The Amish: Cult, Sect, or Other (And please defend your choice)

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by N. Eshelman, Oct 15, 2010.

  1. Cult. Here's why...

    10 vote(s)
  2. Sect. Here's why...

    17 vote(s)
  3. Other. Here's why

    2 vote(s)
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  1. N. Eshelman

    N. Eshelman Puritan Board Senior

    Growing up in PA I came across the Amish quite a bit. They were always seen as quaint, harmless, and o-so-godly. What do you think?

    Cult, Sect, or something else?
  2. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    Now that I think about it, I guess I don't really know enough about what they believe to answer. Hopefully I can learn something from this thread.
  3. kainos01

    kainos01 Puritan Board Junior

    I say "sect." This is because, of what I know about the Amish, they differ from the Mennonites chiefly in what they accept or reject in the culture (technology, etc.) The Amish reject the cultural involvement because they believe they then reduce their temptation to sin. However, at root (As far as I know), their theology is the same as the Mennonites, whose theology is summarized here.
  4. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    a cult-like sect.

    And I am waiting out back to defend my answer!
  5. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    "Oh-so-godly?" I don't know about that.

    When we were in Mississippi, there was an Amish community about an hour south of us. One of the elders in our church had helped them when they were looking for land to buy, so they trusted him (as an outsider). He needed some work done on a horse saddle, so he took us one time when he went to drop it off.

    The Amish in this community ran a wood-working business, and there were some outsiders who worked with them. The outsiders would drive automobiles, and some of the Amish would catch a ride by jumping on the back of a truck and holding on (this was acceptable apparently). One of the Amish families had a washing machine (I'm not kidding), but it was located apart from the house and was powered by a generator (Anna remembers there being generators everywhere). One of the houses had a telephone, but it was on a shelf outside a kitchen window (so that it was not "in the house").

    Every Amish community may not be like that, but it struck me as being very hypocritical/Pharisaical. Or, as the Missus put it, "Legalism at its finest."
  6. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    I also say sect. From what I can remember from my religion class, a cult usually has the following characteristics:

    • Charismatic Leader
    • -Excessive commitment by members to that one leader
    • us vs them mentality
    • ends justified the means mentality
    • actively brings in new members

    They're definitely not Orthodox, and I even think you can make a good argument that they're not necessarily Christian. But I do think they at least qualify as a "religion" and not as a "cult"
  7. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Sect. I'd reserve "cult" for those who deny the historic creeds and/or have the potential to drink poisoned Kool-Aid. The Amish are at least attempting to be biblical Christians, albeit with some misunderstandings and a heavy dose of their own traditions thrown in. If I'm not mistaken, in most Amish communities an appeal to biblical authority carries some weight, so that they won't end up completely ruled by a single, weirdo leader.
  8. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The Amish have a "way of life," and (unfortunately) that way-of-life is equated with a kind of sanctity. Typically, a life-course will have a child grow up in that way-of-life as a training ground. And around high-school and perhaps a bit after, the kids have a window where they are expected to sow their wild oats. Then they have an opportunity to reintegrate, and adopt the strict life inside the community (with its expectations). In good anabaptist tradition, its all about the free-will decision. There really is no standard of godliness for those youth on the loose. Inside the community is where the law reigns, and enough of each generation return to the comforts (and the control) of that external restraint.
  9. Curt

    Curt Puritan Board Graduate

    Let them get on this site and defend themselves.
  10. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    I grew up around an Amish community. I knew a lot of them. They were nice people. But, their culture is not Godly. It is almost entirely man centered. Every community is different. They each have a different ordnung. But, the theology behind them all is the same.
  11. MarieP

    MarieP Puritan Board Senior

    I thought their theology was different than the Mennonites? There's some Amish in the county north of ours (Oldham), and some members of my church who live near there got a mailing from them. There was very little in the mailing about Christ and much about how living a simple life makes one more spiritual.
  12. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    The Amish have resorted to mailings now? Are these Purpose Driven Amish?!? :scratch:
  13. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    My B-in-L grandparents are Old Order Mennonites and he tells me that the Amish he was around growing up in Holmes Co., Ohio were Biblical in the sense they are Trinitarian but were Pelagian in doctrine.
  14. 21st Century Calvinist

    21st Century Calvinist Puritan Board Junior

    Can anyone join the Amish or are you born into it? Just curious, not thinking of joining them.:scratch:
  15. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    It depends upon the ordnung. A lot of them will let you join. The community I lived near would. They were a very strict order as well. It would have been difficult for most though. You would pretty much need to have been fluent in Low German. They spoke Engish, but they lived in Low German.
  16. 21st Century Calvinist

    21st Century Calvinist Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks Laurence. I saw a documentary not so long ago when I was in Scotland visiting (BBC perhaps?) on the young males who are given time to pursue their worldly desires. It has German name, but I forget it now. Boy, these kids were wild, but I think they all went back to the Amish. I wonder if many people leave the Amish community. If so, I wonder if they profess Christ and join biblical churches?
  17. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    I am somewhat serious in that if I could find an Amish group that was Reformed I would consider looking into it.
  18. 21st Century Calvinist

    21st Century Calvinist Puritan Board Junior

    Ben: Really? Why? Personally, I like the comforts of the 21st Century too much. :p More seriously though, I can appreciate the community and family oriented values of such a community. We have certainly lost that. However, God has not called us to live in a time warp. God calls us to live in the present, where he has placed us.
  19. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    That may just be the biggest theological juxtaposition I have ever heard expressed! I love the lifestyle, and I could drift that way easily. The joiner I with whom I apprenticed as a good man, but he was as lost as a goose in a hail storm. He was the perfect fruit of multigenerational faith Pelegianism. I still pray for his soul.
  20. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    Yeah I know. The good thing about living in an Amish community is that you have an 18th-Century lifestyle with access to 21st-Century medicine. :)
  21. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    Amish education ends at the 8th grade, which makes it really hard to leave the community. Leaving without anything would be hard anyway, but not having any high school makes it almost impossible to get a job - especially if you're a woman and can't do physical work. (We have what is either an Amish or Hutterite community not too far from where I live).
  22. 21st Century Calvinist

    21st Century Calvinist Puritan Board Junior

    You lost me on that one, but I googled, so all is good.

