A-Z: General definitions: Protestants


Christians whose faith and practice stems from the Reformation movement in the sixteenth century which resulted in new churches being created as an alternative to the Roman Catholic Church. A term originally applied to the German princes (followers of Martin Luther) who 'protested' against the Catholic Emperor Charles V's attempt to withdraw their religious privileges. By the mid-1550s in England, however, it had come to include all those Christians who had rejected most aspects of late-medieval Catholicism, and who opposed the revived Catholicism of the Counter-Reformation. All Protestants emphasised the religious authority of the Bible, and insisted that faith rather than 'good works' was the basis of salvation, but some differed about other details of belief and practice. Since the sixteenth century, Protestantism has been the principal western European Christian alternative to Roman Catholicism. It has become increasingly widespread (in America, Australasia and Africa). See Baptist Church; Calvin; Church of England; Martin Luther; Methodists; Nonconformist; Presbyterian; Reformation.

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