Highlights of Protestant History

Luther pointed out the errors of the Catholic church. He was chastised for his 95 theses which sparked the protestant movement in the late 1500s.

Important Highlights of Protestant History from the middle ages to the resurgence of new Calvinism today

Martin Luther sparked the protestant movement in 1517 when he nailed his theses at the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. He aspired for a healthy argument to set right erroneous doctrines that negate scriptures. But the root cause of the “protest” was triggered by Pope Alexandar VI, who set the stage for the worst exemplification of a decadent church.

His corruption to elevate and secure his children’s wealth and influence caused grave neglect of the church—effectively contributing to the rise of “protesters,” collectively known as the Protestant Reformers.

Part 1: Reformation (Protestant Movement in Europe)

At the height of the papal’s absolute authority, anyone who disagreed was labeled a heretic or repudiated. When the dissenters became more organized, two major movements evolved by the late 1600s: the Protestant and English Reformers. The reformation caused a significant blow to Roman Papacy, weakening its global influence by the 1800s.

The early protestants disagreed on many things, but they were unanimous on core issues summarized in the Five Solas:

  • Sola scripture
  • Sola Fide
  • Sola gratia
  • Sola Scriptura
  • Sola Deo Gloria

Key highlights of the Reformation

  • 1517, Martin Luther, who sparked the reformation, posted his 95 theses in Wittenberg, Germany.
  • 1523, Ulrich Zwingli, the father of the Swiss Reformation, stood before the city council, arguing his 67 theses.
  • 1526, William Tyndale completed an English translation of the Bible based on ancient manuscripts.

Four Important cruces of the reformers

  • Salvation is by faith alone.
  • The Pope is not the Vicar of Christ.
  • The church is built upon Jesus Christ, not St. Peter.
  • Ordinary people should be able to read the Bible.


According to tradition, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Theses to this door at All Saints’ Church, Wittenberg. What he wrote sparked the protestant reformation. Those who followed his lead were called “protestants” as a slur.

Martin Luther, the Father of the Reformation

Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses at the door of the church of Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517. It was a “protest” against abuses of “indulgences” by the Catholic Church.

It sparked the reformation that began in Germany and spread throughout Europe. It became known as Protestant, a slur used by the Vatican against those who opposed them.

King Henry VIII
Pope Clement VII

The complicated influence of Luther led to the founding of the Church of England. In 1527, King Henry petitioned Pope Clement VII to annul his marriage with the Queen Catherine of Aragon. The Pope denied him.

Infuriated, Henry’s obsession with marrying Anne Boylen pushed him to severe with the Vatican and established a new Church of England. As the head of the church, he annulled his marriage with Catherine.

The Protestant Church of England

Initially, King Henry VIII was not a fan of Protestantism; he wanted to retain the seven sacraments of Roman Catholicism. Desperate, he passed the Act of Succession (to marry Anne) and then the Act of Supremacy that declared the monarch “the only supreme head of the Church of England.” Henry, not the Pope, became the final authority in doctrinal disputes. [Anglicana Ecclesia]

The Church of England had its roots in the early second church with an Anglican identity, but its official formation began with King Henry. At the same time, the reformation was taking place.

King Henry relied on the growing anti-Catholic sentiment to support his religious agenda—thus bolstering the formation of a new church.


Wartburg Castle martin luther
Martin Luther hid in Wartburg Castle for 300 days (1521-1522) after being declared an outlaw and heretic at the Diet of Worms. He translated the Bible into the German language for ten months. Influenced by his work, William Tyndale translated the Bible from various sources to English for the first time.

Part 2: The proper Bible translation

Saint Jerome of Stridon
William Tyndale

During the transition of “Catholic England” to the new “Church of England,” English scholar William Tyndale began translating what is considered the first true Christian Bible (1526 to 1536). It was distinct from the Latin Vulgate (Catholic Bible) that Saint Jerome of Stridon translated in 382 A.D.

The work of the great theologian Erasmus and Luther influenced Tyndale. He translated directly from the Hebrew & Greek texts and used older manuscripts—burdened by some of the Vulgate’s wrongful passages.

About 6,000 copies of Tyndale’s translation were printed in 1526 in Worms and smuggled to the south of England. The bishop of London confiscated most of them and burned them. 

