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Protestantism encompasses the forms of Christian faith and practice that originated with the doctrines of the Reformation. The term is derived from the Protestation at Speyer delivered by a minority of delegates against the (1529) Diet of Speyer, which passed legislation opposed by the Lutherans. Since that time, the term has been used in many different senses, but not as the official title of any church until it was assumed in 1783 by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, the American branch of the Anglican Communion. Most broadly, Protestantism is Western Christianity that is not subject to papal authority.

The doctrines of the Reformation can be summarized as a) the rejection of papal authority; b) rejection of some fundamental Roman Catholic doctrines; c) the priesthood of all believers; d) the primacy of the Bible as the only source of revealed truth; and e) the belief in justification by faith alone.

Protestantism in the Philippines

Protestant Christianity arrived in the Philippines during the late 19th century and the early 20th century. These Christian denominations were introduced mostly by American missionaries at that time, although some were founded locally. The country has the world's 13th-largest Protestant population with almost 9 million adherents, about 10 percent of the national population.

The country’s Nepalese community is, as well, mainly Protestant.

Major Protestant Denominations in the Philippines


Protestants founded many schools and universities all over the Philippines. Most notable of these is Silliman University, the first and oldest Protestant founded University in the Philippines.

Major Groupings

Protestantism generally refers to the faiths and churches born directly or indirectly of the Protestant Reformation in which many Roman Catholics split from the larger body and formed their own communions. In common Western usage, the term is often used in contradistinction to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. This usage, however, is regarded by many groups as improper since, among other things, there are many non-Roman-Catholic, non-Eastern-Orthodox communions that long predate the Reformation (notably Oriental Orthodoxy). The case of the Anglicans can be argued to be different as well in that, although born during the Reformation era, the Anglican doctrine is substantially different from the Reformation principles of most of the other Protestants of the time and is sometimes referred to as a middle path - a via media - between Roman Catholicism and Protestant doctrines. Yet some other groups, such as the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses, reject Protestantism as having deviated from true Christianity and see themselves as Restorationists.

The churches most commonly associated with Protestantism can be divided along four fairly definitive lines:

  1. Mainline Protestants - a North American phrase - are those who trace their lineage to Martin Luther, Calvin, or Anglicanism. The doctrines of the Reformation are their doctrines. They include such denominations as Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists.
  2. Anabaptists are a movement that developed from the Radical Reformation. Today, denominations such as Baptists, Pentecostals, Brethren, Mennonites and Amish eschew infant baptism and see baptism as aligned with a demonstration of the gifts of the spirit.
  3. Nontrinitarian movements reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Today, they include such denominations as the Universalists, Unitarians, and some Quakers.
  4. Restorationists are a more recent movement. Today, they include such denominations as the Latter-day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses and Adventists.


A portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Luther was the figure that started the Protestant Reformation, and the eventual growth of Protestant Christianity. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Wow)

The Reformation came about through a number of factors, both political and theological. The Holy Roman Empire was by the 1500s, made up of approximately 300 states and imperial cities, each to some degree self-governing, most under a feudal lord - a prince, duke, margrave, etc. The 1521 Edict of Worms originally forbade Lutheran teachings, the status of which within the Catholic Church was still unclear, within the Holy Roman Empire. However, the 1526 session of the Diet, the imperial parliament, gave each ruler within the empire the power to decide the religion of his subjects according to the principle of Cuius regio, eius religio, allowing a local lord to forbid Lutheranism and enforce Catholicism, or forbid Catholicism and enforce Lutheranism.

In 1529, Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Speyer revised this policy again and declared that until there was clarification of the Catholic Church's position from another Ecumenical council all further new religious developments in the empire would remain forbidden:

"Those that until now have followed the Edict of Worms should continue to do so [ i.e., where Lutheranism has been forbidden, it remains forbidden]. In the are as where this has been deviated from, there shall be no further new developments and no-one shall be refused Mass [i.e., where Lutheranism has been permitted, Catholicism must be at least permitted]. Finally, the sects which contradict the sacrament of the true body and blood, shall absolutely not be tolerated, no more than the Anabaptists [i.e., anything beyond Lutheranism or Catholicism is outlawed everywhere]."

The name protestant is derived from the Latin protestatio meaning declaration which Martin Luther made when he and his supporters dissented "from the decision of the Diet of Spires (1529), which reaffirmed the edict of the Diet of Worms against the Reformation. The term Protestant was initially applied to a group of princes and imperial cities within the Holy Roman Empire who were against this decision, and therefore referred only to those who wished to forbid Catholicism and enforce Lutheranism within their territories. Later, Protestant came to be used as the collective name for those who opposed Roman Catholic practice in general and whose followers separated from it.

