Apostle and condemns the whole Church, where there is great haste in baptizing infants because it is believed without doubt that there is no other way at all in which they can be made alive in Christ." (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3:1439.)

The Catholic position is that baptism is necessary for salvation. The Catholic Church teaches that baptism is necessary for every man because baptism is the cause of spiritual rebirth. Baptism regenerates.

So what does the Bible teach on the matter?

John 3:3-5 "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

Deeply consider that when Jesus teaches this profound truth, He prefaces His statement by saying: "verily, verily" or "truly truly" or "amen, amen," depending upon the translation you are reading.

This double-affirmation is an act of oath-taking. In a Jewish court of law, no one could be put to death without the testimony of two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15). Both of them had to raise their right hand and say: Amen. (See Nehemiah 8:6 or 2 Esdras 8:6 as an example of the solemnity of this formula.) Therefore, this solemn language indicates that what Jesus has to say here is extremely serious. Jesus is affirming in a solemn oath that no one enters Heaven without being born again of water and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus tells Nicodemus that unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus then specifically asks Him how that happens; how is one born again? Jesus answers, in John 3:5, by declaring that unless a man is born OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT HE CANNOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD. So, being born again means being born of water and the Holy Ghost. This clearly refers to water baptism.

It's true that non-Catholics have tried to explain away the clear meaning of these words, but to no avail. Many of them say that the water refers to natural birth, and the Spirit refers to the born again process by accepting the faith. That's impossible because the passage is about the rebirth. Jesus says that the rebirth is of water and the Spirit. Moreover, the phrase "of water and the Spirit" in Greek (ek hudatos kai pneumatos) is a single linguistical unit, as Greek scholars point out. It describes being "born of water and the Spirit," not "born of water" on the one hand, and "born of the Spirit" on the other.

In addition, the extended context of the passage confirms that it's referring to water baptism. In the very next chapter, we read that Jesus' Apostles went out and baptized. Look at John 4:1. So, after the Bible presents the absolute necessity of water baptism, it mentions that the Apostles practiced what Jesus preached.

It's crucial for people to understand that John 3:5 refers to water baptism; for millions have a false and unbiblical concept of what it means to be born again. They think it means coming to a true commitment that Jesus is the Savior. That is incorrect, and was not believed in the ancient Church. It is certainly necessary for a person above the age of reason to accept Jesus Christ, to believe in the Trinity and the Incarnation, and to accept all of His teachings. But the Bible clearly teaches that being born again refers to the spiritual regeneration which water baptism gives. The overwhelming evidence which we've considered from other passages in the New Testament also proves it.

The Sacrament of Baptism removes all original and actual sins for those who properly receive it. It should be noted, however, that receiving that sacramental is not a guarantee of salvation. One can lose the grace of baptism through mortal sins and by denying the true faith of Jesus Christ.

Titus 3:5 "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."

The Bible says that men are saved by the "washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." This refers to the spiritual regeneration given in the baptismal waters. The outward pouring of water effects the interior cleansing and renewal of the Holy Spirit. This sacramental action justifies the soul, and applies the merit of the Blood of Jesus Christ while the baptism is occurring.

Protestants have tried to explain this passage away. They argue that the "washing" doesn't refer to the water of baptism, but to the cleansing of the Spirit without baptism. This is refuted by comparing this passage to 1 Peter 3:20-21. They both teach that baptism "saves." 1 Peter 3:20-21 is clearly referring to water baptism, not just a spiritual washing. This demonstrates that Titus 3:5 is also referring to regeneration through the water of baptism.

1 Peter 3:20-21 "… when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. Whereunto baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also…"

1 Peter 3:20-21 is one of the strongest passages in the Bible on the necessity of baptism. Notice the force of St. Peter's assertion here. Baptism now saves you. He is talking about water baptism (the Sacrament), of course, because he draws an analogy between the baptismal waters and the Flood waters. Peter compares receiving the Sacrament of (Water) Baptism to being on the ark of Noe. Just as no one escaped physical death outside the ark of Noe during the time of the Flood (only eight souls survived the Flood by being firmly planted on the ark), likewise no one avoids spiritual death or is saved from original sin without baptism! How clear does it have to be that the Bible teaches that water baptism is necessary for salvation? Baptism saves through the merit of the blood of Jesus Christ!

Amishism Refuted
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