Are there definitive works of Amish theology/philosophy?
June 12, 2018 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Basically, I want to do a deep dive on Amish philosophy and theology - is there a Thing I Must Read? Is there a(n) Augustine/Calvin/Lewis/Rob Bell of the Amish? (I'm much more interested in things written _by_ them than _about_ them.)
posted by hishtafel to Religion & Philosophy (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
There are some books listed here - both a good place to start and also a handy list of authors and publishers to followup with.

These three authors (who are not Amish but are Mennonite or some other similar place within the Anabaptist tradition--so, closely related to Amish religiously and culturally) seem to be pretty much the nexus; a bunch of other books are listed on that page that you might want to check out.

Pathway Publishers seems to be the main source of Amish-published books and this page lists their books on the Amish faith by various Amish authors. More info about Pathway Publishers.

I'm no great expert on the Amish, but from perusing those lists it looks like these may be the core works: 1001 Questions and Answers on the Christian Life; Menno Simons: The Complete Works; Dietrich Philip Handbook; Writings of David Troyer; The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World, by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zercher Jossey-Bass
posted by flug at 10:25 PM on June 12, 2018

In college, I did a project on Anabaptism and the Radical Reformation. This predates the Amish as such, but you may be interested in some of these books. In any case, I'm tickled that my annotated bibliography might be of use to someone. I was particularly interested in a document called the Schleitheim Confession and Anabaptist pacifism more generally, but these are the sources that were more general.
  • Klaasen, Walter, editor. Anabaptism in Outline. Number 3 in Classics of the Radical Reformation. Kitchener, ON: Herald Press, 1981. (Excerpts of various texts in translation organised by theme; covers a fairly large geographic/time span, IIRC.)
  • Snyder, C. Arnold. Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction. Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 1995.
  • Snyder, C. Arnold, editor. Sources of South German/Austrian Anabaptism. Number 10 in Classics of the Radical Reformation. Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2001. (primary sources in English translation)
  • Stayer, James M. “The Radical Reformation.” In Handbook of European History 1400-1600 Late Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, edited by Jr. Thomas A. Brady, Heiko A. Oberman, and James D. Tracy, E.J. Brill, 1995, volume 2, chapter 9.
  • Yoder, John H., editor. The Legacy of Michael Sattler. Number 1 in Classics of the Radical Reformation. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1973. (I was mainly interested in this because it had included an English translation of the Schleitheim Confession and didn't write down much else about it. You may be interested in reading about Sattler.)
I think Pandora Press is a Mennonite publisher.
posted by hoyland at 4:20 AM on June 13, 2018

John Howard Yoder is definitely the most prominent Anabaptist theologian of the modern era. He was Mennonite, but the areas he worked in (ethics, peace studies) are essentially the same for (most) Anabaptists, and a lot of it has to do with the sort of life that Amish communities live -- refusing to participate in political governance, communal living, radical pacifism, semi-separatist communities, rejecting political evangelization (i.e., trying to make a "Christian nation" mandatory and choosing to make Christian communities that can be joined by the committed).

Do note that Yoder has had a major #metoo re-evaluation since his death. He remains the most important Anabaptist theologian of the 20th century, and a hugely influential Christian theologian generally, but knowing what we now know about his sexual abuse of dozens and dozens of women who were his students puts his writings demanding Christians reject coercion in a different and much harsher light. Yoder (at first) believed he was inaugurating a new theology of sexuality, but he didn't really ask the women he was trying to inaugurate it with if they were interested before he started inaugurating it on them against their wills. The Mennonite church recently commissioned a professional historian to research and report on the allegations and their aftermath, and it is fascinating reading for an accounting of how powerful men, especially in church settings, got away with sexual abuse in the latter half of the 20th century -- and itself is a pretty fascinating piece of practical Anabaptist theology, in that it was commissioned by the church, written by a Mennonite historian, and publicly distributed, in an attempt to hold the community accountable to itself.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:23 AM on June 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

Speaking as a Mennonite, I'd answer you question about books by Amish on Amish philosophy and theology by saying such books really don't exist. Reading the early Amish and Anabaptists are important to understand the beginnings of the Amish (and other Anabaptists), but the Amish don't really write philosophy and theology. You need to rely on non-Amish sources, and sympathetic Mennonite scholars are probably your best bet. So, the previously mentioned The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World, by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zercher Jossey-Bass is a good recommendation.

You might enjoy perusing GAMEO, the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, which has a lot of encyclopedia-style articles on Anabaptism. The article on the Amish Division talks about origins, and the article on Old Order Amish is a general article.

As implied above, there's plenty of dirty laundry that can be aired about the Amish, about the Mennonites, and. well, every long-running human group. But I think you're looking for sympathetic sources, and that's what I'm providing.
posted by willF at 3:03 PM on August 27, 2018

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