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Continental European Protestantism


Doctrines Protestantism is one of the three main branches of Christianity. Virtually all Protestant denominations share with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches a belief in the basic doctrines of Christianity: the Trinity, the fall, the atonement, and the final judgement. Protestant theology is, however, distinctive in four ways:
Firstly, Protestants believe that people are justified (or made righteous before God) through grace through faith, not on merit earned through good works.
Secondly, the Bible is the sole source of authority on matters of doctrine.
Thirdly, all Christians are priests. Unlike Roman Catholicism, in which the priest's role is as an intermediary between God and humanity, Protestantism ascribes no special status to the priesthood. All Christians can minister to each other as priests.
Fourthly, Protestants only affirm those sacraments which have a biblical basis - baptism and the Lord's Supper. The belief that in the eucharist the bread and wine are converted into the body and blood of Christ is rejected. Protestants have tended to believe that Christ is spiritually present in the bread and wine, or else have viewed the eucharist simply as a commemorative meal.

History The Protestant reformation of the 16th century emerged as a protest against certain doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Particularly offensive to the reformers were the doctrines and practices that suggested that people could be reconciled with God through their own actions or through the mediation of sacraments and priests. In 1517 Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed to the door of Wittenberg church his "Ninety-five Theses", which condemned the practice of the sale of indulgences as a means to remit sins. What Luther particularly objected to was the way in which Pope Leo X was selling indulgences to raise money for the repair of St Peter's church in Rome.
Luther's criticisms of the church led to his being excommunicated. However, protected by the Elector of Saxony and later by other German princes, Luther was able to defy the Pope with impunity. In 1530 Reformation theology was given a statement of faith when the Augsburg Confession was composed by Luther and fellow reformer Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560). From Germany Lutheran theology spread into Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, where it was soon accepted by their monarchies and made the official religion of the state.
During the same period, Protestantism established itself in Switzerland through the work of Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531) and John Calvin (1509-64). In England Henry VIII (1509-47) rejected papal authority and established an independent church with the monarch as its head.
Following the political consolidation of Protestantism, the new churches addressed themselves to the issues of doctrinal definition. Luther's and Calvin's teachings were respectively given dogmatic form in the Formula of Concord (1577) and the Synod of Dort (1618). The Anglican church its doctrinal formula in the thirty-nine articles of 1571.
In reaction to the intellectualization of belief that accompanied the composition of the new creedal formulas, a movement known as Pietism emerged towards the end of the 17th century. This movement affirmed the importance of holiness and devotion in Christian life, and sought to relegate the place of the intellect in the life of faith.
The pietistic spirit expressed itself in the 18th and 19th centuries in the form of evangelical movements and missions at home and abroad. The expansion of foreign missions throughout the world during the 19th century produced competition between different churches who were competing with each other in the same mission fields. In order to avoid undercutting each other's missions, the churches entered into dialogue with one another with the purpose of establishing closer cooperation between churches. The outcome of this was the foundation of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948 to provide a forum within which different denominations could engage in ecumenical dialogue. Since the Second Vatican Council the Roman Catholic Church has sent observers to the meetings of the World Council of Churches. While a welcome step towards Christian ecumenism, much work is still to be done before the two branches of Christianity are to be reconciled.

Symbols Denominations within the Protestant tradition identify themselves through many symbols such as a dove, the cross, the fish, as well as particular logos used by denominations.

Adherents There are an estimated 395,867,000 Protestants in the world. Figures by continent: Africa (109,726,000); Asia (42,836,000); Europe (80,000,000); Latin America (31,684,000); Northern America (123,257,000); Oceania (8,265,000).

Main Centre
 Protestantism does not have a headquarters or main centre as such.