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Protestantism Essay, Research Paper

Protestantism, a form of Christian faith and practice, originated with the principles of the Reformation. It encompasses the Christian churches that separated from Rome during the reformation of the 16th century. Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, initiated this movement. The term ?Protestant? is derived from the Protestatio and was originally applied to followers of Luther. Protestantism as a general term is now used in contrast to the other major Christian faiths, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Protestantism rejected attempts to tie God?s revelation to earthly institutions and strictly adhered to the word of God as sole authority in matters of faith and practice. Central in the reformers understanding of the Biblical message is the justification of the sinner by faith alone. The church is understood as a fellowship, and priesthood of all believers is stressed.

Martin Luther was a professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg. On October 31, 1517 he protested by posting his 95 theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg. The principal statement of Lutheran faith and practice was the Augsburg confession of 1530. Protestant confessions of faith are modeled after it.

As a persecuted protestant, Calvin found it necessary to travel from place to place, and at Angouleme in 1534 he began the work of systematizing Protestant thought in his Institutes of The Christian Religion, considered one of the most influential theological works of all time. In the Institutes Calvin diverged from Catholic doctrine in the rejection of papal authority and in acceptance of justification by faith alone, but many of his other positions, including the fundamental doctrine of predestination, had been foreshadowed by Catholic reformers.

The Church of England under Henry VIII (1509 ? 1547) was protestant, but maintained a conservative Catholic structure. Under the watchful eye of Archbishop Cranmer (1533 ? 1556). During the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553), the Church of England became a reformed protestant church. The introduction of the Book of Common Prayer in 1548 established a new reformed liturgy in English.

Mary I (1547 ? 1553) drove most prominent ?Puritans? into hiding or exile, and many died for their faith. ?Bloody Mary? simply rescinded the Cranmer reforms in an effort to reestablish the more conservative catholic structure of the church under Henry VIII.

The Elizabethan settlement (1558 ? 1559) re-established the basic status quo position of the Church of England under Edward VI. Strong pro-catholic support continued at Court and in the House of Lords. The church would remain a reformed Protestant national church under Cranmer?s reforms.

From Elizabeth I (1558 ? 1603) to Charles I (1625 ? 1649), much of the puritan movement within the Church of England was generally moderate reform. The church structure would be Episcopal, but the theology would be tolerant. Being a ?puritan? was not a substitute for being a Calvinist.

Under James I (1603 ? 1625), both Catholics and Puritans found little support at Court, especially the pro- Presbyterians factions. During the reign of Charles I (1625 ? 1649) and particularly during the episcopacy of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury (1633 ? 1645) there was a reemphasis on more traditional rites and more liturgical order among the clergy within the Church of England. Sometimes referred to as the ?Laudian? or ?Armenian? reformers, many puritans saw these changes as pro-roman and popish in nature.

Puritanism reached its height in England during the Interregnum (1649 ? 1660). Between 1641 and 1646 Parliamentarians systematically stripped the ?Laudian? reforms, and reduced the Church of England to a mere shadow of its former self.

During the Interregnum (1649 ? 1660), many ?radicalized? puritans became known as Separatists. These new Separatists sects pushed the theology of separation between Church and State to new extremes. Radical political forces between the New Model Army and certain radical dissident sects, and the new Parliament shaped puritan efforts to establish their religious and political goals.

Oliver Cromwell (1599 ? 1658), a moderate ?puritan? by disposition and a practical politician, he excercised supreme control over the nation under the title of Lord Protector (1653 ? 1658). Cromwell attempted to forestall all radical religious movements to keep the ship of state afloat. Puritans, Quakers, Baptists all took a backseat to the state.

After the Restoration (1660) Puritan influence wained under Charles II (1660 ? 1685) and James II (1685 ? 1688) pro-catholic efforts. Under the Act of Conformity, puritan and other dissenters were tolerated but controlled.

