Traditionally, Protestants are the largest religious group in the Scandinavian countries, the USA, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand. In Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Protestantism is one of the two predominant faiths (along with Catholicism).
One of the most widespread trends in Christianity that separated from Catholicism during the Reformation in the XVI century (Lutheranism, Calvinism, etc.) and as a result of further internal division formed such trends as Adventism, Baptism, Methodism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, charismatic movement, etc. They saw their goal in returning to the ideals of early Christianity. There are Protestant churches and communities of a national or local character all over the world and their spread continues.
Protestantism is the second largest religious direction of Christianity, numbering about 800 million people.
The history of Protestantism is associated with the names of great Christian thinkers such as Jan Huss, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, etc. The emergence of Protestantism was a turning point throughout European culture.
Organized by the Vatican, the brisk trade in indulgences led to a vocal protest by the German theologian Martin Luther (1483-1546), who on October 17, 1517 published 95 theses criticizing the teachings of the Catholic Church on indulgence, purgatory, prayer for the dead and salvation by the merits of saints.
Protestantism is actively covered on the pages of peer-reviewed scientific and philosophical journals and religious press published on all five continents.
A brief history
Luther rejected the papal authority, the special grace of the priesthood and its mediation in salvation, put forward the demand for simplification of the church rite and subordination of the Church to secular authority. All this corresponded to the interests of the burghers and part of the gentry, who created a moderate direction of the German Reformation under the leadership of Luther and his colleague Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560). Lutherans insisted on a personal relationship (without any intermediaries – the Church, the priest) of a person with God. They fought for the right of every Christian to freely read and interpret the Bible themselves. Luther translated the Bible into German (the Catholic Church required believers only in church to hear the Bible read from the lips of a priest and only in Latin) and made it a reference book for every German family. Luther’s translation of the Bible became a model of the then German literary language.
Martin Luther justified 3 important principles of Protestantism: salvation by personal faith, not through the absolution of sins by priests; the only authority is the Bible, not the teaching of the Church fathers, popes or the decrees of church councils; forgiveness is achieved through God’s mercy, not through priests or popes. In 1526, the Reichstag of the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”, sitting in Speer (Germany), at the request of the German Lutheran princes, adopted a law on the right of every German prince to choose a religion for himself and his subjects. However, already in 1529, the Imperial Reichstag repealed this law. In response, 5 Lutheran princes and representatives of 14 German cities signed the so-called Protest – a protest against the decision of the general imperial assembly to limit the spread of Lutheranism in Germany. Subsequently, “Protestants” began to be called all followers of new church trends that separated from Catholicism during the Reformation, and also appeared later as a result of separation from the main Protestant churches. The early Protestant movements – Lutheranism, Zwinglianism, Calvinism, Anglicanism – were formed in the 16th century and gave impetus to Anabaptism, Mennonism, Antitrinitarianism, Socinianism. The organizational structure of Protestant churches was adapted to the new social and cultural situation, new spiritual needs of the individual, who was freed from the class-normative ties (aristocratic, gentry, priesthood).
The most consistent embodiment of democratic demands was found in Zwinglianism and Calvinism, which merged into the Swiss Reformed Church in the 16th century. Zurich and Geneva (both cities in Switzerland) became the centres of the Reformation, where Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and Jean Calvin (1509-64) carried out a radical transformation of the church structure. Unlike Lutheranism, reformed churches do not have a universally binding creed. The only source of the creed is the Bible. The authorities for theologians and preachers remain Calvin’s “Teachings in the Christian Faith” (1536-59), which systematize the ideas of Martin Luther and other reformers, “Ecclesiastical Institutions” (1541), “The Geneva Catechism” (1545), as well as “The Scottish Faith” (1560) and “The Westminster Confession of Faith” (1547) and others.
Faiths based on Calvinism were adopted by Protestants of France (Huguenots), the Netherlands, in some lands of Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The ideas of Calvinism acquired a significant role among the Protestants of England, who demanded a radical “purification” (Puritans) of the Anglican Church. The Calvinists of England and Scotland advocated the abolition of the episcopate.
The essence of the movement
The belief and practice of Protestantism are based on the principles of the Reformation, namely, Sola scriptura (“only by Scripture”), Sola gratia (“only by grace”), Sola fide (“only by faith”), Solus Christus (“only Christ”) and Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God only”). All five principles are summarized by the expression Quinque sola (“Five “only””). Protestantism also accepts the position of the Symbolum Constantinopolitanum, but there are certain differences in the understanding of these provisions compared to the understanding of the Creed in Orthodoxy and Catholicism.
The principle of the common priesthood, that is, the duty of all believers to preach and teach the Bible, is extremely important in Protestantism. All members of Protestant churches participate in the life of their communities and in the election of governing bodies. Communities democratically elect or call special ministers — deacons, presbyters, preachers, evangelists, pastors, bishops.
The main idea of Protestantism, formulated by Martin Luther, is the denial that salvation can be achieved by good deeds or by any human effort (at the time of the appearance of Protestantism, the struggle against the sale of indulgences was also an essential point, that is, the idea that money can help to absolve sins). But salvation is achieved solely by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, according to the key biblical text for Protestantism — Ephesians 2:8,9: «for you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from you, it is a gift of God, not from works, so that no one brags.»
Protestantism, which grew out of the struggle with church traditions, which, according to Protestants, often depart from the origins of Christianity, is characterized by a special emphasis on knowledge of the Bible and evaluation of all aspects of life in accordance with biblical postulates.
Protestantism stands for the fact that the sermon is brought to the forefront of the divine service. The service is conducted in the vernacular languages, consists of preaching, singing prayer hymns and reading the Bible. Protestantism rejects the distribution of believers into clergy and laity – that is, every believer can turn to God without intermediaries.
Lutheran, or evangelical churches took shape in the German northern principalities. Lutheranism has its own doctrinal books – the Augsburg Confession (1530), Luther’s Catechisms, the Book of Concord (1580). Lutheranism preserves the episcopate, a special ordination (ordination), the liturgy, 2 sacraments – baptism (of infants) and communion. There are no icons in Lutheran churches, but the crucifix, the decoration of the clergy and the altar are preserved.
Protestant holidays are divided into 2 groups: non-transitive and transitive. The non–transients are invariably dated – Epiphany (January 19), Candlemas (February 15), Transfiguration (August 19). The dates of the passing celebrations are calculated annually depending on the day on which the Christian Easter fell.
Biography of the creator/creators
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German Christian theologian, initiator of the Reformation, and a leading translator of the Bible into German. One of the branches of Protestantism, Lutheranism, is named after him. One of the creators of the German literary language.
One of the key differences between Protestantism and other leading Christian churches is the denial of the power and role of the clergy in the salvation of the soul, which goes against the traditional idea of hierarchy, so the leaders of Protestant churches perform rather administrative and organizational functions. It is worth noting the post of head of the Anglican Church, formally belonging to Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.
Protestantism faces criticism mainly from the Catholic Church and some Orthodox churches, although Protestant denominations also make critical remarks about each other.
Catholic criticism claims that the principle of Sola scriptura of the Lutheran and Reformed churches does not correspond to the biblical doctrine. While the Catholic tradition agrees with Protestantism that faith, not deeds, is necessary for “initial” justification, some modern Protestant scholars, such as N.T. Wright, argue that both faith and deeds are necessary for justification. Catholic critics also dispute the historicity, the prerequisites of the Protestant Reformation.