There were reformers and dissenters before the reformation - such as John Wycliff and Jan Hus - who did not foresee nor advocate a separation from the Catholic Church but rather sought to purge 'impurities' within the Catholic Church. With Martin Luther, the reformation had its formal beginning. Like his proto-ideological predecessors, Luther was not schismatic and did not seek a formal separation from the Catholic Church. For five years, Luther was an open reformer within the Church until his ex-communication. Although the Catholic Church now had left him, Luther spent the rest of his life as a reformer of the Church but now from the outside as a spiritual exile. The rise of a separate Protestantism began with Luther but it was Luther's contemporaries and later reformers - such as John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, Thomas Cranmer, and John Knox - who developed a doctrine and theology outside of the Catholic Church.

As an intellectual movement, Protestantism grew out of the Renaissance and West European universities, attracting some learned intellectuals, as well as politicians, professionals, skilled tradesmen, and artisans. The new technology of the printing press allowed Protestant ideas to spread rapidly, as well as aiding in the dissemination of translations of the Christian Bible in native tongues. Nascent Protestant social ideals of liberty of conscience and individual freedom were formed through continuous confrontation with the authority of the Papacy, and the hierarchy of the Catholic priesthood. The Protestant movement away from the constraints of tradition, toward greater emphasis on individual conscience, anticipated later developments of democratization, and the so-called "Enlightenment" of later centuries.

In German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, the word "Protestant" still refers specifically to national Lutheran churches (in contrast to Reformed churches), while the common historical designation (evangelical) for all churches originating from the Reformation is a term that, in the United States, is used to refer to specifically conservative Protestant churches. Some Western, non-Catholic, groups are labeled as Protestant (such as the Religious Society of Friends), despite the reality that they recognize no historical connection to Luther, Calvin, or the Catholic Church.

In England, before the Oxford movement of the 19th century, the word "Protestant" later came to be used to refer to the established Church of England. Protestants who were not members of the Church of England are further delineated as non-conformists.

Basic theological tenets of the Reformation

The Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged during the Protestant Reformation and summarize the Reformers' basic theological beliefs in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church of the day. The Latin word sola means "alone," "only," or "single" in English. The five solas were what the Reformers believed to be the only things needed in their respective functions in Christian salvation. Listing them as such was also done with a view to excluding other things that hindered salvation. This formulation was intended to distinguish between what were viewed as deviations in the Christian church and the essentials of Christian life and practice.

Solus Christus (Christ alone)

Protestants characterize the dogma concerning the Pope as Christ's representative head of the Church on earth, the concept of meritorious works, and the Catholic idea of a treasury of the merits of saints, as a denial that Christ is the only mediator between God and man.

The 1534 German translation of the Bible made by Martin Luther. Protestants believe that one's faith should only be guided by the Word of God in the Scriptures. This principle is called sola scriptura. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Torsten Schleese)

Sola scriptura (Scripture alone)

Protestants believe that the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church obscure the teachings of the Bible by convoluting it with church history and doctrine.

Sola fide (Faith alone)

Protestants believe that faith in Christ alone is enough for eternal salvation (as stated in Ephesians 2:8-9), whereas Catholics believe "faith without works is dead" (as stated in James 2:20). Protestants believe that practicing good works attests to one's faith in Christ and his teachings.

Sola gratia (Grace alone)

The Roman Catholic view of the means of salvation was believed by the Protestants to be a mixture of reliance upon the grace of God, and confidence in the merits of one's own works, performed in love. The Reformers posited that salvation is entirely comprehended in God's gifts, (i.e. God's act of free grace) dispensed by the Holy Spirit according to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ alone. Consequently, they argued that a sinner is not accepted by God on account of the change wrought in the believer by God's grace, and that the believer is accepted without any regard for the merit of his works — for no one deserves salvation.

Soli Deo gloria (Glory to God alone)

All glory is due to God alone, since salvation is accomplished solely through his will and action—not only the gift of the all-sufficient atonement of Jesus on the cross but also the gift of faith in that atonement, created in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit. The reformers believed that human beings—even saints canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, the popes, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy—are not worthy of the glory that was accorded them.

On the theological front, the Protestant movement began to coalesce into several distinct branches in the mid-to-late sixteenth century. One of the central points of divergence was controversy over the Lord's Supper.

Real Presence in the Lord's Supper

Although early Protestants generally rejected the Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation, which teaches that the bread and wine used in the sacrificial rite of the Mass lose their natural substance by being transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ (see Eucharist), they disagreed with one another concerning the manner in which Christ is present in Holy Communion.