?Puritans? who would not or could not submit to the new law of the land refused to conform, and became known as ?Nonconformists.? Many prominent ?puritan? families continued and prospered within the restrictions of the new society after the Restoration.

There were a series of religious wars in France dating from 1562 ? 1598. These wars were also known as the Huguenot wars. The immediate issue was the French protestants? struggle for freedom of worship and the right of establishment. Of equal importance, however, was the struggle for power between the crown and the great nobles and the rivalry among the great nobles themselves for the control of the king. The foremost protestant leaders were, successively, Louis I de Conde, Gaspard de Coligny, and Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV). The Catholic party was dominated by the House of Guise. A third party called the Politiques and composed of moderate Catholics, sided with the Protestants, while Catherine de Medici and her sons, Charles IX, Henry III, and Francis, Duke of Alenconm vainly sought to maintain a balance of power by siding now with the Catholics, now with the Huguenots.

The Conspiracy of Amboise (1560), by which the Huguenots attempted to end persecutions suffered at the hands of Francis II, was a prelude to the first three civil wars (1562?1563, 1567-1568, 1568-1570). The Treaty of St Germain (1570), ending the wars, gave the Protestants new liberties and the wardenship of four cities, including La Rochelle. The fourth civil war (1572-1573) began with the massacre of St. Bartholemew?s Day.

The Huguenots were French protestants who were members of the Reformed Church which was established by John Calvin in1550. The origin of the name is uncertain, but dates from approximately 1550 when it was used in court cases against the ?heretics?. It was much later that the name Huguenot became an honorary one. Raised as a protestant, King Henry IV of France was recognized (1569) by the Huguenot leader Gaspard de Coligny as the nominal head of the Huguenots. As a result of the temporary reconciliation (1570) between the Huguenots and the crown, Henry was betrothed to Margaret of Valois, sister of King Charles IX. A few days after his marriage (August 18, 1572) the massacre of the Huguenots took place. During the infamous St. Bartholemew?s Day Massacre on the night of August 24, 1572, 8000 Huguenots including Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, Governor of Picardy and spokesman of the Huguenots were murdered in Paris.

The fifth civil war (1574-1576) ended with the Peace of Monsieur, which, ratified by the Edict of Beaulieu, granted freedom of worship throughout France except Paris. When Catholics retorted by forming the League (1576) and persuaded Henry III to repeal the edict of toleration (1577), the Huguenots revolted once more and sought the aid of foreign Protestant states. This sixth civil war ended with the peace of Bergerac (1577), which renewed most of the terms of the peace of Monsieur; this, Henry III never carried out. A seventh war (1580) was inconsequential, but in 1584 the recognition by Henry III of the Protestant Henry of Navarre as his heir presumptive led to the renewal of the League by Henry de Guise and to the War of the Three Henrys (1585-1589).

After the assassination of Henri de Guise (1588) and Henry III (1589), the League, now headed by the duc de Mayenne, invoked the aid of Spain against Henry?s successor, Henry IV. Henry, after his victories at Arques (1589) and Ivry (1590) and his conversion to Catholicism (1593), entered Paris in 1594.

With the Edict of Nantes, which granted freedom of worship throughout France and established Protestantism in 200 towns, and with the Treaty of Vervins with Spain (both in 1598), Henry IV brought the Wars of Religion to as successful a conclusion as the Protestants could desire. This result, however was completely reversed in the 17th century by Cardinal Richelieu, who broke the political power of the Protestants, and by Louis XIV, who destroyed their religious privileges by his revocation (1685) of the Edict of Nantes.

The protestants faced many struggles with the crown both in England, France and other European countries. But after a series of religious wars they gained their religious freedom. Today, there are innumerable sects and denominations that sprung from these roots, including Quakers, Baptists, Pentecostals, Congregationalists, Methodists, and nondenominational assemblies. Sects that base their faith on additional revelations or insights gained in the modern period include Mormons, Christian Scientists, and Jehovah?s Witnesses.

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