King Henry VIII and the Church of England

Three years after King Henry petitioned the Pope to annul his marriage with Catherine in 1530, Tyndale opposed him, earning his wrath. When the Pope declined to support Henry’s annulment, he was forced to create the new Church of England in 1534 and declare himself as the head.

The hunt for William Tyndale

In 1535, William Tyndale was hunted by the under orders either from King Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More, or Bishop John Stokesley of London. He was arrested in Belgium, imprisoned, and burned ‘at the stake’ in 1536 for heresy.

Within four years, four English Bible translations were published in England at the king’s behest—including Henry’s official Great Bible. All were based on Tyndale’s work. [Wiki]

Catholic vs. Protestant Bible

  • Saint Jerome translated the first Bible, known as Latin Vulgate, but it was allegedly not a faithful translation. For example, the mistranslations of the words justification (justificare), repentance (metanoia), and alteration to support the pagan origin of the Papacy.
  • The Vulgate found its way into other translations, considered the first translation outside the original Hebrew and Greek text.
  • Tyndale Bible (William Tyndale) was a “fresh translation” made c. 1522–1536. Also known as “Early Modern English,” it was different from Vulgate. Hence, all of Tyndale’s books burned; only three copies of the 1526 edition survived. 
  • The keys of “St. Peter,” the catholic mass, the Virgin Mary as Mother of God, and other non-Christian teachings are found in embryonic form in the Latin Vulgate.
  • Tyndale studied the original Hebrew and Greek of the biblical text and then looked at the ancient translations in Greek and Latin—the Septuagint and the Vulgate—for help. [BYU] 

King James Bible to end all translations

  • In 1611, the King James Version (KJV) was completed. The new English Bible intended to end all translations and settle the incongruence of earlier translations.
  • KJV had various sources, mainly from Hebrew and Greek texts, including Willliam Tyndale’s first English Bible translation in 1536.
  • Since England broke from Rome, the KJV was spared from destruction. It became the standard Bible of the reformation movement.

The word Protestant used by the Vatican as a slur against the Reformed Christians.

Part 3: Counter-Protestant Reformation

Huldrych Zwingli
John Calvin
Queen Elizabeth I
The Puritans

Protestantism in England was challenged in the next two decades until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558. She was King Henry’s illegitimate daughter with Ann Boylen.

Bloody Mary

King Henry VIII succeeded Edward VI but ruled for only six years. He was succeeded by Henry’s daughter from her first marriage with Queen Catherine, Mary I. Queen Mary reversed the English Reformation back to Catholicism.

Like her Spanish Catholic mother, Mary was devout and fought against the Protestants. She sent 300 people to “burn at stake” for their radical support of England’s Protestant Reformation—earning the moniker “Bloody Mary.”

Elizabeth I succeeded Queen Mary in 1558. She was the daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn, who restored Protestantism for good. Queen Elizabeth was challenged by the counter-protestant reformation led by the Puritans.

The Puritans, Calvinists, and Presbyterians

The Puritans wanted to “purify” the new Church of England of its similar Catholic practices. During this era, John Calvin in France became the principal figure in what would be known as the Reformed tradition. His followers became known as Calvinists.

However, Calvinism per se is a theological orientation, not a denomination or organization. The Puritans are considered Calvinists. Presbyterians descend from Scottish Calvinists. Many early Baptists were Calvinists.

Part 4: Great Awakenings in American colonies

First Great Awakening

Protestant Reformation led to several “Great Awakenings” in American colonies—much more significant than in Europe. The First Great Awakening was in the 1730s-1770s; a great religious revival swept American colonies just before American independence from British rule.

  • Spain brought Catholicism to its colonies in Asia, South America (Latin countries), and West America (California). It was their “New Spain” (Nueva Filipinas) in the 1500s.
  • European protestant missionaries (Pilgrims) brought Protestantism to their colonies in East America (Massachusetts) in 1620.

Second and Third Awakening

The Protestant (spiritual) revival in the United States from 1795 to 1835 focused on the unchurched. Religious meetings were held in small towns and large cities all over. It grew into an organized camp meeting where congregants came from other states.