    ---------- Post added at 09:27 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:24 PM ----------

    I did not not know that. Thank you. Yes, I could see why it would be difficult to leave the community. I am also thinking that perhaps those who leave are disowned by their family. Am I correct in thinking that you can't rejoin if you leave?
  23. jwithnell

    jwithnell Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I have lived and worked in communities where the Mennonites were very much present in all forms from old order to simple, but modern orders. I am not as familiar with the Amish. Sect is perhaps the best classification. My exposure has been to people who are sincere in their faith in Christ alone and who have a deep heart for serving others. The only place I have observed a foot washing was while attending a Mennonite worship service that included communion. The simple humility and love was quite evident and moving. (I participated in neither practice.) I was at another time saddened by a conversation with a young lady from that fellowship. She clearly had a heart for the gospel. But she lamented that people would become involved, become interested in Christ, then would fade away after being approached by the church leadership regarding the proper manner of dress.
  24. TaylorOtwell

    TaylorOtwell Puritan Board Junior

    My wife grew up in Lancaster County, PA. She tells me that the Amish children and teenagers were some of the most ungodly and wicked people she has ever met. Many were drunkards and fornicators behind their parent's back, and had no real reverence for the God of the Scripture.

    She told me one time she came across one of the Amish teens in "worldly" clothes with a hat pulled down low (so as not to be recognized) at one of the local fairs. He recognized her and rushed away before she could talk to him.

    For many, it's just a facade. I heard Paul Washer state one time that in the groups with the biggest outward show of "holiness", you will find the grossest immorality and ungodliness you can imagine. It is really true.

    I vote cult. I don't think they have anything close to a true Biblical theology, piety, or practice. In all seriousness I think the vast majority believe a false gospel that will never save them.
  25. interalia

    interalia Puritan Board Freshman

    An orthodox Christian Sect - I think a few of the above comments are a little harsh and narrow-sighted. Certainly, they share only the basic essentials with us Reformed-types, but enough to share bond in Christ and His church. See Buschart, David. "Exploring Protestant Traditions..." Chapter 3 - "Faith for Radical Community: Anabaptist Tradition" 2006, IVP Academic.
  26. jwithnell

    jwithnell Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    :ditto: For what it's worth, in something like 20 percent of the wedding in Puritan New England, the bride was expecting. The temptations are common to all of us.
  27. JumpingUpandDown

    JumpingUpandDown Puritan Board Freshman

    My mom was born amish, Old Order Dunkard actually, one of the German Baptist sects that came out of Schwarzenau Germany. They wouldn't claim to be Amish as they felt the amish were too liberal, especially in the relaxed way they'd raise their kids. Her parents left the church when she was 5, her dad bought a car so they were kicked out. We still have many family members in several different amish sects. My grandmother speaks fluent Pennsylvania Dutch (lower German), my great grandfather was a preacher, some of my extended family still have no electricity/running water/cars, etc.

    It's definitely salvation by works. The works being what you deny yourself.

    We have always been welcome to attend funerals, family gatherings etc. The old order church my family was in would baptize by dunking three times, they also wash feet and have communion once a year when the denomination gets together for their annual conference. At the church services I've been to, they always have 3 preachers preach. They'll stand up completely unprepared and randomly open their bibles and talk, 5 minutes or an hour, whatever God tells them I guess.

    I think I'd classify them as a sect.
  28. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live in an Amish area in Indiana. He comes from a long line of Mennonites and still has family (the "English") in Shipshewana, Indiana. On one of our trips to visit them in Fort Wayne, we went to Shipshewana and had a dinner with an Amish family. We rode in a horse drawn buggy out to the farm and enjoyed an evening of food and questions about Amish beliefs. Also, while in town, we went to a FANTASTIC museum on the Amish and Mennonite tradition.

    From what I gather, "sect" applies to them. Although, with the limitation of 8th grade only education, the Amish have an insularity that borders on the cultic. "Free will" definitely describes their core belief. They are as semi-Pelagian as most non-Reformed evangelicals. They are also legalistic. I did not observe the "charismatic like" belief in immediate revelation trumping scripture that characterized so many of the Radical Reformation in the sixteenth century.

    Their cultural isolation imposes a "parish" model of church that gives rise to a fair number of nominal "Christians." If you are born Amish, you are raised to be Amish regardless of your personal spiritual condition. Even among those who remain in the community, there are probably fair numbers of folks who do not have a deep interest in spiritual things.

    Judging by their books, they read a lot of mainstream evangelical lit and pretty orthodox Bible resources. They are an interesting group of folks! But, as to Ben's point, his comment about "Reformed Amish" would be almost as oxymoronic as jumbo shrimp or seminary training.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2010
  29. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    BTW, my son-in-law does NOT attend a Mennonite or Amish church. He and my daughter attend a broad evangelical church (she is becoming more and more Reformed).
  30. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor


    Source? (for the wedding figures, I am aware of being susceptible to temptation)
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