The Protestant Churches

Note: This study uses many quotes from Google. Some will provide links to the Google search engine, but others will not due to the length of the web address. You can always find the web address by pasting the quote (without the quote marks) into the Google search box and searching. This will allow you to learn more about the subject. Remember that articles change often on the internet, and some of the quotes may not match exactly.

Martin Luther – 1683 AD – 1546 AD

“More books have been written about Luther, the great German Reformer, than about any other figure in history, except Christ. Martin Luther (1483-1546), born in Eisleben, studied law at the University of Erfurt. In 1505 he joined the Augustinian Hermits in Erfurt, after taking a dramatic vow during a thunderstorm” (Google – https://www.ligonier.org/).

Luther was ordained in 1507, and after studying theology, he was sent by order to the University of Wittenberg to teach moral theology. In 1510-1511, he visited Rome on business for his order, and in 1512, he became a doctor of theology and professor of biblical studies at Wittenberg.

“After a long spiritual crisis, Luther finally came to understand the nature of the righteousness of God.  He now rejected all theology based solely on tradition and emphasized personal understanding and experience of God’s word; He believed that our actions stem from God. The discovery that God spares the sinner was always decisive for him. We are justified not by deeds but by faith alone” (Handbook).

“He became convinced that the church had lost sight of what he saw as several of the central truths of Christianity — the most important being the doctrine of justification by faith alone. He began to teach that salvation is a gift of God’s grace through Christ received by faith alone” (Google – Wikipedia). The Latin reads: “Sola Fide.”

Most disturbing to Luther was Pope Leo X‘s practice of selling indulgences in 1517 for money to build the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The Pope promised a reduced time in purgatory based on the money paid. Many were spending money to reduce the time their loved ones who had passed on served in purgatory. “Luther claimed that it seemed strange to some that pious people in purgatory could be redeemed by living impious people” (Google – Wikipedia).

Luther was so distributed by the doctrines of salvation and other issues in the Catholic Church that he felt they should be discussed and debated. On October 31, 1517, Luther nailed a list of 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. A thesis, as used here, was a point of debate. “The Theses were quickly reprinted, translated, and distributed throughout Germany and Europe. They initiated a pamphlet war with the indulgence preacher Johann Tetzel, which spread Luther’s fame even further” (Google – Wikipedia).

With this action, Luther became the father of the Protestant Revolution. He had not planned to break with the Catholic Church but thought some of the doctrines needed to be debated – the Church thought otherwise.

“Luther did not consider indulgences to be as important as other theological matters which would divide the church, such as justification by faith alone and the bondage of the will. His breakthrough on these issues would come later, and he did not see the writing of the Theses as the point at which his beliefs diverged from those of the Roman Catholic Church” (Google – Wikipedia).

I have searched to learn what these 95 debating issues were; however, I have only found summaries. I will share some of these summaries as they provide insights into the thinking during these years.

There are three main points that he is making:

  • Selling indulgences to finance the building of the Sistine Chapel (St. Peter’s Basilica) is wrong.
  • The pope has no power over Purgatory. “Papal indulgences do not remove guilt.”
  • Buying indulgences gives people a false sense of security and endangers their salvation.

Here is a summary breakdown of these points. Most were taken from Wikipedia.

  • Theses 1 and 2 – “The first two of the theses contained Luther’s central idea, that God intended believers to seek repentance and that faith alone, and not deeds would lead to salvation. The other 93 theses, a number of them directly criticizing the practice of indulgences, supported these first two” (history.com).
  • Theses 5–7 – State that the pope can only release people from the punishments he has administered himself or through the church’s system of penance, not the guilt of sin. Sins committed without confession or the church’s knowledge would not be forgiven. The pope can only announce God’s forgiveness of the guilt of sin named by the local church or papacy.
  • Theses 14–29 – Luther challenged common beliefs about purgatory.
  • Theses 30–34 – These addressed the false certainty Luther believed the indulgence preachers offered Christians.
  • Theses 35 and 36 – He attacks the idea that an indulgence makes repentance unnecessary.
  • Thesis 37 – He states that indulgences are unnecessary as Christians receive all the benefits Christ provides.
  • Theses 39 and 40 – He argued that indulgences make true repentance more difficult.
  • Theses 41 – 47 – Luther criticizes indulgences because they discourage works of mercy by those who purchase them.
  • Theses 48–52 – Luther takes the side of the pope, saying that if the pope knew what was being preached in his name, he would rather St. Peter’s Basilica be burned down than “built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.”
  • Theses 53–55 – Some preachers complained about the restrictions on preaching while the indulgences were offered.
  • Theses 56-66 – Luther criticized the doctrine of the treasury of merit on which the doctrine of indulgences was based.
  • Theses 67–80 – Luther further discusses the problems with how indulgences were being preached. “Luther states that indulgences cannot take away the guilt of even the lightest of venial sins.”
  • Theses 81-91 – Luther lists several criticisms advanced by laypeople against indulgences.

As we look at these theses, we get the impression that some preachers were promising benefits that even the Pope would disapprove of.

I am surprised that Luther did not take a stand on the doctrine of purgatory, considering his belief in salvation by grace and grace alone. It is evident Luther was not breaking away from the Catholic Church but would like to see reforms.

Luther was charged by the papacy with heresy, excommunicated from the Church, and faced death.

He was able to escape and hid from those who tried to harm him. He was at Wartburg Castle in Eisenach for 300 days in 1521-1522 after being declared an outlaw and a heretic at the Diet of Worms. While there, he wrote a treatise of defense and translated the New Testament into German.

“Luther’s location in this castle was kept an absolute secret. Indeed, even Duke John (Frederick the Wise’s brother) did not realize Luther’s location until he happened to visit the castle in September 1521. To add further to the secrecy, Luther grew a beard and began to call himself by the alias “Junker Jörg” (Knight George)” (Google – lutheranreformation.org).

“Despite the great danger to his person, Luther eventually left the Wartburg and returned to Wittenberg in 1522. In his absence, the young Philipp Melanchthon had taken over the work of reform but was ultimately unable to control the more radical elements within the city. Luther’s colleague at the university, Andreas von Karlstadt, began to preach a radical program of iconoclasm. This involved smashing of statues and destroying images at the local churches by mobs” (Google – lutheranreformation.org).

“Karlstadt also prohibited a number of traditional ceremonies and began to teach a symbolic view of the Lord’s Supper. Along with Karlstadt, there appeared in the city a group of men called the ‘Zwickau Prophets.’ This group claimed to be directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore also the ability to reveal God’s will apart from Scripture. Because events had gotten so far out of hand, Luther believed that it was essential to return to the city to restore order. In returning, the Reformer [Luther] was able to end the disturbances and resume his reforming activity” (Google – lutheranreformation.org).

Without realizing it, Luther is about to start a new reform movement and a Church that will bear his name. At this time, Germany was part of the Holy Roman Empire and was heavily Catholic. However, reform was in the air, and the spirit of revival was sweeping northern Europe. Under the leadership of Luther and his associates, the northern part of Germany became Protestant, whereas the southern part remained Catholic.

There have been others who previously contributed to this new movement – some of the previous writers, such as John Wyclif and Jon Hus. We will soon see that other churches, such as the Anabaptist, have broken away from the Catholic Church. Also, during these years, John Calvin was working on the doctrines of Reform Theology in Switzerland. There was also unrest in England over the conflict between the spiritual authority of the King and the papacy. All these groups would come together to create the Protestant Movement.

Another factor contributing to the spiritual unrest was the invention of the printing press by a German named Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. The printing press was used to print Bibles, and those who could read began to understand Scripture.

Your Doctrines That Divide

We will see that there are more divisions in the Protestant Churches than in the Catholic or Orthodox Churches. It will be to our advantage if we stop and define some of these differences before we get into details above each denomination.

Divisions Within the Churches

There are four original church groups from which all the Protestant Churches evolved. They are the mother churches. We will look at the history of each below.

  • Lutheran
  • Calvinist
  • Anabaptist
  • Church of England

There are four great reformation principles.

  • Authority of Scriptures
  • Salvation – grace alone (justification by faith)
  • Priesthood of the believer
  • Eternal security

Three Standard Church Polities.

  • Episcopal – An episcopal church organization is a hierarchical form of church governance (“ecclesiastical polity”) that has multi-levels of leadership. This form of church government functions with a single leader, often called a bishop or archbishop. Most state churches are of the episcopal organization with the highest level being the head of state. Some others have a committee, a board, a convention, or other groups that serve as the top governing level. The most recognized example of the episcopal form of organization is the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. The episcopal organization has evolved over the years and differs some from one denomination to another.
  • Presbyterian – “The word presbyterian is from the Greek word presbuteros, which is usually translated “elder.” In this form of government, authority rests not with a single individual but with the body of elders or presbyters. In denominational churches, the local board of elders answers to a higher board of elders, which is made up of select elders to represent each church. Ultimately, the final board of elders (sometimes called the general assembly) has authority on matters in that denomination.” (Google -gotquestions.com). The title of real property is usually held by the local church.
  • Congregational – In congregational churches, the final authority rests with the congregation. Most are headed by a pastor who answers to the members. They may belong to a larger organization for group projects such as missionary efforts or other issues. They support the finances of the larger groups through love offerings. The title of real property is usually held by the local church. The Baptist and independent churches have a congregational type of organization.

Sacraments

There is a difference in how each denomination looks at the meaning of the sacraments. The Church of England has a history of keeping the Sacraments. The Baptists do not recognize them. Most other churches consider baptism and communion to be sacraments.

Covenant Theology versus Dispensationalism

Over the years there has been a major evolution in the study and meaning of Old Testament prophecy. The early Protestant Churches had little time to study Bible prophecy, and they focused on other doctrines. Some even questioned why the Book of Revelation was canonized. This led to the unfolding of two doctrines – one (Covenant Theology) with the early churches and the other with the current thinking. They are called: Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism.

