Society

Protestant Christianity

Seemingly countless denominations of Protestantism have arisen since Martin Luther's revolutionary 16th Century criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church.

5. General Overview Of Beliefs

Protestants are Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ but reject many of the basic tenets of Catholicism. Protestant denominations don’t recognize the authority of the Pope and believe Christ to be the head of the church. Protestants also dismiss Catholic beliefs such as transubstantiation. The Protestant faith also affirms that the Bible is the sole source of God’s word and therefore provides Christians with the standards for the correct way to behave in life and thus be saved after death. Various Protestant denominations also subscribe to the belief that salvation can only be attained through faith in Christ whereas Catholicism teaches its followers earning a place in heaven is not only a matter of grace and faith but also involves doing good works such as the Seven Sacrements.

4. The Protestant Reformation, Evolution, and Development

For hundreds of years Catholicism was considered to be the only religion available to the Christian population. During this time the Roman Catholic Church played a powerful and influential role not only in terms of the everyday lives of its followers but also in regards to the world of politics. As a reaction against the corruption and abuses of power committed by Catholic leaders reformers such as Martin Luther fought to challenge the supremacy of the church and bring about the Protestant Reformation. The reform movement began in 1517 in Germany with the publication of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. During the 16th century the movement grew as an increasing number of theologians rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and brought reform to numerous European countries including Sweden, Norway, France, and Scotland.

3. Notable Denominations and Historical Figures

Martin Luther (1483- 1546) is considered to be one of the most prominent figures in the Protestant Reformation. Followers of the controversial theology professor became known as Lutherans. Other early reformers include Frenchman John Calvin (1509- 1564) and Scotland’s John Knox (1513- 1572). Henry VIII also played a key role in the Protestant reform movement. Although he’d once been named Defender of the Faith by Pope Leo X Henry established the Church of England and assumed the role of head of the church. As Protestantism evolved it became subdivided into a wide variety of denominations including Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, Mennonites, Anglicans, and Methodists.

2. Challenges and Growth

Historically the greatest challenge for Protestantism was establishing itself amidst an atmosphere in which the Roman Catholic Church was perceived to be the sole authority on all things Christian. Early converts to Protestantism were severely punished, excommunicated, and even executed. Over the years as more and more reformers succeeded in forming various Protestant denominations the faith grew and spread across the globe. Countries with large populations of Protestants include the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Latvia, and Hungary. In the 20th century the religion continued to grow in areas such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center 46.5% of Americans currently identify themselves as Protestants.

1. Modern Significance and Legacy

Protestantism is now one of the most popular faiths in the world. According to recent statistics there are approximately 900 million people who identify themselves as Protestants. A 2010 report from Pewforum found that Protestants make up almost 40% of all Christians. Protestantism includes a wide array of denominations with varying beliefs and traditions. Among the diverse branches of Protestantism in modern day America include the Amish, Evangelicals, Quakers, United, and Presbyterians. In the US the Evangelical movement has become especially influential in terms of culture, media exposure, and national politics. Members of these fundamentalist groups espouse a right wing agenda and continue to play a key role within the Republican party.

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