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Protestantism is one of the three major branches of Christianity along with Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. Protestantism is generally regarded as a movement begun by Martin Luther, a German monk, in 1517. It was influenced by earlier critics of the church, such as John Wycliffe, an English theologian. This lead to a schism in the Church with many Christians rejecting the authority of the pope. Without centralised control, protestantism has given rise to thousands of denominations. The variety of interpretations and beliefs within protestantism is so wide that it is questionable if they should be considered a single religion. However, protestantism broadly place more emphasis on: [1]

Protestantism generally rejects the Catholic concepts of:

Martin Luther[edit]

Portrait of Martin Luther

While clearly not wishing to separate himself from the Catholic Church, Luther spoke of reforming certain doctrines and teachings of the church. These reforms were documented in Ninety-Five Theses, which Luther titled Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences and mailed with a letter to the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, Albrecht. He is also said to have nailed the theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on the same day. According to Luther, the sale of indulgences was nothing more than a way for the church to take money from the poor. The practice was started by Pope Leo X in order to raise money to rebuild Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Luther's understanding of the Bible was that faith alone (sola fide) was required for salvation, whereas the church taught that good works were also necessary, and could be obtained by purchasing indulgences as an act of good works.

Luther also pioneered translation of the Bible from Greek into German, to make it accessible for lay believers. The Catholic Church had formerly resisted further translations which largely limited reading of the Bible to those who could understand Latin.


John Calvin influenced what became multiple denominations in Protestantism.

As Luther's teachings spread in the intervening years and became more and more a source of frustration for the Church, certain princes and elite members in society joined in the fray supporting Luther. In 1521, as described by the Edict of Worms, Luther's teachings were outlawed and his death was implicitly sanctioned by the Church. The dissenting princes protested and sought to have the Church respect an individual's right to believe as he pleased. This protestant "movement" led to the temporary injunction of the ban as expressed by the Diet of Speyer in 1526, but was later rescinded in 1529.

Christianity Branches.png

As the years passed, Protestantism generally came to define any individual or group's actions that undermined the authority of the Catholic Church and any people who stated their desire for a formal separation from the Church.

Major denominational groups and heresies within Christianity

Today, Protestantism is actually an umbrella term that includes many Christian denominations (estimates put the number at over 20,000), including: