Protestantism grew out of the Reformation, a movement of separation from the Catholic Church. In modern times it generally refers to the branches of Western Christianity other than that of the Roman Catholic Church.¹ Martin Luther, a Catholic priest and monk in Germany, sent his Ninety-Five Theses to Catholic authorities in 1517 AD, identifying and protesting against what he believed to be errors in the practices of the Catholic Church. He believed that the Church was no longer following the word of God given in the Bible.¹
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17
The Reformers established several splinter churches after the split with the Roman Catholic Church: in Germany, Lutheranism, in England, the Church of England (Anglican).¹ Protestant churches are divided into denominations based on their specific beliefs and applications of scripture (the Bible). Common denominations include Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Lutheranism, Methodism, Presbyterianism, Reformed, and Anabaptists (a Radical Reformation denomination).¹
There are several commonalities between traditional protestant denominations¹:
- Scripture alone (sola scriptura): The Bible is the source of authority for the church.
- Justification by faith (sola fide): The removal of the penalty of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus (justification) comes from faith and not works.
- By grace alone (sola gratia): That salvation is received from the grace of God, without any merit by the person.
- Through Christ alone (solo Christos): That salvation comes from Jesus Christ alone, and not from earthly ministers.
- Glory to God alone (soli Deo gloria): Against the worship of anyone aside from God (Mary, the saints, or angels).
A significant difference between protestant denominations is their beliefs of the Eucharist (Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper). Radical reform churches further believe in adult baptism, as opposed to infant baptism.¹ Nontrinitarian denominations do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity and Restorationalists include Mormons, Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.¹
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