RELIGION LIBRARY

Protestantism

History

Wesley shared Luther's and Calvin's beliefs in the supreme authority of the Bible and salvation through justification by faith, yet his beliefs also diverged from theirs at a number of points. He argued that, while no one can be saved without God's free gift of forgiveness, humans have enough free will to choose how to respond to this gift. He credited this ability to respond to what is sometimes called prevenient or enabling grace. Those who accept it are saved; those who do not are damned. He thus rejected their understanding of predestination. Further, he taught that along with justifying grace God gave sanctifying grace, which made it possible to work toward a life of Christian perfection. Those who failed to work at this ("backsliders") put their salvation at risk. Many American Protestants today believe to some degree in the role of an individual's free choice in his or her own salvation (though not necessarily on the same basis that Wesley believed this), and in the necessity of good works (or, living as "godly" a life as possible) to maintain or demonstrate one's salvation.

As Methodism grew, several groups spun off and became established traditions in their own right. One is the Church of the Nazarene, which was founded by Methodist ministers who wanted to emphasize Wesleyan holiness to a greater extent than they believed mainline Methodist churches did. This and other related traditions are sometimes referred to as Holiness traditions.

Another offshoot of Methodism and Holiness traditions is Pentecostalism, with roots in a series of events known as the Azusa Street revival. In 1906 a revival began at the African Methodist Episcopal Church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Sparked by the preaching of William Seymour, people experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues (as they had at Pentecost, as described in the Book of Acts). This is the origin of the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches (including the Assemblies of God), which in recent decades have been the fastest growing churches in the world.

 


Study Questions:
1.     What are the three Protestant Churches that developed out of England? Describe each.
2.     Why did Unitarianism develop? What was the big theological difference?
3.     Why did Baptists flourish in North America?
4.     How did Methodism develop? How did it evolve?

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