Reformation500: The Reformation and the Rise of the Christian Denominations

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Aside from being a full-time medical student, I also serve our local church as a worship leader and head of publications in print and online. This year, Christendom will be celebrating the 500th year of the Reformation, which was led by Martin Luther, giving way to reforms in the whole Christian church. Every week, I post some reflections on the events of the Reformation, writing about some points on it. This is our post for this Sunday:

 

Even though Martin Luther’s movement in the 1500s created the larger Reformation in Europe, several movements in the past have existed and are considered to be the roots of Protestantism. Most notable are those started by Jan Hus, who was executed thus starting the Bohemian Uprising, and John Wycliffe, who was an English theologian in the 1400s. Both of them preached against the Roman Catholic Church’s then practice of indulgences and have written accounts that led to small victories for their part.

It has been established that even though, at that time, the Roman Catholic Church was already the largest Christian body, there are small churches that were not part of the organization. But like Martin Luther, Jan Hus initially intended to reform the church and change some of its teachings back to what is taught in the scriptures.

These movements were greatly suppressed by the powerful church at that time, that it did not have a great impact except on their areas. However, the effectiveness of Luther’s Reformation led to international attention on the practices of the church in question. With the ex-communication of Luther and the support of state leaders in this newfound faith, Protestantism saw an emergence of smaller groups of churches which became the various Christian denominations that we have today.

The old church spearheaded their own counter-reformation, which is rather a true reformation on their part. Some of their practices were discontinued, and more focus on education and God’s Word was given. For the Protestants, the spread of the faith through kingdom-states, including the French, Dutch, and others, adopting the belief helped it reach even England where the church closed ties with the Holy See and established their own hierarchy.

A Protestant reform also rose in England with the rise of the Puritans, who also suffered persecution in their country. This led them to seek a new place to live in to practice the faith that brought them back to God. They found this freedom in America, where Great Awakenings happened, giving way to religious revivals in American history. These awakenings paved the way for Evangelicalism and other Christian denominations, practicing their faith and worshipping God in their own ways.

By the 20th century, the Christian denomination scene was further animated by the rise of Pentecostalism and Charismatic movements, giving new life to the Protestant branch of the faith. Today, Christian denominations are often involved in interdenominational and ecumenical movements, finding unity amidst diversity, answering the call for unity of Jesus Christ.

It is the goal of Reformation 500 to let people see that the gradual history of the Christian faith, despite the differences in doctrine and practices, still boils down to what Paul said in Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (NIV)

Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23 (NIV)

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