  • Covenant Theology – Covenant Theology teaches that there are two major covenants, the law in the Old Testament and grace with the New Testament, thus believing that the church, in a sense, has existed since the fall in the garden. This has led most early churches to believe that God had rejected the nation, Israel, and the Church had replaced her. Many of the early churches referred to Israel as the Old Testament Church – some still do.

There has been little distinction between Israel and the Church in the historical teaching of Covenant Theology. Because of this view, a literal interpretation cannot be made of most prophecies relating to the nation of Israel – God has negated His promises to Israel. Therefore, old commentaries spiritualized much of the Old Testament prophecy – we see this in the writings of Matthew Henry (Presbyterian) and others. This has had great implications in interpreting Biblical end-time events such as the rapture of the church, the millennium kingdom, and the second coming of Jesus. This doctrine began changing in some of the Churches in the twentieth century.

  • Dispensationalism – Dispensationalism is a system of biblical interpretation formalized in the nineteenth century by John Nelson Darby, D.L. Moody, and later popularized by the publishing of the study Bible of C. I. Scofield and the establishment of Dallas Theological Seminary by Lewis Sperry Chafer.

It is the foundation of what is known in eschatological studies as “pre-tribulation premillennialism” and involves the division of history into (usually) seven distinct periods of time known as “dispensations”.

There are three primary tenets of the system: (1) A clear distinction between Israel and the Church, (2) a literal interpretation of Scripture, and (3) the glory of God as the primary goal of history.

Calvinism and Arminianism

Two other belief systems involve salvation. They are called Calvinism and Arminianism. They are based upon the teachings of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius. John Calvin’s followers taught that salvation is by predestination and election – God wills some people to heaven and the others are left to go to hell. Jacobus Arminius followers believed that we have enough free will to make individual discussions and that salvation is a choice. These two views have divided the denominations and, in many cases, members within a denomination. Today there are degrees to each view. We will go into details at a later time.

Baptism

One of the most divisive doctrines has been the doctrine of Baptism. It has always divided the Church. Three questions usually are debated regarding baptism: (1) should water baptism be limited to adults who have accepted Jesus as their personal savior, or should infants be included; (2) is baptism a means of grace whereby a person is regenerated; (3) what is the mode of baptism – immersing, sprinkling or pouring water over the head? We will discuss baptism more as we look at each of the different denominations.

Communion or Eucharist

Another divisive doctrine is the doctrine of the Communion or Eucharist. Churches differ on the understanding and practice of the Lord’s Supper. There are questions that have been debated over the years: (1) is communion a sacrament or a memorial. (2) is it a requirement for salvation, (3) should babies and children receive communion, (4) how should communion be served, and (5) should the communion be open to everyone. These have been debated and each denomination has its own view. We will discuss this later as we look at each denomination.

Priesthood of the Believer

Another divisive doctrine is the priesthood of the believer. The real issue is the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. With the emphasis on the Pentecostal movement in 1901, many denominations began to suppress discussion about the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. The Pentecostals began speaking in tongues, having healing services, and other activities of the Spirit that many outside groups resisted.

Conservatism and Liberalism

The latest controversy is between the conservatives and liberals. These issues include (1) authority of scriptures, (2) inerrancy of scripture and (3) relevance of scripture.

The Mother Churches

Introduction

The seed of unrest started in the 14th century of the Catholic Church. Men such as John Wyclif (1329-1384) and Jan Hus (1374-1415) pushed for reform in the Catholic Church. They were branded as heretics and punished. However, other men and their followers soon began to break away from the Church. Martin Luther is credited for being the Protestant Movement’s father, but he may not have been. Four groups broke away from the Catholic Church, and they are listed in chronological order: (1) the Luther Movement, (2) the Reform Movement, (3) the Anabaptists, and (4) the Church of England. We can trace most of the various denominations back to one of these movements. A few may find their origin in more than one group.

The Luther Movement

Luther returned to Wittenberg in 1521 and found that the reform movement initiated by his writings had grown beyond his influence – it was no longer a purely theological cause but also a political cause. Luther began preaching several sermons with an emphasis on atonement and righteousness.

From the beginning, Luther focused on the doctrine of Salvation and Justification. He disagreed with the Catholic’s view of grace plus works. He believed that humans are saved from their sins by God’s grace alone (Sola Gratia), through faith alone (Sola Fide), and based on Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura).

“For eight days in Lent, beginning on 9 March, Invocavit Sunday, and concluding the following Sunday, Luther preached eight sermons, which became known as the “Invocavit Sermons” (Google). In these sermons, he hammered home the primacy of core Christian values such as love, patience, charity, and freedom. He reminded the citizens to trust God’s word rather than violence to bring about necessary change” (Google – Wikipedia).

However, he rejected the doctrine of Pelagianism. Pelagius believed that every human being is granted free will in the same way that Adam and Eve were and are free to accept or reject God’s salvation.

Luther believed that God gives us prevenient grace, which provides enough grace to respond to God’s call. Prevenient grace leads to a conviction that we can accept or reject God’s gift of salvation. He also disagreed with John Calvin, who believed that we are chosen or elected by God and are not free to reject His grace.

Closely connected with the doctrine of Justification is the doctrine of atonement. There are several different theories on atonement. John Calvin believed in what is called the “Penal Substitutionary Atonement,” With this theory, on the cross, all our sins are imputed to Christ where He paid for them, and all the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our account. Both Calvin and Luther modified this theory a little. Some claim that Luther’s theory was closer to “The Satisfaction Theory,” where the death of Jesus paid the debt of sin and satisfied God’s requirements for the payment of debt. The difference is a relationship factor or what is called sanctification.

Luther rejected all of the Catholic sacraments except two – baptism and the Eucharist. He believed that the rite of baptism had no saving grace but that it was required to initiate the first step of faith. Unless you took the first step, you did not have enough faith to be saved.

The Eucharist is a more complicated issue. The Catholics believed in Transubstantiation – when the elements, after being blessed, become Christ’s body. Luther rejected the doctrine that the elements become the body of Christ. His view is called Consubstantiation, a Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. “The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the Christian doctrine that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist, not merely symbolically or metaphorically” (Google). 

To some degree, Calvin had the same belief in the “Real Presence,” but he seems to have taken the experience to a deeper level than Luther. Luther’s view is much closer to the Orthodox view, which is a profound spiritual experience.

In many ways, Luther’s view of theology was much closer to the Orthodox Church. Luther struggled with the worship format. He continued to call the worship service a Mass but did away with some of the liturgies and continued with very structured and formal worship. In 1534 AD, an Ethiopian Orthodox monk and deacon Abba– Mikaʾel, traveled to Wittenberg, where he contacted the Wittenberg reformers Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. Luther and the deacon compared their order of services and concluded that they were very similar. They may have compared other doctrines. We need to remember that many of the doctrines that the Catholics tie to salvation, the Orthodox considered to be what today is part of our spiritual walk – what is today called sanctification.

Luther rejected the radical ideas of the Anabaptists with their views of baptism and church organization. The church that Luther founded is called the Lutheran Church. It developed an episcopal type of organization and became a state church in several countries.

The Lutherans reject the doctrine of eternity security. You can fall from grace, but you can be restored.

As Calvinism was developed later, it did not impact the early Lutheran Churches. However, the Lutheran Church never adopted all the tenets of Calvinism and is not considered a Reform Church.

 In 1529 AD, Luther and other Wittenberg theologians wrote the Lutheran confession of faith called “The Articles of Schwabach.” They were incorporated into the “Augsburg Confession” in 1530.

During the Reformation, Lutheranism became the state religion of numerous northern European states, especially in northern Germany, Scandinavia, and the then Livonian Order.

Today, the Lutheran Church can be found around the world and is one of the largest protestant churches in the world. It has several different groups and is organized into groups called synods.

The Reform Movement

John Calvin is considered the father of the Reform Movement. He was a Swiss living in Paris and completed his law studies in 1532. The following year, he fled Paris to Strasbourg because he had contacts with individuals who opposed the Roman Catholic Church.

Calvin, a Frenchman, fled to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1538 because of the suppression of Lutheranism in France.  At age twenty-seven, he published Institutes of the Christian Religion, an in-depth logical presentation of his theology.  Over the years, it has served as a basic textbook of theology for much of Protestantism. “Calvin’s overriding concern was an understanding of the sovereignty of God and the assurance that his purposes will be accomplished” Google).

Calvin was influenced by the work St. Augustine did with original sin, total depravity, and free will. However, there is no evidence that Augustine ever applied his theories to the reformed view of salvation.

Calvin agreed with Luther that the will of the unconverted was in bondage. However, he differs from Luther on the doctrine of salvation. Luther argued that salvation is by “grace through faith and faith alone.” Whereas Calvin’s theory is that God elects some to eternal life and others to reprobation. “These doctrines are defined as ‘God’s eternal decree by which he determined with himself what he willed to become of each man…. Eternal life is ordained for some; eternal damnation for others.’  The reason for the divine choice is inscrutable, but the choice is not arbitrary. Did God predestinate the Fall?  The answer is yes; Calvin called this the dreadful decree” (Google).

We should comment on Calvin’s view that God predestinated the Fall. To understand this, we must remember that God gave both angels and people free will. Therefore, Satan and many angels rebelled against God. Later, Satan led Adam and Eve to sin of their own free will. Did God know this was going to happen? Yes, in His foreknowledge, He understood this would occur; therefore, he had predestinated it. This subject can get complicated quickly; if you want to study it more, get a good systematic theology book and study. 

Calvin’s view is that “all have sinned and come short of God” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). However, it also appears that He overlooked the second part of that verse, “but the gift of God is eternal life inChrist Jesus our Lord.”

The following are the steps of logic used in the argument for Calvinism.

  • Mankind is totally depraved from the inherited sin nature and personal sins.
  • All are doomed to hell because of their sins.
  • They do not have free will to decide on their salvation.
  • Therefore, in his sovereignty and wisdom, God has elected and predestined some to be saved by the blood of Jesus.
  • God must regenerate those elected before they can respond to His call.
  • God called some to repent.
  • Because they have been regenerated, they will repent when called.

