Martin Luther, The Father of Protestantism

Protestantism is a term that comes from the protest of the Lutheran states of the Holy Roman Empire, at the Diet of Spira in 1529, against Charles V's decision to restrict religious freedom.

Today, about 700 million people claim to be Protestants. It encompasses the various groups that separated from the Catholic Church through the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and presents itself as a multi-faceted Church, whose unity is based on three fundamental affirmations.

On the one hand, it proclaims the sovereign authority of the Bible in matters of faith and rejects everything that belongs to human tradition.

With this the Protestants wanted to put an end to the papal bulls and the mandates coming from Rome, at the same time that they wanted to strengthen and give more power to the sacred texts.

In this aspect, it is also necessary to emphasize the importance of the translation of the Bible, which made possible the creation and practice of the faith completely outside the Church.

On the other hand, the second affirmation speaks of the salvation of the human being through faith. For Protestants, good works are not the cause of salvation, but its consequence. Contrary to Catholics, Protestants think that to reach heaven, they must earn it on earth.

It is one of the main ideas that, throughout history, have been the cause of the people who adopted this mentality, increasing their productivity and work efficiency.

And the third basis would be that the power of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, by which the believer understands the spirit of the word of God, which is expressed in the sacred books and not in the mandates of the Church.

It was one of the ways they devised to separate themselves completely from the yoke to which they were subjected from the Italian capital.

The movements and congregations of Protestantism

Protestantism can usually be expressed in different types of movements or congregations. There are historical churches of national character such as Anglicanism, Lutheranism and Calvinism that proliferated in northern and central Europe.

There are also congregations such as the evangelical churches and certain marginal movements that have not had much significance up to the present day.

Main branches of Protestantism

Lutherans: Germany and Scandinavia.

Anglicans: United Kingdom

Calvinists: United Kingdom, Netherlands, United States, South Korea, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Methodists: United Kingdom, United States and Sub-Saharan Africa

Baptists: mainly in the U.S. and Latin America

Pentecostals: United States, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Korea. 

Luther's Ninety-five Theses

Luther's Ninety-five Theses Now In The Berlin State Library

Martin Luther directly confronted the Catholic Church with the publication of the Ninety-five Theses. In them, he directly challenged the power of the Vatican by openly criticizing the usefulness of indulgences. Popular tradition has it that the theologian himself was responsible for nailing them to the door of the Wittenberg Palace Church on October 31, 1517.

Their publication caused a great stir and were the cause of the Protestant Reformation and the birth of several doctrines within Christianity, such as Lutheranism, Presbyterianism and Anabaptism. Together with the Five Solas, they are the basis of Protestantism.

What moved Luther to write them was the fact that Johann Tetzel, a priest of the Order of the Friars Preachers (also known as Dominicans), commissioned by the Archbishop of Mainz and Pope Leo X, sold indulgences to cleanse the sins of those who had committed them.

Tetzel's aim was to raise enough money to renovate St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Seeing that they were not getting enough money, the Catholic rulers used the holy relics in the Wittenberg Palace Church to increase their income. For each relic that the population visited and, very importantly, paid for, they were granted an indulgence of one hundred days.

Luther's parishioners traveled as far as Tetzel to get their hands on some of these "holy cleansing papers". When they returned to confession, they would take them with them and show them to the German priest, telling him that they no longer needed to repent of their sins or evil deeds, because the document granted them forgiveness for all of them and for any future evil deeds they might do.

This motivated Luther to write his Ninety-five theses. They were originally intended to be the basis for a theological debate in which everyone could expound their thoughts. Johann Eck and other experts of the time argued with Luther about what Luther included in his demands. But the dispute was relatively short-lived, for on June 15, 1520, Pope Leo X condemned the document and banned it in the bull "Exsurge Domine". The Ninety-five theses spread rapidly throughout Europe. Tradition has it that it was because they were hung on the door of the Wittenberg Palace church, but the truth is that many copies were printed and distributed in a short time.

Luther Posting His Theses On the Door of All Saint's Church

The Catholic leader, together with Emperor Charles V, asked Luther to retract at least 41 of his theses. But the German monk refused to do so officially at the imperial diet in the city of Worms in 1521, ushering in the period of the Protestant Reformation.

The Ninety-five theses basically summarized the sentiments of Luther, who disavowed intermediaries between God and mankind. The theologian was in favor of the equality of all men before God, who alone had the power to give salvation, instead of the Roman pontiff or his Church. Basically, he criticized the actions of Leo X and advocated the practice of a "pure Christianity", dictated by the Gospels and separated from the mandates of Rome.

Read Luther's Ninety-five Theses Here...

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