11 April 2023

What is Protestantism? – Characteristics and principles of the Protestant religion

By Donald

Protestantism It is one of the most important branches of Christianity, which arose in the 16th century as a reform of the Catholic Church. It is characterized by its diversity of denominations, doctrines and practices, which share the belief in the supreme authority of the Bible and justification by faith. In this article, we will explore the origins, history, main currents, and current challenges of Protestantism in the world.

Definition and concept of Protestantism

It is a religious current that arose in the 16th century. Some Christians rebelled against the Catholic Church and followed the ideas of Martin Luther, the initiator of the Protestant Reformation.

Followers and other reformers opposed the decree of the Diet of Speyer in 1529. It forbade them from practicing their new dogma and forced them to follow Catholic rules about the Mass and the Bible. Those who rejected the decree they signed a protest document and confirmed their new belief. Thus they began to be called Protestants.

Protestantism includes all Christians who separated from the Catholic Church. It also includes other churches that were derived from Protestantism, such as Anglicanism, Anabaptism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism. Evangelicalism is also part of Protestantism.

What is German Protestantism?

It is a branch of Christianity that originated in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation initiated by Martin Luther. It is characterized by follow the principles of faith alone, grace and scripturewhich affirm that salvation is obtained by faith in Christ, that the grace of God is the one that can forgive sins and that only the Bible is the supreme authority in matters of faith and doctrine.

It is divided into several denominations, among which Lutheranism, Calvinism and United Protestantism stand out. this current Its main organization is the EKD, which is the Christian confession with the most faithful in the country. It is the main religion in the north, east and center of Germany, although there are also Catholic and Orthodox minorities.

What is Calvinistic Protestantism?

It is a branch of Reformed Christianity that is based on the teachings of John Calvin, a 16th century French theologian. He is characterized by the doctrine of predestination, which states that the creator has chosen in advance those who will be saved and damned.

Also emphasizes God’s sovereignty over all things, the total depravity of the human being and the need for divine grace for salvation. Calvinism spread throughout Europe and America through various reformed churches, such as:

  • Huguenots in France.
  • The Presbyterians in Scotland and Ireland.
  • Puritans in England.
  • Congregationalists in New England.

What is liberal Protestantism?

It is a theological current that arose in the 19th century within Protestant Christianity. Its main feature is the rejection of dogmas and traditional religious institutionsand the attempt to reinterpret the origins of Christianity and faith from a more humanistic and rational perspective.

Liberal Protestantism is based on the principle of free inquiry and the use of historical and scientific criticism to analyze the biblical sources and the testimonies of the Christian tradition. He is also interested in dialogue with other religions and with modern culture, seeking a greater social and ethical relevance of Christianity. Some of the most prominent representatives of this current were Friedrich Schleiermacher, Albrecht Ritschl, Adolf von Harnack and Rudolf Bultmann.

What is Puritan Protestantism?

It was a religious movement that arose in the 16th century in England, with the purpose of reforming the Church and eliminating practices that they considered contrary to the Bible and Calvinism. The Puritans were characterized by their emphasis on purity of worshipdoctrine and conduct, as well as for his rejection of the authority of the pope, the ecclesiastical hierarchy and Catholic rituals.

They divided into several groups, some of which broke away from the Church of England and created other independent or part of congregations. Puritan Protestantism had great political and social influence in England and in the American colonies. In these, communities based on their religious principles were established. Some of the most prominent Puritan theologians were the following:

  • John Flavel.
  • Thomas Gouge.
  • Stephen Charnock.
  • william bates.
  • Richard Baxter.

When was Protestantism born? – History and origin

According to the dictionary, the term comes from the protest made by the German princes who supported Luther against Carlos V’s attempt to impose religious uniformity in the Holy Roman Empire.

The origin of Protestantism dates back to Luther’s criticisms of Catholic dogma and to the authority of the pope. In particular, regarding the sale of indulgences, justification by works and the interpretation of the Bible. He published his 95 theses in 1517, in which he expounded his arguments against the corrupt practices of the Church and defended salvation by faith alone, the supreme authority of the Bible, and the universal priesthood of believers.

the lutheran movement spread through Germany and Scandinavia. In this way, it gave rise to other branches of Protestantism, such as Calvinism, Anglicanism, Anabaptism, etc. Each of these has its own organizational and liturgical characteristics. However, they share some essential points, such as the rejection of the papacy, saints, images, clerical celibacy and the seven Catholic sacraments.