This doctrine leads to questions about two verses in Scripture that need to be revised.  We read in John 3:16 these words: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NKJV).

In 2 Peter 3:9, we read: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (MKJV).

 How do we reconcile that He wants no one to perish and only elects some to salvation?  The other question that no one attempts to answer is why He does not include some people.

Three other questions have been asked: (1) Did Jesus die for all mankind? (2) Can an unconditional election be rejected? (3) Can an elected person lose their salvation?

In the 1600s, Calvinism met opposition in the Netherlands. Dutch reform leader Jacob Arminius challenged some of the doctrines of Calvinism. As a result, the Synod of Dort (1618-19) defined five principles of Calvinism. These principles have become known as the five points of Calvinism – the TULIP.

  • Total Depravity – Man is completely touched/affected by sin in all that he is (in nature, he is completely fallen) but is not as bad as he could be (in action, i.e., not all murder, etc.). Furthermore, this total depravity means that the unregenerate will not, of their own free will, choose to receive Christ.
  • Unconditional Election – God elects a person based upon nothing in that person [life] because there is nothing in him that would make him worthy of being chosen; instead, God’s election is based on what is in God. God chose us because He decided to bestow his love and grace upon us, not because we are worthy of being saved.
  • Limited Atonement – Christ bore the sin only of the elect, not everyone who ever lived.
  • Irresistible Grace – The term, unfortunately, suggests a mechanical and coercive force upon an unwilling subject. This is not the case. Instead, it is the act of God making the person willing to receive him. It does not mean that a person cannot resist God’s will. It means that when God moves to save/regenerate a person, the sinner cannot thwart God’s movement, and he will be regenerated.
  • Perseverance of the Saints – We are so secure in Christ that we cannot fall away.

There are five points of Arminianism (from Jacobus Arminius 1559-1609), which contrast with the five points of Calvinism.   

  • Human Free Will – This states that though man has fallen, he is not hindered by his sinful nature and can freely choose God. His will is not restricted and enslaved by his sinful nature.
  • Conditional Election – God chose people for salvation based on His foreknowledge, where God looks into the future to see who would respond to the gospel message.
  • Universal Atonement – The position that Jesus bore the sin of everyone who lived.
  • Resistible Grace – The teaching that the grace of God can be resisted.
  • Fall from Grace – The teaching that a person can fall from grace and lose salvation.

These two positions, known as Calvinism and Arminianism, have dominated the doctrine of salvation and eternal security for nearly all denominations. Over the years, some have only accepted some of the points of Calvinism.

Calvin rejected the saving components of the Roman Catholic sacraments as they require man’s participation in salvation. “In common with other Protestant Reformers, Calvin believed that there were only two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Calvin conceded that ordination could also be called a sacrament but suggested that it was a “special rite for a certain function” (Google).

He believed that “Baptism is the sign of initiation by which we are received into…the church, in order that engrafted into Christ, we may be reckoned among God’s children” (Google) – johncalvinforeveryone.org). This was later modified by the Presbyterians.

It isn’t easy to know where Calvin stood on infant baptism. John Cavin believed in infant baptism for the children of the elect. However, he had reservations about baptizing infants or children of the non-elect.

Many reform churches, such as the Presbyterians and the Dutch Reform Church, baptized infants; however, not all did.

One of the problems of the doctrine of Calvinism was knowing who was elected and who was not. They based it on the walk the Christians had. Did they reflect a spirit-filled life? No one could be sure they were elected until they died.

Understanding the doctrine of the Eucharist in the reform movement takes time and effort. Only some of the leaders had the same view. It cannot be overemphasized that Calvin does not teach that the bread and wine are mere symbols of Christ’s body and blood. He differs from other leaders in believing in the Real Presence of Christ in the Supper. It is more profound than the regular presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives – it is a very personal and high mountain-top experience. He believed that the spirit presence of Christ was actually in the elements of the bread and the wine. Calvin did not think Christ was bodily present in the elements of the Eucharist. He taught that Christ remains in heaven and that we commune with him in the Lord’s Supper by being raised to him by the spirit rather than him descending to us.

Most reformed churches have open communion for all baptized believers.

“John Calvin’s notions of law and liberty created a necessary separation of church and state but did not build an impassable wall between the two entities. They maintained separate roles in society, but both being based on natural law as revealed by God in the Ten Commandments, they depended on one another to flourish” (Google – calvin.edu/news).

John Calvin focused on the continuity of the covenant of grace from the Old Testament, which later led to classic covenant theology in terms of Law and the Gospel. Covenant theology later taught that the church replaced Israel as God’s covenant group. As a result, the promised kingdom to Israel became the spirit kingdom of the church. Therefore, all prophesized promises to Israel have been terminated. Most protestant churches practiced this doctrine for many years. For this reason, the book of Revelation has been considered church-focused and has remained so in some churches to this day.

Early leaders in the reform movement were Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), who initiated the Reformed reformation in Zurich in 1519, and John Knox (1514 – 1524 from Scotland. John Knox took the reform movement back to Scotland and founded the Presbyterian Church. We have already discussed the Huguenot reform movement in France, which suffered persecution from the French Roman Catholics before moving to England, Holland, and America. The reform church in Scotland was called the Presbyterians, and those in other parts of England were called Reformed Churches. The Dutch Reformed Church was the largest in the Netherlands and remained so until the middle of the twentieth century.  

Anabaptist

ANABAPTIST’ was the nickname given to a group of Christians in the sixteenth century. It simply meant one who baptizes again. A person could not be called a dirtier name in sixteenth-century Christian Europe. By its enemies, Anabaptism was regarded as a dangerous movement—a program for violent destruction of Europe’s religious and social institutions. Its practices were regarded as odd and antisocial; its beliefs as devil-inspired heresy” (Google – christianhistoryinstitute.org).

“Anabaptism was a sixteenth-century religious movement which grew out of that age’s popular and widespread religious and social discontent. Its immediate source [tried to join] was the reform movement of Huldreich Zwingli that had begun in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1519. Anabaptism began formally in 1525 and spread with great rapidity into nearly all European countries, but especially in the German and Dutch speaking areas of Central Europe” (Google – christianhistoryinstitute.org)

Huldreich Zwingli began to preach ideas on reform of the Catholic Church. The Anabaptist groups had been formed earlier and quickly attached themselves to Zwingli’s leadership.

Their primary complaint was the practice of infant baptism in the Catholic Church. They believed baptism should occur after regeneration and is an outward symbol of the regeneration process – this became known as believer’s baptism. This is where they got the name Anabaptism – meaning re-baptized.

They also objected to the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church. They believe in a loose structure within the church using the congregational autonomy organization.

“They had concluded from their study of the New Testament that the name Christian could be applied only to those who truly followed Jesus and not indiscriminately to all who were baptized. Thirdly, they denied any essential difference between a Christian and a non-Christian government in their political roles. Certainly, a so-called Christian government would not make a society Christian” (Google – christianhistoryinstitute.org).

The Anabaptists believed that the Bible teaches us to trust and obey God and reflect this lifestyle.

“Anabaptists believed that only those baptized as adults could participate in the sacrament of Communion (the Lord’s Supper). They also rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation by denying the Lord’s body and blood were physically present in Communion’s bread and wine elements” (Google).

The following is a summary of their beliefs.

  • Adult baptism
  • Excommunication
  • Communion
  • Separation of church and state
  • Pastoral responsibilities and discipline
  • Pacifism
  • Oaths

Zwingli departed as the group’s leader over the Anabaptist doctrine, and they became scattered over Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. They became a hated and persecuted group. Today, the Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites, and perhaps Quakers trace their roots to the Anabaptists. Although not a descendant of the Anabaptists, the Baptist Denomination was heavily influenced by the Anabaptists.

The Church of England

In 1534 AD, King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church because the papacy would not permit him to divorce His queen, Katherine – she had not borne him any sons. This event became the most far-reaching event in English history. The break was more political than a difference in doctrine. Henry did not want to be under the authority of the Pope.

Unlike Luther, Henry retained the doctrine of salvation of grace plus works. He also retained many other doctrines of the Catholic Church.

  • Catholic sacraments
  • Transubstantiation in the Eucharist
  • Confession before a Priest
  • Payment of Indulgences
  • Purgatory

He also retained the Cathodic church structure – a hierarchal structure with the archbishop being the top spiritual leader. However, King Henry assumed the authority of the Catholic Pope within the Church of England.

“Henry VIII had not so much rejected the Pope as taken his place. Neither religion nor politics in England would ever be the same again” (Google).

In 1434, Parliament passed the “Act of Supremacy,” law which solidified the break from the Catholic Church and made the king the Supreme Head of the Church of England.  

The King replacing the Pope as the Head of the Church in England, causing a bitter divide between Catholics and Protestants. At that time the churches in the southern half of Ireland and Scotland were members of the Church of England. The northern half of Ireland remained Catholic. During this time, the Churches in Wales became part of The Church of England.

The following is a list of some of the changes under Henry VIII.

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury served as the head of the Church of England and reported to the King. The king replaced the catholic archbishop with a protestant Archbishop.
  • The Kings gave the parishes copies of the English Bible. More than 9,000 copies of the English Bible were distributed across England, and its popularity helped standardize the English language. This was a radical change; previously, almost all Bibles had been written in Latin, so they were unreadable to ordinary people.
  • The formation of the Church of England also meant that taxes payable to the Pope were transferred to the Crown. 
  • The establishment of the Church of England also enabled Henry to abolish England’s Roman Catholic monasteries and convents.
  • To achieve his extensive religious reforms, Henry allowed Parliament to pass statutes that gave it unprecedented power. The Reformation Parliament could now write laws that dictated religious practice and doctrine.

