The Protestant Reformation was a widespread theological revolt in Europe against the abuses and control of the Roman Catholic Church. Reformers such as Martin Luther in Germany, Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, and John Calvin in France protested various practices of the Catholic Church and promoted a return to biblical doctrine. The inauguration of the Protestant Reformation is generally considered to be Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church on October 31, 1517.
As a background to the history of Protestantism and the Reformation, it is important to understand the Catholic claim of apostolic succession. This doctrine says that the line of Roman Catholic popes extends through the centuries all the way from the apostle Peter to the current pope. Because of their belief in apostolic succession, Catholics place church teaching and tradition on a level equal to Scripture itself. This is one of the major differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants and was one of the foundational issues leading to the Protestant Reformation.
Opposition to this Roman Catholic teaching came to a head in the sixteenth century when Luther, a Roman Catholic monk, challenged the authority of the pope and, in particular, the selling of indulgences. Rather than heed the call to reform, the Roman Catholic Church dug in its heels and sought to silence the Reformers.
Eventually, new churches emerged from the Reformation, forming four major divisions of Protestantism: Luther’s followers started the Lutheran Church, Calvin’s followers started the Reformed Church, John Knox’s followers started the Presbyterian Church in Scotland (using Calvinistic doctrine), and, later, Reformers in England started the Anglican Church.
At the heart of the Protestant Reformation lay four basic questions: How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church? What is the essence of Christian living? In answering these questions, Reformers developed what would be known as the “Five Solas” (sola being the Latin word for “alone”). These five slogans separate Protestantism from Roman Catholicism; they summarize the Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity.
The Five Solas:
1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”):
The Bible alone is our highest authority.
2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”):
We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”):
We are saved by the grace of God alone.
4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”):
Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”):
We live for the glory of God alone.
There are many aspects of this complex movement. I would encourage everyone to read more about it.
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.
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