Monday, November 22, 2004

Protestantism

Protestantism in the strict sense of the word is the group of princes and imperial cities who, at the diet of Speyer in 1529, signed a protestation against the Edict of Worms which forbade the Lutheran teachings within the Holy Roman Empire. From there, the word Protestant in German speaking areas still refers to Lutheran churches in contrast to Reformed churches, while the common designation for all churches originating from the Reformation is Evangelical.In a broader sense of the word, Protestantism is any of the Christian religious groups, of Western European origin, that broke with the Roman Catholic Church as a result of the influence of Martin Luther, founder of the Lutheran churches, and John Calvin, founder of the Calvinist movement. A third major branch of the Reformation, which encountered conflict with both the Catholics and other Protestants, is sometimes called the Radical Reformation, or Anabaptists. Some Western, non-Catholic, Christian groups are labeled as Protestant, even if the sect acknowledges no historical connection to Luther, Calvin, or the Anabaptists. These sundry groupings, i.e. Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, and other sectarians, are characterized in part by a lack of apostolic succession, in the sense that their founders are not anointed successors of St. Peter.
Protestants are often considered to be another people 'of the book', in that they adhere to the text of the Bible, that they grew out of the enlightenment and universities, that they attracted learned intellectuals, professionals, and skilled tradesmen and silversmiths, that their belief is more abstracted than ritualized, and that the great dissemination of protestant beliefs occurred with the translation by Protestants into native tongues from Latin (Greek and Hebrew) with the new technology of the printing press. Protestants are also less fond of hierarchy, having relentlessly attacked the priestly cast and the Holy See's authority, and thus are closely associated with the local control and political democratization during the 16th and 17th century.

Evangelicalism, in a strictly lexical, but rarely used sense, refers to all things that are implied in belief that Jesus Christ is the savior. To be evangelical would then mean to be merely Christian - that is, founded upon, motivated by, acting in agreement with, or in some other way identified with το ευαγγελιον : the good news, the Gospel of salvation given to Man in Jesus Christ.However, this most general definition of Evangelicalism is hardly ever the intended meaning in religious discourse. When it is granted by Catholics, for example, that only Protestantism is Evangelicalism, it is not in the lexical sense that this concession is made, any more than the appellation of "Baptist" concedes that only the Baptists have legitimate baptism. Rather, their teaching is called Evangelicalism because it is upon the issue of the preaching of the Gospel, the evangel, that the critics of the Pope and of the Catholic magisterium wished to differentiate themselves. A Catholic layman may even insist on being Catholic, rather than being Christian in a sense identical to being evangelical (just as an Evangelical may deny being catholic or orthodox) - so much have some terms become identified with one side or the other, in controversies which divide Christians, especially since the Reformation.
Evangelical was the originally preferred term of self-description for the teachings and culture which arose in Protestant churches ("the Evangelical churches") of the Reformation. This relatively older Evangelicalism was, for a while, identical with Protestantism. The word is still used in this sense in Europe, and in some Lutheran churches such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
milf.Modern Evangelicalism also draws roots from the Wesleyan Revival. Possibly Charles Wesley, brother of the more famous John Wesley, has had as much influence through his hymns, which crossed denominational lines through congregational singing, and became a part of the theology of many Christians. Another hymn writer whose influence still lasts is John Newton, author of Amazing Grace.
In the 19th century, "Evangelicalism" was the revivalism and religiously motivated social activism which typified the Second Great Awakening. In more recent times, the term has been widely used to differentiate conservative Protestantism from liberal Protestantism.