Those who opposed the King were quickly executed by beheading. It has been estimated that King Henry VIII executed over 72,000 people.

“Henry’s Catholic worship was typical of the era. Along with the prayer scroll, he also held fast to the belief that purchasing papal indulgences could pardon sin and shorten time in Purgatory; a popular practice at the time” (Google – smarthistory.org).

“Although Henry rejected Martin Luther’s theology of justification by faith alone, he did accept the German reformer’s insistence upon the supremacy of Scripture. After all, the ‘Word of God’ (Leviticus 20:21) had justified the annulment of his first marriage.” 

“That same year, Henry clarified the beliefs of his Church in ‘An Act Abolishing Diversity in Opinions’, better known as ‘The Act of Six Articles.’ This statute laid down Henry’s position on some of the key issues dividing conservatives and evangelicals in England. Although he tried to find a path between the extremes of Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism by following what he saw as a policy of balance, the king took up a conservative position on virtually all of the controversial points” (Google).

The Six Articles in 1539 swung away from all reformed positions, and then the King’s Book in 1543 re-established most of the earlier Catholic doctrines.

“On the Mass, the Act affirmed transubstantiation, elucidating that ‘after the consecration, there remaineth no substance of bread or wine, nor any other substance, but the substance of Christ, God and man’. Other clauses denied that communion in both kinds was necessary, upheld clerical celibacy, permitted private Masses (those celebrated by a priest alone), and deemed auricular confession necessary” (Google).

“A few years later, Henry shifted his position somewhat. The 1543 ‘Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for Any Christian Man’, known as the ‘King’s Book’ (another formulary of faith), instructed his subjects ‘to abstain from the name of Purgatory’ and questioned the efficacy of prayers for the dead. Nonetheless, the book unambiguously rejected justification by faith alone and reaffirmed transubstantiation, two positions which contradicted Luther’s teachings. When the king died in January 1547, England was doctrinally Catholic despite rejecting papal supremacy” (Google).

“The theology and liturgy of the Church of England became markedly Protestant during the reign of Henry’s son Edward VI (1547–1553) largely along lines laid down by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer” (Google – Wikipedia). Thomas Cranmer, the Canterbury Archbishop, is the father of much of the Church of England doctrine. He was later burned at the stake by Queen Mary I.

In 1553 AD, Queen Mary I (the daughter of Henry VIII) reversed the decision of Henry VIII andmade Roman Catholicism the official religion of England, and reinstated the Pope as the supreme leader of the Catholic Church. Protestant bishops in England were arrested, and Catholic bishops were restored. Parliament revived laws against heresy, and many who disagreed with Queen Mary’s decision were burned at the stake. Her nickname became “Bloody Mary”.

This decision was short-lived as her successor, Queen Elizabeth I, in 1559 AD, reversed her decision and returned the Church of England to the Protestant Church.

Elizabeth replaced the Archbishop of Canterbury with a protestant bishop. She enacted what became known as The Elizabethan Religious Settlement.  It contained two acts – the Supremacy Act and the Uniformity Act.

  • The Act of Supremacy removed the Pope as head of the Church of England and established the English monarch as the head of the Church of England.
  • The Act of Uniformity was an act of piecemeal steps toward the official introduction of Protestant doctrine and practice into England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. It secures uniformity in public worship and using a particular Book of Common Prayer.

The doctrine of the Church of England is a combination of Lutheranism and Roman Catholic doctrine. 

 “The Prayer Book of 1559 was the third revision for the Anglican Church, and was brought about by the accession to the throne of Elizabeth I and the restoration of the Anglican Church after the six-year rule of the Catholic Queen Mary” (Google – justus.anglican.org). This book established the order of service for the Church.

“The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (commonly abbreviated as the Thirty-nine Articles or the XXXIX Articles) are the historically defining statements of doctrines and practices of the Church of England concerning the controversies of the English Reformation” (Google – Wikipedia). They are the same as a confession of faith and were later incorporated into The Prayer Book.

“The Articles also defended the use of several Catholic rituals and practices opposed by Protestants, such as kissing the cross on Good Friday, while mildly criticizing popular abuses and excesses. The use of religious images was permitted, but people were to be taught not to kneel before them or make offerings to them. Prayer to Mary, mother of Jesus, and all the other saints was permitted as long as superstition was avoided. (Google -Wikipedia)

In summary, I am listing the ten articles from the “Ten Articles in 1536”. These are taken from Wikipedia.

  • The Bible and the three ecumenical creeds are the basis and summary of the true Christian faith.
  • Baptism imparts remission of sins and regeneration and is necessary for salvation, even in the case of infants. It condemns the opinions of Anabaptists and Pelagianism as heresy.
  • The sacrament of penance, with confession and absolution, is necessary to salvation.
  • That the body and blood of Christ are really present in the Eucharist.
  • Justification is by faith, but good works are necessary.
  • Images can be used as representations of virtue and good examples and also to remind people of their sins but are not objects of worship.
  • Saints are to be honored as examples of life and as furthering the prayers of the faithful.
  • Praying to saints is permitted, and holy days should be observed.
  • The observance of various rites and ceremonies, such as clerical vestments, sprinkling of holy water, bearing of candles on Candlemas, and giving of ashes on Ash Wednesday, is good and laudable. However, none of these has the power to forgive sin.
  • It is a good and charitable deed to pray for the dead. However, the doctrine of purgatory is biblically uncertain. Abuses related to purgatory, such as the claim that papal indulgences or masses for the dead offered at certain localities (such as the scala coeli mass) can be delivered immediately from purgatory, are to be rejected.

From the above, it appears that the Church of England retained the Catholic view of salivation – they even retained the sacraments. Their doctrine is considered more Arminian than Calvinism.

“The Church of England sustains a traditional Catholic order system that includes ordained bishops, priests and deacons. The Church follows an episcopal form of government” (Google – history.com).

The Thirty-nine Articles were finalized in 1571 and incorporated into the Book of Common Prayer. Although not the end of the struggle between Catholic and Protestant monarchs and citizens, the book helped to standardize the English language and was to have a lasting effect on religion in the United Kingdom and elsewhere through its wide use.” (Google – Wikipedia).

The Anglican Communion includes the Church of England, the Church of Wales, the Church of Ireland, the Episcopal Church of Scotland, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Episcopal Church of the USA.

Many members held to the Calvinist doctrine of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Other would soon break away to form other denominations.

There are more spin-off denominations with roots in the Church of England then any of the four mother churches. The spin-off of the John Westley Movement (spin-offs of the Church of England) has more Denominations that any other movement.

“The Reformation, which shook up Europe, led to a hundred years of wars — over religion, land, and power — that ended with this decision in 1648: The leaders of each country could choose their religion. As a result, western Europe was (and still is) roughly divided in half, with the north Protestant and the south Catholic.” (Google)

Your History of the Protestant Churches

We begin the long history of the Protestant Churches as they break away from their mother churches over different views on church doctrine.

Presbyterians

When John Knox returned to Scotland in 1559 AD from Switzerland, he took the reform movement theology with him. Soon, he became the father of the Presbyterians. The Presbyterians replaced some churches of the Church of England origin and split the country.

“Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition that traces its origin to the Church of Scotland. Presbyterian churches derive their name from the presbyterian form of church government by representative assemblies of elders. Many Reformed churches are organized this way, but the word Presbyterian, when capitalized, is often applied uniquely to churches that trace their roots to the Church of Scotland or to English Dissenter groups that formed during the English Civil War” (Google – Wikipedia).

Many of the members of parliament rejected the Church of England doctrine and accepted the Presbyterian doctrine. In 1642 AD, a civil war broke out in England, Scotland, and Ireland.

“The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars and political machinations between Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) and Royalists (“Cavaliers”), mainly over the manner of England’s governance and issues of religious freedom. It was part of the wider Wars of the Three Kingdoms” (Google – Wikipedia). Many in Scotland fed to Ireland and became what we call Scot-Irish.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, drawn up in the 1640s by an assembly of 151 theologians (mostly Presbyterians and Puritans) at Westminster Abbey, is the standard of doctrine for the Church of Scotland and many Presbyterian churches throughout the world. Several other denominations, including Baptists and Congregationalists, have used adaptations of the Westminster Confession of Faith as a basis for their own doctrinal statements. In each case, the Westminster Confession is considered subordinate to the Bible…The Westminster Confession of Faith is a systematic exposition of Calvinism, written from a Puritan viewpoint.” (Google – gotquestion.org).

The doctrine of the Presbyterian Church was five-point Calvinism. It was also based on Covenant Theology. Baptism is a sacrament, a symbolic ritual, and a seal of the adult believer’s present faith. It is an outward sign of an inward grace.

They baptized infants to indicate membership in the New Covenant. The doctrine of Election teaches that children enter the New Covenant when they are born. Under Covenant Theology, the New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant of the Old Testament. In their view, baptism replaced the rite of circumcision.

Today, they are divided more on liberalism and conservatism than on doctrine.

The Dutch Reformed Church

“The first general synod of the Dutch Reformed Church took place in 1571, and subsequently other synods were held. The Presbyterian form of church government was adopted, and the Belgic Confession (1561) and the Heidelberg Catechism (1562) were accepted as standards of doctrine” (Google – britannica.com).

They became split over the doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism. They also significantly influenced the Separatist groups coming out of England. The Dutch Reformed Church came to the United States, South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and various other world regions through Dutch colonization.

The Separatists

The Separatists were English Calvinists who, in the 16th and 17th centuries, wished to separate from the Church of England’s perceived corruption and form independent local churches. They were searching for religious freedom. Robert Browne and Robert Harrison led them. In 1608, one group left England for Holland for religious freedom. At that time, the churches of Holland were Catholic, Reform, or Lutheran. There, they came in contact with the Huguenots and Anabaptists. There, the separatists found freedom of religion. This group would separate to form the Puritans and the Baptists.

