Summary of Protestant Beliefs
Summary of Protestant Beliefs – What are the Distinctives?
To truly provide a summary of Protestant beliefs, we must first familiarize ourselves with the history of the Church. Protestantism came out of the Protestant Reformation—"protestant" meaning protest; "reformation" meaning reform.
At the close of the 4th century AD, there were five great centers of Christianity, each with their own independent patriarchal administration, each centered upon the Bible's clear teaching: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Constantinople and Alexandria. These five patriarchies were equal in power, independent in authority -- each one overseeing its own province. Following the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria's patriarchs gradually submitted to Constantinople's authority.
Under Emperor Theodosius (379-395), Christianity became the Roman Empire's state religion. Theodosius suppressed all pagan religions, forcibly filling the Church with false converts. The spiritual quality of the visible Church plummeted as a result. Positions of authority within the Church became commodity to be bought and sold by pseudo-Christian politicians and aristocrats (a practice known as "simony"). This caused the true Christian Church and the visible, so-called "Christian" institution to diverge into two very distinct entities. With Theodosius' death in 395 AD, the Empire divided, with Rome retaining power in the west and Constantinople retaining power in the east. In their quest for world power, Rome's patriarchs (many of whom openly denied fundamental Christian doctrine) struggled against Constantinople's patriarchs (who were often no better) for dominion over all of Christendom. This led to the eventual schism between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches. Rome's patriarchs came to be known as the Popes.
Pope Leo X (1513-1521) sat upon the Papal throne when Martin Luther called for a reformation of the Church in the 16th century. Leo was illegally ordained an Archbishop at 8 years old, a Cardinal by 13. As Pope, he engaged in shameless simony. He didn't stop at selling ecclesiastical offices (appointing Cardinal's as young as 7 years old); he went so far as to sell absolutions (the forgiveness of sins). The term "Protestant" is derived from "protest" -- the Protestant Reformation sparked by one man's protest against Papal corruption and the increasingly unbiblical traditions of the Catholic Church. The reformation was an earnest call for reform within the Church. Rather than repent of their sins, the Popes murdered millions of Christians in their effort to suppress reform. This was the second great schism in Church history.
Summary of Protestant Beliefs – The Authority
Objective historians generally agree that the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches abandoned strict adherence to the Bible and degenerated into corrupt power-hungry political platforms in just a few short centuries. The Protestant Reformation was a sincere effort to restore Biblical Christianity to the mainstream, but as the Protestant Churches prospered, they too came to be seen by politicians and aristocrats as a means to an end. As history has shown, pseudo-Christian leaders tend to exploit and gradually corrupt the institution they claim to serve. Thus, it's important to keep in mind that true Christianity is not defined by an institution (Protestant, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, etc.). The first and last word on Christian doctrine is the Bible.