  • Lutherans hold to the Real Presence as Consubstantiation (although some Lutherans disapprove of Consubstantiation because of misunderstandings, it was Philipp Melancthon's term used with Martin Luther's approval), which affirms the physical presence of Christ's true Body & Blood supernaturally "in, with, and under" the Consecrated Bread and Wine. Lutherans point to Jesus' statement, "...This IS my body...". According to the Lutheran Confessions of Faith the Sacramental Union takes place at the time of Consecration, when Christ's Word's of Institution are spoken by the celebrant . Lutheran teaching insists that the Consecrated Bread & Wine ARE the truly abiding and adorable Body & Blood of Christ in a Sacramental Union, while also affirming the Lord's Supper ranges along the continuum from Calvin to Zwingli.
  • The Reformed closest to Calvin emphasize the real presence, or sacramental presence, of Christ, saying that the sacrament is a means of saving grace through which only the elect believer actually partakes of Christ, but merely WITH the Bread & Wine rather than in the Elements. Calvinists deny the Zwingli assertion that Christ makes himself present to the believer in the elements of the sacrament, but affirm that Christ is united to the believer through faith—toward which the supper is an outward and visible aid, this is often referred to as dynamic presence.
  • A Protestant holding a popular simplification of the Zwinglian view, without concern for theological intricacies as hinted at above, may see the Lord's Supper merely as a symbol of the shared faith of the participants, a commemoration of the facts of the crucifixion, and a reminder of their standing together as the Body of Christ (a view referred to somewhat derisively as memorialism).
  • Anglicans (members of the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the USA, the Scottish Episcopal Church in Scotland and other Protestant churches claiming the Anglican heritage) recognize Christ's presence in the Eucharist in a spectrum (according to specific denominational, diocesan, and parochial emphasis) ranging from acceptance of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, through the Lutheran position, to high Calvinistic notions. However, the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth of the 39 Articles - an Anglican Confession following the Augsburg Confession - teach that Christ's Body and Blood in the Consecrated Elements are truly present in a spiritual modality.

In Protestant theology, as the bread shares identity with Christ (which he calls "my body"), in an analogous way, the Church shares identity with Him (and also is called "the Body of Christ"). Thus, controversies over the Lord's Supper seem to be only about the nature of the bread and wine, but are ultimately about the nature of salvation and the Church; and indirectly about the nature of Christ.


Contrary to how the Protestant reformers were often characterized, the concept of a catholic, or universal, Church was not brushed aside during the Protestant Reformation. To the contrary, the visible unity of the catholic Church was an important and essential doctrine of the Reformation. The Magisterial Reformers, such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli, believed that they were reforming a corrupt and heretical Catholic Church. Each of them took very seriously the charges of schism and innovation, denying these charges and maintaining that it was the medieval Roman Catholic Church that had left them. Because of this the fundamental Unity of the Catholic Church remained a very important doctrine in the churches of the Reformation. Dr. James Walker wrote in "The Theology of Theologians of Scotland":

The visible church, in the idea of the Scottish theologians, is catholic. You have not an indefinite number of Parochial, or Congregational, or National churches, constituting, as it were, so many ecclesiastical individualities, but one great spiritual republic, of which these various organizations form a part. The visible church is not a genus, so to speak, with so many species under it. It is thus you may think of the State, but the visible church is a totum integrale, it is an empire. The churches of the various nationalities constitute the provinces of this empire; and though they are so far independent of each other, yet they are so one, that membership in one is membership in all, and separation from one is separation from all... This conception of the church, of which, in at least some aspects, we have practically so much lost sight, had a firm hold of the Scottish theologians of the seventeenth century.

Wherever the Magisterial Reformation, which received support from the ruling authorities, took place, the result was a reformed national church envisioned to be a part of the whole visible Holy Catholic Church described in the creeds, but disagreeing, in certain important points of doctrine and doctrine-linked practice, with what had until then been considered the normative reference point on such matters, namely the See of Rome. The Reformed Churches thus believed in a form of Catholicity, founded on their doctrines of the five solas and a visible ecclesiastical organization based on the 14th and 15th century Conciliar movement, rejecting the Papacy and Papal Infallibility in favor of Ecumenical councils, but rejecting the Council of Trent.

Today there is a growing movement of Protestants, especially of the Reformed tradition, that reject the designation "Protestant" because of its negative "anti-catholic" connotations, preferring the designation "Reformed," "Evangelical" or even "Reformed Catholic" expressive of what they call a "Reformed Catholicity" and defending their arguments from the traditional Protestant Confessions.

Number of Protestants

As of 2011, there are about 801 million Protestants worldwide, or 37 percent of the global Christian population.


  • Definition of Protestantism at the Episcopal Church website
  • Encarta Dictionary under "Protestant"
  • Merriam Webster Dictionary under "Protestant"
  • Protestantism, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.1
  • Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia
  • Dr. James Walker in The Theology of Theologians of Scotland. (Edinburgh: Rpt. Knox Press, 1982) Lecture iv. pp.95-6.
  • The Canadian Reformed Magazine 18 (Sept. 20-27, Oct. 4-11, 18, Nov. 1, 8, 1969) -

Original Source

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