Puritans

“The Puritans were members of a religious reform movement known as Puritanism that arose within the Church of England in the late 16th century. They believed the Church of England was too similar to the Roman Catholic Church and should eliminate ceremonies and practices not rooted in the Bible” (Google). A group of Puritans came to America in 1620 on the Mayflower and settled in Massachusetts. Their doctrine was five-point Calvinism. They would later be called Congregationalists.

 The early Puritans favored a Presbyterian form of church government. Over time, some more radical Puritans began to claim autonomy for individual congregations. All were against Catholic and Episcopal authority.

They were conservative and legalistic.

“The Puritans believed that since God knows all that has happened, is happening and will happen, and that everything is a manifestation of His will, that everything, including salvation and damnation, are already preordained” (Google – theclassroom.com).

“Puritans taught that there were two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Puritans agreed with the church’s practice of infant baptism” (Google). They practiced closed communion in their services.

“Although they were individuals of strong beliefs, faith, and conviction, the Puritans were not individualists. They came to America in groups, not as individual settlers. Often, entire congregations, led by their ministers, left England and settled together in the new land. They organized their settlements into towns, with their meeting house or the church at the center of town. The church was the center of their community, providing purpose and direction to their lives” (Google – Christianity.com).

The church influenced the central government of the Puritans, and they took their laws and restrictions from Biblical laws. Sexual sins were dealt with most severely.  Failing to attend church was considered a major sin, and the offenders were punished. Anyone found violating these laws suffered imprisonment, being tied to a stake, whipped, or sometimes hanged. The Puritan influence dominated the New England area for many years.

Later, some people were accused of being witches. “The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. More than 200 people were accused. Thirty people were found guilty, nineteen of whom were executed by hanging (fourteen women and five men)” (Google).

It is believed that they adopted modified versions of the Westminster Confession of Faith. They later became part of the Congregational Church.

Baptist

John Smyth formed the first English-speaking Baptist Churches in Holland in 1608. John Smyth had been part of the Separatist movement in England. He baptized himself in Amsterdam. He had been a fellow of Christ College, Cambridge, but as a separatist, he fled from the harsh rule of King James I. After his death, his associate Thomas Helwy formed the first Baptist Church in Holland from a group of Separatists.

The first Baptist churches were formed in Holland (1609-1612). They believed, as did Martin Luther, that believers could read and interpret the Bible independently. The Baptists separated from the Church of England because they believed church membership should be voluntary and only believers should be baptized.”   

It is believed that the Anabaptists influenced the Baptists in the meaning of the sacraments – both groups rejected the word “Sacrament.” Both groups felt that Baptism is symbolic of the inter-salvation experience. Communion is symbolic and serves as a memorial of the body of Christ – up until the mid-19th century, communion was closed to everyone except the members of the congregation. Even as late as the twentieth century, many Baptist churches continued to practice closed communion.

They also agree with the Anabaptists on Church Organization as they adopted the Congregational form of Organization.

However, some Baptists differed from the Anabaptists on many other issues, such as pacifism and the communal sharing of material goods.

The first group of Baptists were Armenians and were later called General Baptists. A second group, Calvinists, split off and became the Particular Baptist. The Particular Baptists adopted most of the Presbyterian’s Westminster Confession as their doctrine and later became Hyper-Calvinist – they believed in double predestination – God predestined some to heaven and some to hell. The Particular Baptist also believed in Covenant Theology.

Roger Williams established the first Baptist church in North America in what today is Providence, Rhode Island; soon after that, John Clarke founded a Baptist church in Newport, R.I.”

After many years, some of the Baptists have softened their beliefs on Calvinism and Covenant Theology.

Today, there are many groups of Baptists around the world. The Freewill Baptist and Unitarians find their roots in the General Baptist. Some of the General Baptists became prey to the spread of Arianism, which denies the deity of Christ – they became the Unitarians. The Millerites, Disciples of Christ, and Churches of Christ find their roots in the Particular Baptist. Today, they are divided more on liberalism and conservatism than on doctrine.

The Freewill Baptist was a spin-off of the General Baptist Group. Unlike the Particular Baptist, the Freewill group believed in Arminianism and rejected Calvinism.  

The Congregational Church

The Congregational Church was part of the Separatist Movement in England and probably was started by the pilgrims. The Puritans later joined them. Note: The words “Pilgrims” and “Puritans” are now interchangeable.

 “The first Congregational church organized in America was First Parish Church in Plymouth, established in 1620 by Separatist Puritans known as Pilgrims. The first Congregational church organized in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was First Church in Salem, established in 1629” (Google – Wikipedia).

Congregational churches worship in the Calvinist tradition, practicing congregationalist church government. The congregations are independent and autonomous in church affairs.

Baptism is one of two sacraments. Baptism is an outward sign of God’s inward grace. It may or may not be necessary for membership in a local congregation. However, it is a common practice for both infants and adults.

The second sacrament, communion, is a sacred memorial of the crucified and risen Christ, a living and effective sign of Christ’s sacrament in which Christ is truly and rightly present to those who hear and drink.  In the sacrament of Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist, Christians hear, taste, touch, and receive the grace of God uniquely revealed through Jesus Christ.

The Anabaptists probably influenced the original Congregational movement, and the Congregation churches adopted some of their doctrines.

The Westminster Confession was modified and adopted by Congregationalists in England in the form of the Savoy Declaration in 1658.

The best-known modern church to come out of the Congregational group is the Moody Church in Chicago. It has remained somewhat conservative. More liberal branches would be the United Church of Christ and the Evangelical and Reformed Churches.

Quakers

The Society of Friends began in 1648 AD and is counted among the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers). Under the leadership of George Fox, they broke away from the Puritans.

“The Religious Society of Friends is a movement that began in England in the 17th century. Members of this movement are informally known as Quakers, a word that means to tremble in the way of the Lord. In its early days, it faced opposition and persecution; however, it continued to expand, extending into many parts of the world, especially the Americas and Africa. The Society of Friends has been influential in the history of the world” (Google -Wikipedia).

“Quakers were severely persecuted in England for daring to deviate so far from orthodox Christianity. By 1680, 10,000 Quakers had been imprisoned in England, and 243 had died of torture and mistreatment in the King’s jails” (Google).

The Quakers arrived in New York in 1657 and were fined, jailed, and banished by the Dutch, who were outraged by Quaker women preaching. In 1682, many of the Quakers moved to the future state of Pennsylvania for freedom.

“The state of Pennsylvania, in the United States, was founded by William Penn [1681] as a safe place for Quakers to live and practice their faith. Quakers have been a significant part of the movements to abolish slavery, promote equal rights for women, and end warfare” (Google – Wikipedia).

“The Quakers rejected the orthodox Calvinist belief in predestination. Instead, the Quakers insisted that salvation was available to all. It came, however, not through an institutional church, but from within, by following the ‘inner light’ of God’s spirit” (Google).

“Quakers neither practice baptism nor celebrate the Eucharist. They don’t regard some activities as more sacred than others, nor do they believe that any particular ritual is needed to get in touch with God, so they do not believe in the sacraments practiced in mainstream Christian churches” (Google).

Rules in the Quaker Church were Biblical based, and punishment for breaking them was prompt. Church attendance was mandatory, and those who did not attend could be fined. Like New England and Virginia, the Quakers had laws outlawing sex between unmarried partners or adultery. Expulsion from membership with the church was considered the heaviest punishment for breaking the rules.

Mennonites and Amish

“Beginning in 1663, Mennonites emigrated to North America to preserve the faith of their fathers, to seek economic opportunity and adventure, and especially to escape European militarism. Until the late 19th century, most Mennonites in North America lived in farming communities” (britannica.com). The Mennonites settled in Pennsylvania and became one of the peace churches. They originated in the Netherlands and Switzerland during the early 1500s probably as part of the Anabaptist movement.

The Amish split with the Mennonites in 1693 AD and became a separate church.

“Anabaptist-Mennonite thought has been characterized by its insistence on a separation between religion and the world. The persecutions of the 16th century forced Anabaptists to withdraw from society in order to survive, a strategy that became central in Mennonite theology. Consequently, most Mennonites have remained tightly bound to their communities, have practiced rigorous group discipline, and wear distinctive clothing (e.g., the “plain coat”—a jacket without lapels—for men and the “covering”—a small hat made of lace—for women). Their isolation encouraged the sectarian virtues of frugality, hard work, piety, and mutual helpfulness but also frequently led to schism” (Google – britannica.com).

The Mennonite doctrine was mainly the same as the Anabaptist doctrine, which we have already discussed.

Like the Baptists, the Mennonites do not consider baptism to be a sacrament but a “sign” of redemption and commitment.  They believe that infants and children do not need baptism since they are safe in the care of God.

Neither do they consider communion a sacrament, but in the meal, the church renews its covenant to be the body of Christ in the world and live the life of Christ on behalf of others. They practiced closed communion, restricting communion to members of a local congregation only.

“By the mid-20th century, however, many Mennonites were deeply involved in the social, educational, and economic world around them, a situation that led to revolutionary changes in their life and thought” (Google – britnnica.com).

The first Amish arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1730s to escape persecution in Europe. Unlike the Mennonites, Amish are prohibited from using motorized vehicles. In addition, Amish are not allowed to use electricity and telephones in their homes. When it comes to their beliefs, the Amish and Mennonite faiths are very similar. The differences lie mainly in the outward practice of those beliefs.

Hutterites

“Hutterite, member of the Hutterian Brethren, a branch of the Anabaptist movement, originally from Austria and South Germany, whose members found refuge from persecution in Moravia. It stressed community of goods on the model of the primitive church in Jerusalem detailed in Acts of the Apostles 2:41–47 and 4:32–37. The community, which acquired the name of its charismatic leader, Jakob Hutter (tortured and burned as a heretic in 1536), still survives, mostly in the western sections of the United States and Canada, and has a population of about 50,000. In colonies of 60 to 150 persons, they operate collective farms (Bruderhof) and, not unlike the Old Order Amish, remain aloof from outside society, taking no part in politics. Until the 1990s, children were educated inside the colony until age 14 or until a minimum age decreed by state or province; most colonies now encourage students to complete high school and follow state or provincial curricula” (Google – britannica.com).

