Are Amish Traditions Just Legalism?

Clearly a huge number of Amish traditions, from Buggies to “Barn-door Pants”, have no Scriptural warrant, and can therefore be seen as a prime example of Cultural Christianity, Legalism or Phariseeism. Indeed, in general they are no different from many other traditions observed by other groups. However, there is a difference in that the Amish traditions serve to preserve a culture in which the Bible has, at the very least, a high position, and often the paramount position. There are two results here: one is that many Amish come to accept the Gospel, the other is that Amish numbers are growing strongly. There are now about one third of a million Amish, and the growth continues. This is at a time when churches across the Western World are in rapid decline, a decline that has every appearance of being terminal.  Does this justify the traditions?

A further criticism that can be levelled against the Amish is that they do not engage in evangelism. The fact that this is something that varies from one Amish community to another, with some definitely involved in evangelism, is not the point here.  The interesting fact is that almost everyone in the USA knows about the Amish, most people have a high respect for them, and most know that they are not only Christian, but also that they avoid prosperity/materialism and all forms of violence. This means that simply by living as they do they provide a clear witness, which is especially significant in the materialistic, gun-loving, and militaristic USA.

The Amish have found a formula that has clear benefits. Much of that formula can clearly be changed without contravening any Scriptural principles. But how much can be changed without losing the benefits that follow? Why take the risk of changing anything? Given the benefits, and that Amish people largely lead far more fulfilling lives than non-Amish people, I am quite sure that if I where a Christian who had grown up Amish I would not change anything. The issue is not whether the Bible prescribes “Barn-door pants”, but that “Barn-door pants” play a part in protecting a Biblical culture.