17.05.2018 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Protestantism is one of the leading denominations of Christianity.

It emerged as a response to the abuses of power in the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the absence of a single church system and its many branches, it has about 800 million followers worldwide. In 92 countries, Protestantism is the largest Christian denomination.

Features of protestantism

Protestantism originated in Europe in the first half of the 16th century. The reformer and theologian Martin Luther, who initiated the changes, believed that the Catholic Church had moved away from the true Christian principles, placing papal power first and collecting so-called “church” taxes from believers. In 95 statements criticizing Catholicism, nailed to church walls, Luther advocated for a return to early Christian attitudes.

Protestantism developed based on the German theologian’s disagreements with:

  • the papal authority
  • the mediation of the church between God and believers
  • church rituals
  • the connection between the church and secular power

The emergence of classical Protestantism dates back to the time between the 16th and early 18th centuries. The teaching is based on the five basic principles, Quinque sola (five “onlies”) that are the essence of modern Protestantism.

  1. The Bible is the only source of God’s true word. Only the Bible is a clear and self-interpreted basis of the Christian doctrine.
  2. Absolution is possible only through strong faith, regardless of good deeds.
  3. Salvation is the grace that is given from God for the sake of Jesus Christ. Man cannot contribute to his/her salvation – he can only be saved by faith. Grace is not given for any merits of the believer.
  4. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man. The Protestant Church neither worships nor denies the Virgin Mary and the saints.
  5. One must honour God, not a priest. The believer shall worship only God. The pastor is just an ordinary person who knows the scriptures and shares them with others.

Sacred tradition is one of the sources of the doctrine and church law, it is authoritative only in parts that do not contradict the Bible and is confirmed by it.

Faith, sacraments, salvation and teaching about the church are essential for classical Protestant theology. Denomination representatives do not pay much attention to life outside the church. The rituals lack diversity.

John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, and Philip Melanchthon were the early founders of Protestantism in addition to Martin Luther.

There are four movements of modern Protestantism: classical, liberal, fundamentalist, and postmodern. The division took place after the Second World War under the influence of political and cultural views.

Differences between protestantism, catholicism and orthodoxy

Protestantism supports the general ideas of Christianity concerning the existence and triunity of God, the immortality of the soul and hell or paradise after death. In contrast, Orthodox Christians believe that the Holy Spirit comes only from the Father. Also, representatives of Orthodoxy do not believe in the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. They reject purgatory and the infallibility of the head of the church.

For the Orthodox, Jesus Christ is the true Father of the Church. They honour the faces of saints through icons that equate with the Scriptures. Protestantism, unlike Orthodoxy, rejects the images of saints as a source of power.

Catholicism, on the contrary, elevates the Pope to the rank of the viceroy of God on earth. The Catholic church has a rigid hierarchy, unlike Protestantism, which is divided into many denominations. Catholics believe in the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, they hold liturgical services, and use icons only for decorating temples without attaching any sacred power to them.

The forgiveness of sins, according to Protestants, is achieved through faith in the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of all men, and his resurrection from the dead. At the same time, James 2:20 says that “faith without deeds is useless”: a believer must not only agree with the doctrines but also change his/her life to conform with the Christian commandments.

Rituals and sacraments in protestantism

Different movements of Protestantism have their understanding of rituals and sacraments endowed with their specific meanings. Protestants recognize two ordinances — baptism and communion, which must be performed according to the rules. For example, a believer who attains his/her majority may be baptized. Before the sacrament, it is necessary to pass the rite of conscious faith confession — confirmation. In some denominations, only believers who have had water baptism are allowed the rite of confirmation.

Protestants do not practice:

  • prayers for the dead and the saints
  • worship of relics
  • icon worship

Some Protestants completely reject the idea of worshipping images and equate it with idolatry. Some believe in the doctrine that the earthly image refers to its  original source, so it should be commended.

Churches are called houses of worship. They are devoid of lush decorations, images, or statues. Proponents of Protestantism believe that there is no need for additional paraphernalia and that faith in people’s hearts is enough to communicate with God. The buildings where churches meet are often rented or purchased on the same terms as for ordinary organizations.  

Rituals and sacraments in protestantism

The Protestant worship service consists of:

  • sermons
  • prayers
  • the chants of psalms and hymns in state languages
  • communion

Two Ecumenical councils, the First Council of Nicaea and The First Council of Constantinople, are especially authoritative for Protestants. They practice the Athanasian, the Apostles’, and the Nicene Creeds, which reflect the different ratio of the supremacy of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, as well as the position of the saints.

Protestantism is a religion that is based on three main points: the authority of the Bible as the Holy Scriptures, the salvation of personal faith, and the spirituality of the followers. In almost 50 countries, Protestants make up the majority of the population. The total number of parishioners in 10 churches worldwide has reached 220,400,000. The confession, which emerged as a protest to the excesses of the medieval Catholic Church, has today won the hearts of millions of supporters of an ascetic approach to spirituality.