Like the Mennonites and Amish, the Hutterites are a spin-off of the Anabaptist and follow the Anabaptist doctrine.

“The difference between the Amish and the Hutterites is the Amish live in a community but own private property, while the Hutterites live communally and do not own private property. Hutterites are also more open to the use of technology than the Amish; Hutterites utilize industrial farming practices” (Google).

The Brethren

“The Church of the Brethren traces its roots back over 300 years to 1708. Eighteenth-century Europe was a time of strong governmental control of the church and low tolerance for religious diversity. Nevertheless, there were religious dissenters who lived their faith in spite of the threat of persecution. Some of these dissenters found refuge in the town of Schwarzenau, Germany. Among them was Alexander Mack, a miller who had been influenced by both Pietism and Anabaptism” (brethren.org).

“In August 1708 five men and three women gathered at the Eder River in Schwarzenau for baptism, an illegal act since all had been baptized as infants. They understood this baptism as an outward symbol of their new faith and as a commitment to living that faith in community. An anonymous member of the group first baptized Mack. He, in turn, baptized the other seven. This new group simply called themselves ‘brethren’” (brethren.org).

“Due to growing persecution and economic hardship, Brethren began emigrating to North America in 1719 under the leadership of Peter Becker. Most Brethren left Europe by 1740, including Mack, who brought a group over in 1729. The first congregation in the New World was organized at Germantown, Pa., in 1723. Soon after its formation, the Germantown congregation sent missionaries to rural areas around Philadelphia. These missionaries preached, baptized, and started new congregations” (brethren.org).

There doctrine and belief system were based upon the Anabaptist. Just like the Quakers, Mennonites and Amish, they became one of the peace churches – not believing in wars.

Pietist Movement

As we have discussed earlier, most religious groups move from a mountain top spiritual experience to a valley spiritual walk. This is what had happened to the Churches in Holland and Germany. Then they had a revival. In 1675, Philip Jacob Spener began the Pietist Movement within Lutheranism lasting from the late-17th century to the mid-18th century.  It was cradled in the Dutch Reform Church. 

It proved to be very influential throughout Protestantism and Anabaptist inspiring not only Anglican priest John Wesley to begin the Methodist movement, but also Alexander Mack to begin the Brethren movement. The Pietist movement combined the Lutheran emphasis on Biblical doctrine and the Reformed (especially Puritan) emphasis on a living faith. It provided the roots for the future missionary movement.

The Brethren

“The Church of the Brethren traces its roots back over 300 years to 1708. Eighteenth-century Europe was a time of strong governmental control of the church and low tolerance for religious diversity. Nevertheless, there were religious dissenters who lived their faith in spite of the threat of persecution. Some of these dissenters found refuge in the town of Schwarzenau, Germany. Among them was Alexander Mack, a miller who had been influenced by both Pietism and Anabaptism” (Google – brethren.org).

“In August 1708 five men and three women gathered at the Eder River in Schwarzenau for baptism, an illegal act since all had been baptized as infants. They understood this baptism as an outward symbol of their new faith and as a commitment to living that faith in community. An anonymous member of the group first baptized Mack. He, in turn, baptized the other seven. This new group simply called themselves ‘brethren’” (Google – brethren.org).

“Due to growing persecution and economic hardship, Brethren began emigrating to North America in 1719 under the leadership of Peter Becker. Most Brethren left Europe by 1740, including Mack, who brought a group over in 1729. The first congregation in the New World was organized at Germantown, Pa., in 1723. Soon after its formation, the Germantown congregation sent missionaries to rural areas around Philadelphia. These missionaries preached, baptized, and started new congregations” (Google – brethren.org).

As a spin-off of the Church of England, the Brethren movement was predominantly Arminian. However, a number of ministers considered themselves mostly Calvinist, and a few had Lutheran leanings.

There doctrine and belief system were based upon the Anabaptist. Just like the Quakers, Mennonites and Amish, they became one of the peace churches – not believing in wars.

The Church of the Brethren is an Anabaptist Christian denomination in the Schwarzenau Brethren tradition. “The modern-day Brethren movement is a combination of Anabaptism and Radical Pietism” (Google).

First Great Awaking in America

Just as in Europe, America had hit a valley in their spiritual walk and the whole country was becoming more and more evil. The man most responsible for changing this and bringing about a revival in America was Jonathan Edwards beginning in the 1730’s. Historians say “the first Great Awakening” can best be described as a revitalization of religious piety that swept through the American colonies between the 1730s and the 1770s.

“He [Edwards] was a preacher, theologian, and missionary to Native Americans. Edwards ‘is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,’ and one of America’s greatest intellectuals. Edwards’s theological work is very broad in scope, but he is often associated with his defense of Reformed theology, the metaphysics of theological determinism, and the Puritan heritage” (Wikipedia).

He was known as a “Fire and Brimstone” type of preacher with a heavy emphasis on evangelism. His sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” had a profound effect on people. Many repented and turned from their evil ways.

Englishman George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards worked together and they both were very instrumental in bringing about the Great Awakening in America.

Another contemporary of George Whitefield was young John Wesley. In 1735, John came to America to pastor a church in Savannah, Georgia. After an unsuccessful love affair, he returned to London in 1737 a very bitter man.

“John Wesley’s short and eventful time in Savannah paved the way for his Methodist theology and encouraged piety in his congregation. It is doubtful that he would have become such a successful preacher without meeting the Moravian Christians and honing his skills in the parish in Savannah” (Google).

Some credit the Great Awakening to bringing about the American Revolution and America’s independence from England in 1776. He would later become the father of the Methodist movement in England.

Methodist

The Holiness Movement in Europe was an outgrowth of the Anabaptist, Pietist, and the Puritans. The Holiness movement is composed of people who believe and promote the belief that the carnal nature of man can be cleansed through faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine is typically referred to in Holiness churches as “entire sanctification”, though it is more widely known as “Christian perfection“. This movement was called “The Holy Club.”

John Wesley became a leader of this movement and it expanded under his leadership. It was later called the Methodist movement.

“Wesley was born into a strong Anglican home: his father, Samuel, was priest, and his mother, Susanna, taught religion and morals faithfully to her 19 children…Wesley attended Oxford, proved to be a fine scholar, and was soon ordained into the Anglican ministry. At Oxford, he joined a society (founded by his brother Charles) whose members took vows to lead holy lives, take Communion once a week, pray daily, and visit prisons regularly. In addition, they spent three hours every afternoon studying the Bible and other devotional material” (Google -christianitytoday.com).

In 1735, John came to America to pastor a church in Savannah, Georgia. After a disappointing experience, he returned to London in 1737 a very bitter man. One evening, he went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where they were reading from the book of Romans. The Lord touched his heart that night and he was saved by the grace of God.

Wesley began working with George Whitefield, another member of “The Holy Club” and together they founded a movement which would become the Methodist Church. 

“With his organizational skills, Wesley quickly became the new leader of the movement. But Whitefield was a firm Calvinist, whereas Wesley couldn’t swallow the doctrine of predestination. Furthermore, Wesley argued (against Reformed doctrine) that Christians could enjoy entire sanctification in this life: loving God and their neighbors, meekness and lowliness of heart, abstaining from all appearance of evil, and doing all for the glory of God. In the end, the two preachers parted ways” (Google – christianitytoday.com).

“Wesley did not intend to found a new denomination, but historical circumstances and his organizational genius conspired against his desire to remain in the Church of England…Wesley’s followers first met in private home “societies.” When these societies became too large for members to care for one another, Wesley organized “classes,” each with 11 members and a leader. Classes met weekly to pray, read the Bible, discuss their spiritual lives, and to collect money for charity. Men and women met separately, but anyone could become a class leader” (Google – christianitytoday.com).

“The movement grew rapidly, as did its critics, who called Wesley and his followers “methodists,” a label they wore proudly. It got worse than name calling at times: methodists were frequently met with violence as paid ruffians broke up meetings and threatened Wesley’s life” (Google – christianitytoday.com).

“A few Anglican priests, such as his hymn-writing brother Charles, joined these Methodists, but the bulk of the preaching burden rested on John. He was eventually forced to employ lay preachers, who were not allowed to serve Communion but merely served to complement the ordained ministry of the Church of England” (Google – christianitytoday.com).

As the church grew it took a modified version of the Episcopal Organization. They placed strong emphases on the priesthood of the believer and the doctrine of sanctification – the emphases on holiness. The overall doctrine was Arminian, and they retained two of the sacraments – baptism and communion.

The Sacrament of Baptism is the initiation into Christ’s holy Church whereby one is incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the spirit. Baptism washes away sin and clothes one in the righteousness of Christ. They practiced infant baptism. Unlike the Anglian Churches, the sacrament had no saving grace.

Wesley believed in salvation through faith but considered baptism the first step of faith.

The Sacrament of Communion is seen as a memorial for the work completed at the cross by Jesus – his broken body and the shedding of his blood.

Over the years, other denominations have branched off from the Methodist Church. Some of the Holiness Churches are the Free Holiness Church, Wesleyan Church, Free Methodist Church, Church of the Nazarene, Salvation Army, some Churches of God, and the Pentecostal movement.

Today, they are very divided on liberalism and conservatism.

Protestant Missionary Movement

As the years went by the Presbyterians and Baptist became stronger in the five tenets of Calvinism and began to teach hyper-Calvinism. This was the belief that God double predesignated – some people to heaven and some to hell.

This doctrine hampered any evangelical and missionary efforts. Many were concerned about people getting saved who were not elected.

