Assurance of salvation-a thorny issue

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This week while selling books in Lancaster County, I met ‘Abe’ and ‘Anna Ruth’, an excommunicated Amish couple, kicked out, they said, for promoting the idea of assurance of salvation.

While they still attended their local church services, lived and dressed ‘Amish’, they had lost full membership and were presumably under the Bann.

Amish believe that all we can do is do our best to live lives of faith and hope to be accepted into heaven.  Abe, a 20-something dairy farmer, shared the doubts and terrors he struggled with during his early life before coming to the conclusion that acceptance of Christ’s supreme sacrifice alone was enough to affirm his place in the afterlife.

Abe’s staunch conviction impressed me.  He was thoughtful and challenged me on my beliefs, something uncommon among non-evangelizing ‘standard’ Amish.

Abe insisted that we pray together before I left.  I was moved that he seemed genuinely concerned about the well-being of my soul.

Regardless of any differences in our individual beliefs, I was grateful to have met him.  During a hectic day filled with menial concerns and worldly distractions, he helped bring my focus back to what was really important.

ADDENDUM: Abe and Ruth were later featured in a documentary entitled “Trouble in Amish Paradise”, which aired in 2009.

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    12 Comments

    1. Dave Carrig

      I share Abe and Anna’s convictions – and am astonished that they are maintaining the amish lifestyle despite the bann being imposed. I’m sure it is in hope that they can convince their church family that assurance of salvation is the gosple truth according to the Bible.

      All anyone needs to do is open their Bibles and read for themselves. For some reason this has been discouraged throughout the ages – and continues today. Apparantly Abe and Anna decided to read for themselves… Truly a wonderful thing to see – this made my day!

    2. stevenson

      How long will this family be shunned for? As long as they promote assurance?

    3. What an interesting story. I admire Abe and Anna for thinking for themselves and sticking to their convictions in spite of the social consequences. It seems that they are not bitter toward the others. This belief is what Christianity is about.

    4. Erika

      so..could thay join the menninites? dont they have this belief?

    5. Emma

      Hi,
      well I opened my Bible, and read it, and I never shared this conviction. This is presumptuous, self-rightuousness, pride, and spiritually dangerous. The Gospel is full of warnings about backsliding…
      Neither Amish or Conservative Mennonites have this belief abour assurance of salvation. Maybe the New Order Amish have it though…

    6. Adam

      Salvation does not come from faith alone, we must live just, Christ- like lives of peace, love and brotherhood to all people.

    7. Returning to Amish church after shunning for assurance of salvation

      As for Amish re-joining the church after being placed in the Bann for assurance beliefs, as stevenson asks above, they would probably need to confess before the church and show that they have revoked this belief. I actually don’t know how ‘hard’ they are being shunned. The other Amish that I talked to about them did not have the reaction of “oh, you shouldn’t talk to those people” that I’ve come across in other communities when speaking of shunned members. I’ve seen situations in Illinois and Ohio where people have been shunned hard and it seemed a lot more painful and bitter and severe than in this case.

      Ruth, you are right–I really did not sense much bitterness while talking with Abe.

      Erika and Emma I am not sure exactly where the New Order Amish stand on the issue…assurance of salvation has popped up historically as a divisive point among the Amish as it seems to be doing today…when I am back in Ohio I will ask some of my New Order friends about it, I am curious myself and do not know the answer offhand.

    8. Anna Olson

      I grew in the Old Order Amish communities in MN and WI and I was taught that there is no such thing as assurance of salvation. All we can do is live the Christ-like lives of peace, love, and brotherhood to all people (as Adam said) and hope God will find us worthy of Heaven when we die.

      It is a well known fact that when an Amish person starts really reading the Bible, he/she is well on their way out. Obviously, when you start talking to others about it you are shunned.

      Abe & Anna will be shunned as long as they stand to their conviction.

      As for the difference in how strict the shunning is for them….that depends on each community. Some are more strict than others so that is why the differences. I am being shunned today but my family and community is allowed to talk to me. Actually they are encouraged to talk in hopes to convince me to come back.

      The moment I decided that I did not have to be Amish to find salvation, my life started to change for the better and my faith in God is much greater today than it was when I was Old Order Amish.

      My thoughts with gratitude,

      AO
      Author, Inspirational Speaker, & Coach

      1. Missy

        Anna Olson, Partially due to my upbringing I have very little knowledge regarding religion besides the stories everybody knows. (Mary and Joseph, Moses, etc) So I really do not mean to offend anyone when I ask this question. I just have a genuine curiosity.
        Here it is. If the Amish believe in living a Christ-like life of peace, love, and brotherhood to all people (as Adam said) How do they justify banishment and shunning (especially familial shunning)?
        Although I might understand in the case of Hugely immoral acts (I’m thinking sexual crimes, or maybe adultery) My logic and emotions tell me that this is not a loving and peaceful life.
        Jesus did not shun or ban Mary Magdelin from his “following” I just don’t “get it” and I thought maybe you could help me understand “their side”
        Again, I truly mean no offense.

    9. Reading Bible leads Amish away from church?

      Hi Anna,

      I am happy for you that you have found peace regarding your faith.

      Since you grew up Amish, it is very interesting to hear an insider’s point of view on the blog here.

      I’m curious, what did you mean about when an Amish person starts reading the Bible they are well on their way out? I’d heard that sentiment expressed before when talking about the Amish.

      I’m also curious, where would you place the communities you grew up in on the spectrum–on the strict side regarding Ordnung and discipline? Or closer to ‘average’ (whatever that term means)? I had just heard that many Minnesota and Wisconsin communities were a bit more strict than say Elkhart County or Arthur, Illinois. Also, former Wisconsin Amish I’d met in other settlements consistently seemed to lean to the conservative side. Thanks for taking the time to respond!

    10. alyssa

      Jesus said ” I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by Me” from the Bible in the book of John. NO ONE GETS TO HEAVEN BASED ON GOOD ACTS ALONE. YOU ONLY GET TO HEAVEN BY ACCEPTING CHRIST’S SACRIFICE AT THE CROSS– TROUGH THE BLOOD OF JESUS!!!

    11. Sharon

      Salvation is not by works, but by the grace of God. The Bible is full of assurances of salvation. I admire the Amish for their simple lifestyle and I am fascinated by it, but I feel sorry for the ones who believe in works.