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Protestant Christianity

What is Protestantism?

Martin Luther
Martin Luther

One of the three major branches of the Christian religion, Protestantism originated in the 16th century Reformation, and most modern Protestant denominations can trace their heritage to one of the major movements that sprung up in the 16th century. "Protestantism" is less a denomination than a general branch of Christianity, along with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, encompassing numerous denominations and a wide theological spectrum ranging from conservative to liberal.

Lutheranism is rooted in the teachings of the German Reformer, Martin Luther. Presbyterians are indebted to John Calvin and Reformed theology, as well as to John Knox and the Church of Scotland. Anglicans and Episcopalians trace their heritage to the Church of England that resulted from King Henry VIII's break from the authority of Rome. Evangelicalism (and to a slightly lesser degree, Methodism) is indebted to Pietism, a 17th century Protestant movement emphasizing a holy life, individual study of the scriptures, and better training of ministers. And out of this branch came Pentecostalism in the early 20th century.

The Variations of Protestantism

Protestant denominations differ in the degree to which they reject Roman Catholic belief and practice. Some churches, such as Anglicans and Lutherans, tend to resemble Catholicism in their formal liturgy, while others, like Baptists and Presbyterians, retain very little of the liturgy and tradition associated with the Catholic church.

In common with Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Protestants adhere to the authority of the Bible and the doctrines of he early creeds. Protestants are distinguished by their emphasis on the doctrines of "justification by grace alone through faith, the priesthood of all believers, and the supremacy of Holy Scripture in matters of faith and order." [2] Most Protestant churches recognize only two sacraments directly commanded by the Lord - baptism and communion - as opposed to the seven sacraments accepted by the Catholic Church.

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  1. "Protestantism." Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions, 459.
  2. "The Protestant Heritage."  Encyclopędia Britannica. 2004.  Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.

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