In 1786, William Carey, a Baptist pastor in England felt a call to the mission field. The prevalent belief of hyper-Calvinist at that time was that all men were not responsible to believe the Gospel – if God wanted men saved he would save them. “At a ministers’ meeting in 1786, Carey raised the question of whether it was the duty of all Christians to spread the Gospel throughout the world. J. R. Ryland, the father of John Ryland, is said to have retorted: ‘Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid or mine’ ” (Google -preceptaustin.org).

Carey went to the mission field in India and served forty-one years. He is considered the father of the modern missionary movement. Through his efforts, The Baptist Missionary Society was founded.

Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church as part of the Anglican Communion, was formally organized in Philadelphia in 1789 as the successor to the Church of England in the American colonies. In points of doctrine, worship, and ministerial order, it remain basically the same as the Church of England. They have retained the seven sacraments of the Anglian Church.

“They believe that baptism with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit makes one a member of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. While affirming the “real presence” of Christ’s body and blood in the eucharistic elements of bread and wine, they have refused overly specific definitions of how this happens such as the Roman Catholic concept of “transubstantiation,” which uses medieval philosophical categories to define a holy mystery” (Google – episcopalchurch.org).

“Today the noticeable differences are these: In the Episcopal Church, bishops and priests can be married; there is no centralized authority figure like the pope; lay people play a greater role in decision making; sacramental confession is optional not required; married couples are permitted to use responsible means of birth control. Because its national churches are autonomous, yet interdependent, decision-making in The Episcopal Church can appear “messier” than in, say, the centralized Roman Catholic Church. Some would say it also provides room for the fresh winds of the Spirit to cleanse and refresh” (Google – episcopalchurch.org)!

The church has become very liberal in practice.

Second Great Awakening in USA

By the early 1800s, pioneer families crossed the Appalachian Mountains and homesteaded new land. Land grants were available to many. They built log cabins and log church buildings. Their pastors were not well educated, and the spiritual level of many people began to drop. Men willing to pioneer were tough, and they often consumed their corn whiskey – some were greedy and wicked.

The missionary movement also encouraged an eager-spirited evangelicalism that later reappeared in American life in causes dealing with prison reform, temperance, women’s suffrage, and the crusade to abolish slavery. As the people moved westward into more rural areas, circuit riders would preach the gospel from town to town. The Methodists took the lead with their circuit riders. The paster would move from church to church to preach and do weddings and other duties. Also, a worship service called revivals became popular.

 “The nation’s westward expansion brought about untold opportunities and a readiness to dispense with old ways of thinking, an attitude that influenced people’s religious understanding” (Google).

Many believe that the Red River Presbyterian Church in Logan County, Kentucky, in 1800, became the site for the birth of the Second Great Awakening – a major religious movement in the United States in the first part of the nineteenth century.

Under the leadership of the pastor, the meeting was organized by the Presbyterian minister James McGready (also spelled M’Gready). Held June 13-17, 1800, it was the first religious camp meeting in the United States.

The services were held outdoors, and people camped at the meeting site. The Holy Spirit fell on the meeting and many showed manifestation of the spirit much as you would see at a Pentecostal worship service – healings, shouting, slayed in the Spirit where people passed out. “During the so-called Second Great Awakening, from about 1790 through 1830, camp meetings became one of the most popular ways to preach the revival” (Google).

 Camp meetings across the frontier filled an ecclesiastical and spiritual need in the unchurched settlements as the population moved west. Leaders in this movement were Charles Grandison Finney, Lyman Beecher, Barton Stone, and Alexander Cambell.

Churches formed from this movement were the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Latter Day Saint movement, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Disciples of Christ (Church of Christ) began the Apostolic (or Restoration) Movement.

The awakening lasted from 1800 to 1830, and many believe it opened the door for the Civil War and the freeing of black slaves.

Charles Granison Finney

One of the early leaders of the Second Great Awakening was Charles Granison Finney. He was a Presbyterian and Congregationalist minister who became important in the Second Great Awakening. His influence during this period was enough that he has been called ‘The Father of Modern Revivalism. He was best known as a passionate revivalist preacher from 1825 to 1835 in the Burned-over District in Upstate New York and Manhattan. He later moved to the frontier and became an evangelist preaching at camp revivals.

“Finney was the most famous religious revivalist during this period in this particular area. While groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses became closed and exclusive, Finney was widely accepted and influential amongst more mainstream groups. Finney never started his own denomination or church and never claimed any form of prophetic leadership above other evangelists and revivalists.  However, Finney did not hesitate to criticize many other clergymen who disagreed with him and who sometimes he claimed to be unconverted … Finney was a primary influence on the “revival” style of theology that emerged in the 19th century” (Google – Wikipedia)

“Though coming from a Calvinistic background, Finney rejected tenets of “Old Divinity” Calvinism which he felt were unbiblical and counter to evangelism and Christian mission” (Google – Wikipedia). 

Many believe that Finney was one of the first to move from hard classical Calvinism to what is today known as moderate Calvinism. His preaching significantly impacted the change in the Baptist Churches from Hyper-Calvinism to a more moderate doctrine where some members only believed in two or three tenets – many only accepted Total Depravity and Eternal Security. However, the Baptists have remained split on the views of Calvinism even to the present. He also significantly impacted the Presbyterians. During this time the Cumberland Presbyterian Church broke with the mainline Presbyterians.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church began in 1810 in the log cabin home (near what later became the town of Burns, Dickson County, Tennessee) of the Rev. Samuel McAdow. He and the Rev. Finis Ewing and the Rev. Samuel King reorganized Cumberland Presbytery,

“The divisions which led to the formation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church can be traced back to the First Great Awakening. At that time, Presbyterians split between the Old Side (mainly congregations of Scottish and Scots-Irish extraction), which favored a doctrinally-oriented church with a highly educated ministry, and the New Side (mainly of English extraction) that put greater emphasis on the revivalist techniques championed by the Great Awakening” (Google – Probably Wikipedia).

In theology, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America follows the Protestant theological thought of John Calvin.

In doctrine, the denomination followed the Westminster Confession with four reservations:

  • There are no eternal reprobates.
  • Christ died for all humankind, not for the elect alone.
  • there is no infant damnation.
  • the Spirit of God operates in the world coextensively with Christ’s atonement to leave all humankind inexcusable. 

“The doctrinal authority and national governance of the church lie within the General Assembly” (Google – Probably Wikipedia).

They have two sacraments: baptism and communion. Neither one is required for salvation.

“Water Baptism is a sign or symbol of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and a seal of the Covenant of Grace. Because the Holy Spirit is always represented in the Scriptures as being poured out on the person, its renewal and cleansing are symbolized by pouring or sprinkling water upon the head of the baptized one. We believe that infant children of Christians should be given the seal of the Covenant just as Hebrew children were in Old Testament days. Infant baptism is now that seal and represents an act of faith by the parents and the Church, as the child is dedicated to the Lord. Infant baptism is not evidence of salvation but is evidence of non-communicant church membership. Those who have been baptized in infancy must make a personal acceptance of Christ and accept the act of their baptism before sharing in the full fellowship of the Church” (Google – corntasselcpchurch.org).

From the above, we can assume that they retained the doctrine of Covenant Theology where the Church replaced Israel as the holder of the covenants.

Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ

The Churches of Christ were founded by Lyman Beecher, Barton Stone, and Alexander Campbell in the early 1800’s. All three were Presbyterians and took their membership from other denominations, including the Baptist.

“The churches of Christ are non-denominational, autonomous Christian congregations and are historically linked to the Restoration Movement. Churches of Christ aim to represent in the present the original first-century Church. Members regard the Church’s founder as Jesus Christ and its first day of manifestation as the Day of Pentecost, described in the New Testament in Acts 2. Churches of Christ claim the New Testament as their sole law in deciding matters of doctrine, ecclesiastical structure, and moral beliefs. They regard the Old Testament as divinely inspired and believe its principles remain true and beneficial, though its laws are not binding under the new covenant in Christ unless otherwise taught in the New Testament. To members, the Old Testament is a historical reference of chains of events, God’s power, and the prophecies that Jesus Christ fulfilled” (Google – Probably Wikipedia).

They retained two sacraments- Baptist and Communion – both required for salvation.

“Church of Christ advocates argue that when the Bible speaks of salvation “by faith,” it is speaking of a living faith, a faith that produces works of obedience, such as baptism and confession (Romans 10:9-10). They do not claim that baptism is a work that earns salvation or, in any sense, makes a person worthy of salvation. Rather, the Church of Christ teaches that baptism is a work that God requires before He grants salvation. For the Church of Christ, baptism and confession are no different from faith and repentance—they are what God requires before He grants salvation to a person. The problem with this is that, while it may seem to be a subtle difference from the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, it is, in fact, a crucially important difference” (Google – gotquestion.org).

“A person who has genuinely received salvation will produce good fruit. Good works are the inevitable result of salvation (Ephesians 2:10). What differentiates a “living faith” from a “dead faith” in James 2:14-26 is the presence of good works. Church of Christ advocates are right to denounce churches that teach intellectual assent to the facts of the Gospel as sufficient for salvation. The Church of Christ is right to reject the idea that a dead faith, a faith that produces no good works, is what saves a person. Faith/trust in Christ as the Savior is what saves a person, but this faith is a living faith that always results in and produces good works” (gotquestion.org).

They are also were firm believers that God has replaced Israel with the Church – they are believers in Covenant Theology, though they do not call it that.

In 1906 AD, the Church divided over the use of musical instruments in the worship service. A group believing in using musical instruments broke away and called their group The Disciples of Christ.

The Plymouth Brethren

In 1830, John Nelson Darby, an Anglo-Irish evangelist, founded The Plymouth Brethren movement.

“The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church was established in the early nineteenth century in Plymouth, southern England. We are a community of over 50,000 members across Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the Americas (including the Caribbean) and the UK” (Google).

We are profoundly family-oriented and live, work, and pray as ‘Brethren’ – a community of families held together by our common Christian belief.

Brethren believe that the Holy Bible is the true Word of God and that we are each called upon to live a life by its instructions. Plymouth Brethren members attend regular church services each Sunday to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and preach the Gospel.