The great interest in religious piety gave birth to various denominations, such as Methodists and Baptists. Adventists, Mormons, and Pentecostalism. At the same time, patriarchy and the Culture of Domesticity became social norms.

Roman Catholics (Katholou)
Protestants (Lutherans, Calvinists, etc.)
Reformed Christians (Katholou)
Non-denomination Christians (Katholou)

  • The early followers of Jesus were called Christians or the followers of “The Way.”(Acts 11: 26)
  • Towards the middle ages, Roman Catholicism (Western Orthodoxy) became the dominant force in Christendom. But there were other branches of Catholicity, such as (non-Roman) Eastern Orthodoxy.
  • Protestant‘ was a slur for those who left Catholicism during the middle ages.
  • Katholou means “general,” hence all religions in the Judep-Christian traditions can be called Katholou or Catholics.
  • A Christian can refer to someone stemming from the Protestant denomination or a non-denomination.
  • Reformed tradition can be both protestant and non-denominational.
  • Today, a Catholic refers to a member of the Roman Catholic church and a Christian belonging to the protestant, non-denominational, or Reformed Tradition.
christian awakening

Part 4: Rise of Non-Denomination Protestants

Postmillennialism (the second return of Jesus after the Christian renaissance) was a dominant belief among American Protestants in the 1850s. Jesus’ return seemed imminent and excited a modern global missionary movement. Hence the rise of preachers and protestant mission work.

The” new apostles” of the new century

Dwight Moody
William Booth
Charles Spurgeon
Hudson Taylor

Dwight Moody, William Booth (Salvation Army), Charles Spurgeon, and Hudson Taylor (China Inland Mission) were considered the “new apostles of the new century.”

By the 20th century, protestant or “Christian missionaries” effectively influenced most Asian countries. Roman Catholicism was no longer the dominant force in Judeo-Christianism.

It paved the way for Christian ecumenism and neo-Evangelism—other movements spread, such as the Pentecostal-Charismatic movements by the mid-1900.

The rise of T.V. evangelists

Billy Sunday
Billy Graham

Billy Sunday rose to popularity in the early 1900s. He was an American evangelist whose revivals and sermons reflected the emotional upheavals caused by rural to industrial society in the United States. Afterward, Billy Graham became the face of evangelicalism.

All the while, missionaries from the U.S. continued their expansion in Asian countries like China and the Philippines.

Haven of Rest and the FEBC

God planted in the hearts of two young men named Bob Bowman and John Broger a vision for a missionary radio. In 1945, the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) was born with one goal: to bring the message of Christ to the ends of the earth. 

Before FEBC, Bowman was part of the Haven of Rest Quartet. The radio program that evangelized America beginning 1934.


At the same time, various independent movements grew and established non-denominational churches like the Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Adventists.

Still, some of the “traditional protestants,” such as Presbyterians (John Calvin), Methodists (John Wesley), Presbyterians, and Lutherans, retained its tradition until the 2015 schism, when some protestant churches embraced same-sex marriage and transgender preachers.

Part 5: Protestant schism in the 21st century

A new heresy associated with Protestantism

As the Protestant movement was dichotomized, Charismatic or Full-Gospel (Pentecostal) movements developed. A new phrase, “Born-Again Christians,” sprung everywhere in the 1980s. During this era, the likes of televangelists Jimmy Swaggart and 700 Club’s Pat Robertson became the face of Christianity.

The rise of non-denomination churches

The 1980s could be considered as Asia’s great awakening. Traditional protestant churches began to split, forming churches who do not conform with a specific protestant set of doctrines.

The Philippines, China, and South Korea, grew in Christian populations but with the rise of evangelicals, holy spirit movement, and charismatic groups. But in the Philippines, the CCF movement led by senior Pastor Peter Tanchi, developed into a global movement whose focus is to evangelize.

Although CCF is non-denominational, Tanchi’s core beliefs is a combination of baptist, calvinism, but evangelicalism for the for part. He often spoke of faith and repentance.

By 2000s, the once vibrant South Korean Christian community began to dwindle as the country became wealthy. Some churches were also led by cult christian figures.

In China, undeground Christian churches grew in number despite massive persecution. Meantime, Myanmar, Singapore, Japan, and Malaysia’s Christian population remain steady.

