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Protestant Church Evolution: 6 Events That Led to Development of Key Branch of Christianity

By    |   Wednesday, 11 February 2015 02:24 PM

The Christian Church existed without division for more than 1,000 years before the first Protestant Church was formed. According to Pew Research Center,  Protestantism has grown to make up about 37 percent of the world's Christian population.

Here are six events that led to the development of this key branch of Christianity.

The Great Schism of 1054: The Great Schism in 1054 brought the Catholic Church its first division — into an Eastern church centered in Constantinople, which is now Istanbul, and a western, Latin church centered in Rome. The schism raised questions about the Roman Catholic Church's claim to being the one true church with unique authority over all other Christians through the principle of apostolic succession. The church contended it had that authority because its line of popes went all the way back to the Apostle Peter.

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2. Society Changes: The rise of towns and the replacement of a land-based economy with a money economy during the Middle Ages led to the rise of kings, who posed a threat to the Roman Catholic Church's power and clashed with its pope over the control of church taxes. The emergence of a money-based economy also led to a growing number of abuses by the church in its desperation for cash, which seriously damaged the church's reputation. Towns and trades helped develop and spread new ideas and technology, including the invention of the printing press, which made books cheaper and enabled those questioning the church's teachings to possess their own Bibles and use them to look for flaws in the church's thinking. The printing press also enabled such ideas to spread much more quickly, and further, than they otherwise would have.

3. The Babylonian Captivity: French King Philip IV in 1303 captured Pope Boniface VIII and moved the papal court to southern France, according to encyclopedia.com. That website said an attempt in 1378 to end what was known as the "Babylonian Captivity" and return the papal court to Rome only led to the election of two rival popes — one in Avignon, the other in Rome — with both being dominated by men who often made no pretense as to spiritual interests. The resulting schism harmed the church's spiritual authority by leaving Catholics uncertain which Pope to follow after they’d been taught that only one Pope could be the true successor to St. Peter, meaning the other was an anti-Pope and the sacraments necessary for a person's salvation wouldn't be valid if performed under his authority.

4. Wycliffe, Then Hus Seek Reform: The Protestant Reformation was foreshadowed in the 1300s and 1400s by challenges to the church's teachings by reform-minded theologians who included Englishman John Wycliffe and Bohemian Jan Hus. Wycliffe (1320-1384) initiated the first translation of the Bible into the English language and is considered the main precursor of the Protestant Reformation, says Encyclopdeia.com. Huss (1369-1415) became the leader of a significant reform movement that drew upon some of Wycliffe's teachings. Hus incurred the wrath of the church hierarchy, which arranged for him to be burned at the stake for heresy.

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5. Germany Comes to Lack Centralized Control: Germany came to be fragmented into more than 300 states, which helped bring about the Protestant Reformation by ensuring no one power was present to stop the large number of church abuses affecting the country. This caused a great deal of anger against the church. The lack of control — and the presence in Germany of more than 30 printing presses —  made it difficult to stop the spread of new ideas put forth beginning in 1517 by German monk Martin Luther.

6. Martin Luther Challenges the Church's Teachings: When Pope Leo X in 1517 authorized the sale of indulgences — documents issued by the church that supposedly relieved their owners of time in Purgatory, a place where Catholics believe they must be purged of their sins before going to heaven. Luther denied that they were valid. He nailed a placard to the church door in Wittenburg spelling out his criticisms of church practices in an effort to stimulate discussion. After Catholic authorities sought unsuccessfully to change Luther's mind, he became defiant of the church, which excommunicated him. Luther then formed Lutheranism, the first of the Protestant faiths, in 1529.

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The Christian Church existed without division for more than 1,000 years before the first Protestant Church was formed. According to Pew Research Center, Protestantism has grown to make up about 37 percent of the world's Christian population.
Protestant Christian, Religion, Christianity, Faith, Evolution
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 02:24 PM
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