“There is a strong and generous charitable spirit among Brethren, with many willingly devoting their time contributing to philanthropic efforts to relieve the load on humanity” (Google – plymouthbrethrenchristianchurch.org).

The Plymouth Brethren are Arminian in their doctrine and do not consider themselves a denomination.

Unlike other denominations, they rejected the doctrine of Covenant Theology. Darby is considered the father of modern Dispensationalism. Later, Cyrus Scofield, 1903 a Congregationalist and Co-worker of D. L. Moody continued work in the dispensational movement by writing the Scofield Bible.  Later work was done by Lewis Chafer (Congregationalist) in 1924 at the Dallas Theological Seminary.  Scofield was a mentor to Chafer.  John Walvoord, a student of Chafer, followed Chafer as President of Dallas Theological and was very instrumental in continuing Chafer’s work.

Today, most denominations are actively involved in Old Testament prophecy and have rejected Covenant Theology – the exceptions may be the Presbyterians, the Churches of Christ, and a few Baptists.

The Nazarene Church

“The Church of the Nazarene is an evangelical Christian denomination that emerged in North America from the 19th-century Wesleyan-Holiness movement within Methodism. With its members commonly referred to as Nazarenes, it is the largest denomination in the world aligned with the Wesleyan-Holiness movement” (Wikipedia).

“The first permanent settlement in what is now Spartanburg County was formed by a group of Scotch-Irish Presbyterian families who came from Pennsylvania in the late 1750s and later were joined by Scotch-Irish families direct from Ireland. These families settled in small settlements along the branches of the Tyger River. Since these early settlers came to America in search of religious freedom, the establishment of a place for worship was a top priority” (Google – -Wikipedia).

The Church of the Nazarene emphasizes Christian activism in the Arminian tradition of John Wesley. It is a mainstream denomination born out of the Holiness Movement of the early 20th Century. The Church of the Nazarene took its name to associate itself with the humbleness of Christ’s town of origin, as they sought to reach the “humble” in society.

“The Nazarene Church distinguishes itself from many other Protestant churches because of its belief that God’s Holy Spirit empowers Christians to be constantly obedient to Him—similar to the belief of other churches in the Wesleyan-Holiness movement. The Nazarene Church does not believe that a Christian is helpless to sin every day. Rather, the Nazarene Church does teach that sin should be the rare exception in the life of a sanctified Christian. Also, there exists the belief in entire sanctification, the idea that a person can have a relationship of entire devotion to God in which they are no longer under the influence of original sin. This means that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, people can be changed so as to be able to live a holy life for the glory of God. The concept of entire sanctification (also called Christian perfection and Baptism with the Holy Ghost) stems from John Wesley’s teaching. This is interpreted on a variety of different levels; as with any denomination, certain believers interpret the theology more rigidly and others less so” (Wikipedia).

Their doctrine of church organization, doctrines, atonement, and sacraments are the same as the Methodist Church. They are more conservative in practice than the Methodists.

Wesleyan Methodist Church

“The Wesleyan Methodist Church originated in 1843 after members of the Methodist Episcopal Church withdrew from that church to organize a non-episcopal, antislavery church. The Pilgrim Holiness Church originated in 1897 by uniting several Holiness groups. The Wesleyan Church is considered one of the Holiness Churches” (Google – britannica.com).

“The Wesleyan Church is considered one of the Holiness Churches. It stresses entire sanctification, a post-conversion experience allowing the person to live sinless lives. Members of the church promise not to use, produce, or sell tobacco or alcoholic beverages, and membership in secret societies is forbidden” (Google – britannica.com),

Their church organization, doctrines, atonement, and sacraments are the same as the Methodist Church.

Black Protestant Churches

Two of the largest black denominations are the Baptist and AME. The AME has a Methodist Doctrine. Most of the Baptist Churches came out of slavery, whereas the AME were free.

“The African Methodist Episcopal Church has a unique and glorious history. It is unique in that it is the first major religious denomination in the Western World that had its origin over sociological and theological beliefs and differences. It rejected the negative theological interpretations that rendered persons of African descent second-class citizens. Theirs was a theological declaration that God is God always and for everybody” (Google – ame-church.com).

“The church was born in protest against slavery – against the dehumanization of African people, brought to the American continent as labor. The Mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is to minister to the spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and environmental needs of all people by spreading Christ’s liberating gospel through word and deed. At every level of the Connection and in every local church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church shall engage in carrying out the spirit of the original Free African Society, out of which the AME Church evolved: that is, to seek out and save the lost, and serve the needy” (Google – ame-church.com).

On Justification and Good works, they write: “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort…Although good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgments yet, are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ and spring out of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known, as a tree is discerned by its fruit” (Google – ame-church.com).

“Not every sin willingly committed after justification is the sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after justification: After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and by the grace of God, rise again, and amend our lives. And therefore, they are to be condemned, who say they can no more sin as long as they live here; or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent” (Google – ame-church.com).

Their church organization, doctrines, atonement, and sacraments are the same as the Methodist Church.

Seventh-day Adventists

The Millerites were the followers of the teachings of William Miller, who, in 1831 AD, first shared publicly his belief that the Second Advent of Jesus Christ would occur in roughly 1843–1844. The Seventh-day Adventist Churches grew out of this movement and was formally established in 1863.

The Adventist Church has a different background than the other Protestant Churches. Their doctrine does not appear to be a descendant of any other denominations.

“The theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church resembles that of Protestant Christianity, combining elements from Lutheran, Wesleyan-Arminian, and Anabaptist branches of Protestantism. Adventists believe in the infallibility of Scripture and teach that salvation comes from grace through faith in Jesus Christ” (Google = Wikipedia). 

“They have somewhat of a scapegoat theory of the atonement, whereas Christ will place our sins on Satan and punish him. They believe in soul sleep for both the saved and the unsaved. The saved will be raised at the first resurrection when Christ returns for the Millennium. The unbelievers and Satan and his angels will all be annihilated by fire at the end of the last judgment” (Unknown)

“The first fundamental belief of the church states that “The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of [God’s] will.” Adventist theologians generally reject the “verbal inspiration” position on Scripture held by many conservative evangelical Christians. They believe instead that God inspired the thoughts of the biblical authors and that the authors then expressed these thoughts in their own words. This view is popularly known as “thought inspiration” (Google – Wikipedia).

Unlike other denominations, they hold their worship service on Saturday rather than Sunday, and many consider themselves Armenian in doctrine. They accept two of the sacraments – baptism and communion.

“Baptism requires repentance and a confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It symbolizes the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit. Adventists baptize by immersion… Adventist communion service includes foot washing as a symbol of humility, ongoing inner cleansing, and service to others.

“The Lord’s Supper is open to all Christian believers” (Google – learnreligions.com).

Pentecostal movement

“Holiness Pentecostalism emerged in the early 20th century among radical adherents of the Wesleyan-Holiness movement, who were energized by revivalism and expectation for the imminent Second Coming of Christ. Believing that they were living in the end times, they expected God to spiritually renew the Christian Church, and bring to pass the restoration of spiritual gifts and the evangelization of the world” (Google).

In 1900, Charles Parham, an American evangelist and faith healer, began teaching that speaking in tongues was the Bible evidence of Spirit baptism. Along with William J. Seymour, a Wesleyan-Holiness preacher, he taught that this was the third work of grace. The three-year-long Azusa Street Revival, founded and led by Seymour in Los Angeles, California, resulted in the growth of Pentecostalism throughout the United States and the rest of the world. Visitors carried the Pentecostal experience back to their home churches or felt called to the mission field.

“While virtually all Pentecostal denominations trace their origins to Azusa Street, the movement has had several divisions and controversies. Early disputes centered on challenges to the doctrine of entire sanctification, as well as that of the Trinity. As a result, the Pentecostal movement is divided between Holiness Pentecostals who affirm the second work of grace, and Finished Work Pentecostals who are partitioned into trinitarian and non-trinitarian branches, the latter giving rise to Oneness Pentecostalism” (Google – Wikipedia).

Pentecostals are Protestant, Arminian, and believe all gifts of the Holy Spirit, like speaking in tongues, are available today. “Pentecostals emphasize the teaching of the “full gospel” or “foursquare gospel”. The term foursquare refers to the four fundamental beliefs of Pentecostalism” (Google).

Church organization, doctrines, atonement, and sacraments are the same as the Methodist Church.

Assemblies of God

“The Assemblies of God holds to a conservative, evangelical and Arminian theology as expressed in the Statement of Fundamental Truths and position papers, which emphasize such core Pentecostal doctrines as the baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, divine healing and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ” (Google – Wikipedia).

The Assemblies of God Churches were founded in Hot Spring Arkansas in 1914 by a group of Pentecostal pastors and leaders.

“The Assemblies of God and the Pentecostal movement are closely related, but not synonymous. Pentecostalism is a theological system that the Assemblies of God, as well as other denominations, holds as true. In other words, all Assemblies of God churches are Pentecostal, but not all Pentecostal churches are Assemblies of God” (Google – christianityfaq.com).

Most Pentecostal churches followed the congregational form of organization; whereas, the Assemblies of God are organized according to Presbyterian Polity at the national, regional and district level – individual churches are self-governing. They find their roots in Armenian doctrine and a Presbyterian Church organization.

Pentecostal Churches seem to be more conservative on social issues than the Assemblies of God. It would also appear the Pentecostal Churches are more open on spiritual expressions in church services that the Assemblies of God.

Independent Churches

Today, there are many independent churches. They are not affiliated with a denomination and their doctrine varies by church. They are autonomous with church organization. Some may temporarily meet with other churches for mutual interest and spiritual growth.

Conclusion

As we come to the end of our historical spiritual roller coaster ride, let us remember that no matter how low the spiritual experience is, God always has a remnant who will put on the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of righteousness, and pick up the sword of the spirit and take the shield of faith and march forward with the Gospel of Christ to the lost people of the world.

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