October 19, 2021

Protestantism is one of the main branches of Christianity along with Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Understood widely, Protestantism is the set of churches that emerged from the Reformation, according to Le Petit Larousse. From this perspective, Protestantism encompasses a variety of movements, such as Lutherans, Presbyterians, Reformed, Methodists, Evangelicals (Baptism, Pentecostalism, Evangelical Charismatic Movement, and Non-Denominational Christianity). In 2011, all of these Churches grouped together around 37% of Christians, or 800 million Protestants.


The Reformation is the result of the rejection of the orientations taken by Catholicism during the Middle Ages (and which were definitively reaffirmed by Rome at the Council of Trent). The Reformation was carried out under the impetus of theologians such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Jean Calvin, Sébastien Castellion, among many others. Pierre Valdo, John Wyclif, Jan Hus, Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples are considered as precursors of the Reformation. Following these theologians, Protestantism includes very diverse theological currents. Within the only Protestant federation in France, there are twenty-six unions of churches, while, internationally, around three hundred and twenty churches from Protestantism participate in the Ecumenical Council of Churches, alongside around thirty Orthodox Churches and Old Catholic Churches.

Origin of the word Protestant

It was the opponents of the Reformation who were the first to use this joke in 1529, in Germany, by designating the Protestant princes and the free towns. Most of the prince-electors had chosen to follow the reform of Luther tolerated by Charles V, the emperor elected by them. But in 1529, this devout Catholic changed his mind and ordered unconditional rallying to the Roman Catholic Church. The promulgation of this prescription provokes the refusal of the princes: they "protest before God [...] as well as before all men" of their refusal to accept a decree which they consider contrary "to God, to his holy Word, to [their] good conscience and the salvation of [their] soul ”. Rather attributed in a pejorative way, this adjective was then adopted as a substantive by the followers of the Reformation. Indeed, the definition (old or literary) of this word is: To express with certainty, to promise with force (to someone) that something is true, that something exists. By claiming the positive meaning of this word, Protestants affirm their belief, they profess their faith. Hence the origin of the word Protestant. The scope of the word is sometimes restricted to the Lutheran and Reformed currents alone, the coherence and unity of which were affirmed very early on.



The beginnings of Protestantism are generally dated October 31, 1517, the German Augustinian monk and doctor of divinity Martin Luther publishes the 95 Theses denouncing the faults of the Roman Catholic Church as the sale of indulgences, and affirms that the Bible must be the only one authority upon which faith rests. Protected by Duke Jean-Frédéric de Saxe (1503-1554), Luther burned the Exsurge Domine bull, threatening him with excommunication in 1520. The year 1521 is also considered decisive: in January, Martin Luther, before the Diet of Worms, refuses to retract, considering himself subject to the authority of the Bible and his conscience rather than that of the hierarchy. ecclesiastical and is excommunicated. Invoked here for the first time, the direct appeal to God and to the individual conscience are the markers of Protestantism. Among Luther's ideas, access for all to the Bible without social discrimination and equality between men have a strong echo in the predominantly country population.

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