The Evolution of the Protestant Sects
Religion Part 6
The Protestant movement, by and large, evolved out of dissatisfaction by some with the doctrines of the Catholic church. The two major movements were the Lutherans and the Calvinists, of which the Calvinists probably represent the largest amount of Protestants in the United States, if not the world. Calvanism is more of an approach to God and religion, rather than a true religion onto itself.
Another movement only looked at briefly is the Arminianist movement, started by a disciple of the Calvinist Dutch movement who broke away with different views. These views were embraced by some (not all) of the Puritan/Pilgrims, along with the Amish and some other sects the migrated to the United States in1 1600. Others took to the Calvinist approach to religion.
The Armanic view is that adults must make a willful choice to accept Jesus, live by his ways and words, and thereby become saved. Saving grace, through the will of God and by willful acceptance by man.
The Jesus died for the redemption (forgiveness of sin) of all men.
That man must be born again to understand God, Jesus and to live by his words and will in order to receive redemption.
That man does not do good through his own free will by through the will and grace of God.
That through acceptance and rebirth as adults they are now able to fight sin, Satan and temptation through the saving grace of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost.
The Calvinists believe that all men and all the world is sinful by nature and that man, alone, cannot turn to God except through being reborn by the will and word of God.
That God chooses or elects those that are to be saved. (Some are automatically saved and other automatically condemned).
Those who are shown mercy and chosen by God are forgiven their sins through Jesus.
God’s saving grace is irresistible. One can not refuse God’s grace and mercy, should God chose to bestow it on one.
That you can fall from grace, proving you weren’t really saved at all to begin with.
They believe, essentially, in predestination. That God makes some men to be sinful, murders, rapists (Adolph Hitler?) and some men are made to be kind, good and helpful.
From, largely, these two similar yet decisively different theological points of view comes the largest portion of the American Protestants of today.
The Calvinists had great influence on the Anabaptist movement, which landed at Plymouth in 1620. These are your Quakers, Puritans, Amish and others in that league. They were the first to desire a separation of Church and State.
By the 1700’s some factions of this Anabaptist and Puritan movement evolved into the modern day Baptist movement, which is generally Christian in nature, but not necessarily Protestant!
Some, not all, Baptist trace their origin directly to John the Baptist, who was a contemporary of Jesus, who was practicing religiously before Jesus and who baptized Jesus in water where Jesus received the Holy Sprit and was reborn.
Since Baptists were in the business of religion before the death of Jesus and the formation of the Catholic church, they don’t perceive themselves as being reformist Catholic or Protestant!
Some Baptists, however, do accept this moniker and will allow you to look upon them and their church as Protestant (rather than Catholic).
In America Baptists broke off into three splinter groups in the middle of the 1800’s over the issue of slavery. We have the “Northern” Baptists, the “Southern” Baptists and the Black Baptists churches. Of these, today, the Southern Baptist church movement is the largest and fastest growing.
Baptists are largely “evangelical,” which basically means an active approach to ministry instead of a passive one. A hard sell methodology.
Think Billy Graham and you have the atypical Evangelical Baptist, even though there is no such thing as a typical Baptist. Baptist and Baptist churches vary widely in their practice and approach to ministry. This embodies their hierarchy (some may have only a minister or “preacher” while others may also have “Deacons” or “Bishops” or multiple ministers). Their music (which can vary from typical hymns played on a pipe organ to R&B or popular music at younger congregations). Their liturgy (which can vary from a very aggressive evangelical preacher to a more solemn preacher).
Baptists make up about 20% of American Christians, the only larger single body is the Catholics which make up 25%.
After the Baptists comes the far more organized, systemized, categorized and commercially produced Protestant religious sects, of which the next largest are the Methodists with about 7% of the population, that includes President George W. Bush, a Texas Methodist.
They started in the same time frame as the modern Baptists, around the 1700’s in England, except they were heavily influenced by both the Armanist and Calvinist movements.
The Wesleyans were Armanists and the others tend to overtly call themselves Calvinists.
As with the Baptists, the issue of Slavery split the Methodists into Northern and Southern factions, however unlike the Baptist movement, the Methodists reunited around 1940 and in the late 1960’s many Methodist factions became very united under the banner of the United Methodist Church.
Those Pilgrims who did not become Baptists (or Congregationalists), stayed Amish or Quaker (e.g. the Puritans), founded the third largest faction known as the Presbyterian Church, which has barley 3% of the U.S. population (as opposed to the Lutherans who have over 5%).
The Presbyterians are a more centralized and unified religion, as opposed to the Congregationalists who wanted autonomous local churches with no great influences from other areas. Presbyterian churches are basically run by regional “governing” bodies from the various churches, while Congregationalists (and Baptists) run their local church with local elders and no outside influence.
This, brings us to the modern times of the Protestant movement and in the next installment we’ll look at those sects small in numbers, often termed “cults” by some religious writers.