A Protestant is a member of a Christian group that broke with the Roman Catholic Church as a result of the influence of Martin Luther, founder of Lutheranism, and John Calvin, founder of Calvinism. Protestants trace their separation from the the Roman Catholic church to the 16th Century. Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg in 1517, and Calvin was active a generation after him. Other reformers included Ulrich Zwingli.
The major Protestant theological differences with Catholicism include belief in the sufficiency of faith alone for salvation, the denial of the primacy of the Pope over the church, as well as the need for formal confession to a priest, followed by acts of penitence for forgiveness, the rejection of purgatory, or prayers to anyone in Heaven but God, and the acceptance of the figurative (rather than real) presence of Christ in the bread and wine of communion. Protestants believe that one may have a personal relationship with the Father through Christ alone, unmediated by a priesthood of man or the church.
Catholics have traditionally viewed protestantism as a heresy and, by extension, protestants as heretics. In the 16th century Papal Bull entitled "Exsurge Domine", Pope Leo X condemned such central tenets of protestantism as the futility of good works and the failure to recognise Papal authority. Martin Luther was excommunicated as a result of failing to recant his heretical teachings.
Major Protestant Branches
- Anglican - usually considered Protestant, some consider it a middle way between Protestant and Catholic