Prosperity Gospel: The rise of mega-Churches

Social media, smartphones, and faster internet connections by 2010 gave rise to 21st televangelists who brought prosperity gospel. Their message centers mainly on Moralistic Theistic Deism (MTD)

In the 2000s, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, and Joel Osteen began packing churches by the thousands. The best way to describe their theology is “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” first introduced in 2005.

“YouTube Christian churches”

The non-traditional and charismatic preaching of Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, and Steven Furtick gave way to virtual churches (YouTube subscribers) and mega-churches. These “superstar preachers” are mostly associated with the false gospel of prosperity.

Hillsongs church online

Earlier in the 1990s, fans of Hillsong Australia peaked in the 2010s as smartphones and internet connections became more available. Earning them millions of followers and billions of views on YouTube. Although their organization has been involved in numerous scandals, Hillsong continues to form a new kind of church online.

Left Liberals: Progressive “Woke” Christianity

Around 2015, left liberals inspired the rise of Progressive “Woke Churches.” Certain branches of the reformation embraced demonic and sinful ideologies. For example, LGBTQ Pastors and same-sex marriage became acceptable.

  • ECLA in 2013, 2021
  • Presbyterians (PUSA) in 2015
  • Methodists (UMC) in 2019
  • Baptists (AWAB) since 1993 and formally in 2019

False gospel in 2000s

False teachers
Woke ideology
Christian decline

There has been a shift in the landscape and focus of the church in the late 1980s. Apparently, the rise of Moralist Therapeutic Deism purported by preachers like Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen diluted Christ’s message. Hinn gained popularity in the 1990s and Osteen in the 2010s, along with the likes of Joyce Meyer and recently, Steven Furtick.

During this time, there were pastors who renounced Christianity. Scandals of sexual immorality, financial abuse, and suicide plagued both the Catholic, Protestant, and non-denominational groups. By 2009, Christian church membership began a steady decline. [Pew]

After same-sex was legalized in 2015, woke ideology plagued certain groups from Lutheran, Methodists, and Bapitists denominations.

The rise of Black Lives Matter in 2020 also pave the way for Democrat and left-liberal lawmakers to push “woke bills.” In the same year, churches were shut because of the pandemic lockdown. Many gave up meeting in person.

All the while, the hunger for Reformed Protestantism created a silent movement in social media. A new form of Calvinism inspired reformed preachers to combat the heresy of wokeism plaguing churches.

Reformed Tradition: 500 years after the reformation

New Calvinism

A revival took shape in the form of “New Calvinism,” or reformed Protestantism, in the late 1980s. In 2006,  the conference ‘Together for the Gospel‘ gathered American pastors John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and CJ Mahaney, who stressed the following:

In the Philippines although the Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines began in the 1900s, the synod was formed in 1983. In 2010s, reformed churches began to be popular.

  • Complementarianism (in contrast to egalitarianism and as opposed to feminism).
  • Covenant theology (as opposed to Wesleyanism or Arminian theology).
  • Rejection of dispensationalism.

The Internet and Social Media

Christian author Tim Challies has observed the sudden resurgence of John Calvin’s theology in the last decade. He attributes it to Paul Washer’s sermon on YouTube about sin and repentance, which is critical to reformed churches.

The interest in Reformed Protestantism (usually associated with Calvinism and Presbyterianism), beginning around 2010, grew because of faster internet, YouTube, and cheaper computers.

By the 2010s, apologists John MacArthur, R.C. Sprouls, and Paul Washer were some of the strongest voices in the Reformed Tradition. Their sermons are often shared on social media.

Popular Christian apologist on social media

Alistair Begg
David Wood
Don Stewart
Hugh Ross
John MacArthur
J.I. Packer
R.C. Sprouls
Josh McDowell
Joel Beeke
John Piper
Mike Winger
Paul Copan
Paul Washer
Peter Tan-Chi
Tim Challies
Tim Mackie
Timothy McGrew
Voddie Baucham

Most popular sources of textual criticism

Answers in Genesis
Bible Project
Blue Letter Bible
Got Questions
John Piper
Ligonier Ministry
The Gospel Coalition (TGC)

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