This current had a great influence on the political, social and cultural history of Europe and the world. It was the cause of wars, revolutions, migrations and reforms. Also contributed to the development of science, education, economy, art and music. At present, Protestantism has some 800 million faithful throughout the world, grouped in various denominations and churches.

What are the characteristics of Protestantism?

Protestantism differs from Catholicism and Orthodoxy in several respectsFor example, the rejection of the authority of the Pope, the priesthood of all believers, salvation by faith alone, and the Bible as the only source of divine revelation.

It is not a unified movement, but a group of autonomous and independent churches that are grouped in different denominations. Each has its own temples, clergy, doctrine, and practices. Some of the distinctive features of Protestantism are:

  • The only book and source of divine doctrines is the Bible. this current states that the Bible contains all truth necessary for salvation and the Christian life. Besides that, no other authority or human tradition is needed to interpret it. Protestantism uses the Hebrew biblical canon in the Old Testament and the Greek for the New Testament. This means that he rejects the books that in Catholicism are considered a source of inspiration.
  • Faith as the only means of salvation. It is a free gift from God that does not depend on human works or merits, but on faith in Jesus Christ as the only mediator between God and men. Protestantism dictates that only Christ can forgive sins and reconcile man with his creator, and that no other intermediary, such as the saints or the Virgin Mary, can do so.
  • The priesthood of all believers. The Christians have direct access to God through Christ and the Holy Spirit, and they do not need any other priest or ecclesiastical hierarchy to communicate with him. This current defends equality among all members of the church and the right to read and interpret the Bible for themselves. It recognizes only two sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist, understood as external signs of God’s internal grace.
  • Liberty and the separation between church and state. Each person must follow their own enlightened conscience by the word of God and the Holy Spirit, and that no one can impose a faith or morality contrary to his conviction. Protestantism holds that the church should be independent of political power and not interfere in civil affairs or seek material privileges or benefits.

Why did Protestantism arise?

It was due to several historical factors, cultural, political and religious. These favored the debate regarding papal authority and the desire to reform the Church. These factors include:

  • The Renaissance. This cultural movement favored the encouragement of intellectual freedom and humanism. As well as interest in the main sources of Christianity. He promoted the study of the Scriptures in the vernacular languages ​​and in the original languages ​​(Hebrew and Greek). Many Renaissance scholars realized the differences between medieval Catholicism and early Christianity.
  • The corruption of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Catholic Church had become a rich and powerful institution that owned much of the land in Europe. The clergy lived in the midst of luxuries, privileges and abuses. The sale of indulgences, ecclesiastical positions and relics was a common practice that generated scandal and indignation among the faithful. Immorality and ignorance reigned over some members of the clergy, even among the popes.
  • The support of secular sovereigns. Many princes and kings saw in the Protestant Reformation an opportunity to free themselves from the political and economic domination of the papacy. By adopting Protestantism, they could confiscate the property of the Catholic Church, strengthen their national authority, and choose their own form of religion. Some examples are Henry VIII of England, Gustav I of Sweden, and Frederick III of Denmark.
  • The use of printing. This invention made it possible to spread the ideas and translations of the Bible on a large scale and at low cost. The writings of Luther and other reformers circulated throughout Europe and reached the hands of many readers eager to learn the evangelical message. The printing press also facilitated theological debate and polemics between Catholics and Protestants.

What is the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism?

Both share the belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world, but differ in many ways of doctrine, practice, and organization. Among the most important differences are:

  • The authority of the Bible. Protestants believe that the Bible alone is the inspired and sufficient word of God to guide the believer in all matters of faith and morals. Catholics, on the other hand, also recognize the authority of the tradition of the Church and the magisterium and the bishops, who can define infallible dogmas that are not explicit in the Bible.
  • The office and authority of the Pope. Catholics regard him as the successor of Peter and the vicar of Christ on earth, who has the power to rule and teach the entire Church with full jurisdiction. Protestants reject this idea and affirm that only Christ is the head of the house of God and that no man can usurp his place.
  • The concept of priesthood. Catholics distinguish between the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ministerial of the ordained. In this way, they receive a special grace to celebrate the sacraments and offer the Eucharistic sacrifice. Protestants, by contrast, hold that all believers are priests before God and that there is no need for a special class of mediators.
  • The Eucharist or Holy Supper. Catholics believe that, in this, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, offered as a bloodless sacrifice for the sins of the world. Protestants, in general, understand the Lord’s Supper as a memorial or commemoration of Christ’s death, and do not accept the real presence or sacrificial nature of this sacrament.