A part of the Christian church which was formed after the rebellion (the Reformation against the Roman Catholic church practices). The Protestant church interprets the bible differently to the Catholic church in many ways. Many disputes have arisen over this divide, nost notably in Northern Ireland. The most conservative people in the Protestant church are the Presbyterians, and the most charismatic are the Pentecostals, who believe in speaking in tongues and the like.

A set of common misconceptions exist with respect to the position of Protestant religion in the British isles. Most frequently encountered are the ideas that the Church of England is Protestant, and that Protestantism is (half) the cause of the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland.

In the first case, the Anglican church, and especially the Church of England is not Protestant. It is an episcopally ordered Catholic Reformed Church. The reasons for this distinction are many, and in the reign of Elizabeth I, the distinction was not made, since Elizabeth was much more of the Protestant persuasion. James I and VI brought things to their present stand, more or less. A few acts of Parliament refer to 'Protestant' religion, but the church's own rules and formulas do not. Members of the Church of England do not generally refer to themselves as Protestant, unless they wish to strike some special contrast. The Anglican church is in many respects the direct successor of the original Catholic order in England, and although few would want to challenge the right of the Roman Catholic church to operate in that capacity as well, it is a role that the Church of England takes seriously.

Secondly, it is abundantly not the theological differences between Catholics and Protestants that are the cause of the troubles in Northern Ireland. The Protestants, now in the majority, were once Scots immigrants introduced for reasons of social engineering by the English, while the Catholics were indigenous Celts. The troubles are a racial conflict, and a study of the history of the province will bear this out. Besides, it is absurd to claim that the murders and atrocities commited by the two sides have anything to do with the ideals of Christianity in any form. Love your enemies, said Jesus. No to peace! said Mr Paisley. I am not lumping together all Protestants, or all Catholics, with the terrorists and tub-thumpers. But anyone who backs any of the parties allied to terrorist groups cannot seriously hold up their head as a Christian. The blood of thousands cries out in the province of Northern Ireland for peace, and the morons give us war.

The main theological differences between the protestant and catholic dogma seem to be

Still I say now when people ask me what religon I am that I'm not religous, I'm Presbyterian

Broadly speaking, Protestants are Christians who trace their heritage to the 16th-century Reformation, during which individual and national churches rejected the Pope's claim to jurisdiction over the entire Christian world. Protestants generally trace their roots to Martin Luther. Luther is traditionally held to have started the Reformation by posting Martin Luther's 95 Theses on the cathedral door at Wittenberg. However, the break between "Lutherans" and Roman Catholics came only in 1520, when Luther was officially condemned as a heretic.

The two unifying beliefs of Protestantism are sola scriptura, the belief that the Bible is the only definitive authority for Christians, and sola fide,, the belief that Christians are saved solely by faith in Christ.

By 1530, there were three recognizable branches of Protestantism:

  • Lutherans, named after Luther. Most Protestants in Germany, and the official churches of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland, are Lutheran. Luther believed that Christians could do anything that wasn't directly contradicted by the Bible, so he allowed for the continuation of fasting, saint's days, decoration in churches, and other traditional practices. Luther sought to gain the official support of princes and kings, and most Lutheran churches were established by monarchs.

  • Reformed Protestants. The Reformed tradition originated with the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli, but its theology was worked out more fully by John Calvin. Reformed Protestants generally believed that Christians should avoid practices that weren't explicitly commanded in the Bible and called for far more radical reforms than Luther. Reformed churches were established in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Scotland, countries where monarchs were non-existent or weak. Because the Reformed tradition put less emphasis on central authority than other Protestant groups, the churches of the Reformed tradition have developed in very diverse ways. Most Reformed Protestants reject Calvinism. Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregationalist, Quakers, Disciples of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, and Pentecostal churches are all part of the Reformed tradition even though they have very little in common.

  • Anabaptists. Unlike Lutheran and Reformed Protestants, the Anabaptists believed that the church had to be formed of people who committed to a strict code of Christian life and morality, and wanted Christians to be clearly separate from the rest of society. They insisted that new Christians should be baptized as adults, but they also believed that true Christians should be strict pacifists--which meant, among other things, that no real Christian could participate in government. This was a direct challenge to both Catholics and other Protestants, and Anabaptists were severely persecuted. Today, the Anabaptist tradition is represented by Mennonites, Hutterites, and the Amish.
In England, Elizabeth I tried to find a common ground that would satisfy most people. The 39 Articles mostly reflect Reformed teaching, but have a Lutheran understanding of the Bible that allows for the continuation of older traditions. Furthermore, the Church of England continued to have bishops who had to be approved by the Queen. In the 1800s, Anglo-Catholics led by E. B. Pusey and J. H. Newman emphasized the apostolic succession of Anglican bishops and other connections between the Church of England and the medieval Catholic church. Since then, many Anglicans will tell you that they're not really Protestant.

The 18th century saw the rise of a movement within German Lutheranism called Pietism that focused on the importance of subjective experience. Some Pietists broke from the official Lutheran church and formed independent churches. In England, John Wesley brought Pietism into the Church of England. After his death, his followers started the Methodist church.

Prot"es*tant (?), n. [F. protestant, fr. L. protestans, -antis, p. pr. of protestare. See Protest, v.]

One who protests; -- originally applied to those who adhered to Luther, and protested against, or made a solemn declaration of dissent from, a decree of the Emperor Charles V. and the Diet of Spires, in 1529, against the Reformers, and appealed to a general council; -- now used in a popular sense to designate any Christian who does not belong to the Roman Catholic or the Greek Church.


© Webster 1913.

Prot"es*tant (?), a. [Cf. F. protestant.]


Making a protest; protesting.


Of or pertaining to the faith and practice of those Christians who reject the authority of the Roman Catholic Church; as, Protestant writers.


© Webster 1913.

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