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Protestantism is the form of Christian faith and practice that originated with the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was a movement against what Protestants considered to be the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. It is one of the largest divisions of Christianity; along with Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The term refers to the letter of protestation by Lutheran princes in 1529 against an edict condemning the teachings of Martin Luther as heresy.
Terminology & History Edit
The term "Protestant" was first used for German princes who issued a protest or dissent against the edict of the Diet of Speyer, which reversed prior concessions made to Lutherans. During the Reformation, the term was not used outside of German politics. The word "evangelical", which refers to the gospel, was much more widely used during the Reformation for those involved in the religious movement
In the late 1130s, Arnold of Brescia, an Italian canon regular became one of the first theologians to attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church. His teachings on apostolic poverty gained currency after his death among Arnoldists, and later more widely among Waldensians and the Spiritual Franciscans, though no written word of his has survived the official condemnation. In the early 1170s, Peter Waldo founded the Waldensians. He advocated an interpretation of the Gospel that led to conflicts with the Roman Catholic Church. By 1215, the Waldensians were declared heretical and subject to persecution. Despite that, the movement continues to exist to this day in Italy.
In the 1370s, John Wycliffe—later dubbed the "Morning Star of Reformation"—started his activity as an English reformer. He rejected papal authority over secular power, translated the Bible into vernacular English, and preached anticlerical and biblically-centered reforms. Beginning in the early 1400s, Jan Hus—a Roman Catholic priest, Czech reformist and professor—influenced by John Wycliffe's writings, founded the Hussite movement. He strongly advocated his reformist Bohemian religious denomination. He was excommunicated and burned at the stake in Constance, Bishopric of Constance in 1415 by Roman Catholic Church authorities for unrepentant and persistent heresy. After his execution, a revolt erupted. Hussites defeated five continuous crusades proclaimed against them by the Pope.
Starting in 1475, an Italian Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola was calling for a Christian renewal. Later on, Martin Luther himself read some of the friar's writings and praised him as a martyr and forerunner whose ideas on faith and grace anticipated Luther’s own doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Catholic & Orthodox Vs Protestant Denominations Edit
The view of the Roman Catholic Church is that Protestant denominations cannot be considered "churches" but rather that they are ecclesial communities or "specific faith-believing communities" because their ordinances and doctrines are not historically the same as the Catholic sacraments and dogmas, and the Protestant communities have no sacramental ministerial priesthood and therefore lack true apostolic succession. The Orthodox Catholic Church shares the same view on the subject.
Contrary to how the Protestant Reformers were often characterized, the concept of a catholic or universal Church was not brushed aside during the Protestant Reformation. On the contrary, the visible unity of the catholic or universal Church was seen by the Reformers as an important and essential doctrine of the Reformation. The Magisterial Reformers, such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli, believed that they were "reforming" the Roman Catholic Church, which they viewed as having become corrupted. Each of them took very seriously the charges of schism and innovation, denying these charges and maintaining that it was the Roman Catholic Church that had left them. In order to justify their departure from the Roman Catholic Church, Protestants often posited a new argument, saying that there was no real visible Church with divine authority, only a "spiritual", "invisible", and "hidden" church— this notion began in the early days of the Protestant Reformation.
Protestant Culture Edit
Although the Reformation was a religious movement, it also had a strong impact on all other aspects of life: marriage and family, education, the humanities and sciences, the political and social order, the economy, and the arts. Protestant churches reject the idea of a celibate priesthood and thus allow their clergy to marry. Many of their families contributed to the development of intellectual elites in their countries. Since about 1950, women have entered the ministry, and some have assumed leading positions (e.g. bishops), in most Protestant churches.
As the reformers wanted all members of the church to be able to read the Bible, education on all levels got a strong boost. For example, the Puritans who established Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1628 founded Harvard College only eight years later. About a dozen other colleges followed in the 18th century, including Yale (1701). Pennsylvania also became a center of learning.