This is Part III of a talk I gave at the parish about the major divisions in Christianity.
Here are a few notes that were distributed to the people:
Catholic and Protestant
The third important split in Christianity began in 1517 with Martin Luther’s protest against the Roman Catholic Church. It received a major boost with Henry VIII’s decision in 1533 to sever the Church of England from communion with Rome.
The key Protestant doctrines are:
– Sola Scriptura “scripture alone”; the Bible is the only infallible and authoritative source for Christian belief.
– Sola Fide “faith alone”; the believer is justified by faith alone and not by works.
– The priesthood of all believers – there is no hierarchy in the Catholic sense of a unique class of ordained clergy. All believers are inspired by the Holy Spirit to read and interpret the Bible for themselves. Monasticism and celibacy were basically rejected by the reformers.
A fourth important doctrine is that Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and man. This means that Christians should not pray to Mary, venerate the saints, make use of relics, or depend on the Sacraments (mediation of the Church). These practices were condemned by the reformers as pagan as was Christian art in general (the Reformers, both in England and the Continent, smashed statues and stained glass windows, broke up altars, and destroyed supposed relicts of the saints)
Martin Luther and the Anglican Church retained many Catholic elements: baptism of infants, vestments, the basic form of the liturgy, the service of communion. Anglicans retained holy days and the liturgy of the hours.
A second wave called the Reformed churches were more radical, getting rid of nearly every scrap of Christian liturgy.
A third wave (we might say) were the Baptists who rejected infant baptism because infants cannot make a personal decision for faith in Christ.