When Martin Luther sent his letter to Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg 500 years ago, he disputed the practice conducted by the clergies of the Roman Catholic Church. His boldness had initiated a catalyst for the Protestant movement and separation from the Roman Catholics. However, Luther may be surprised to find that five centuries later, the majority of Protestants have contradictions with his two basic doctrines.
Based on a recent study from Pew Research Center, 52 percent of Protestants in America disagree with the two basic tenets of Martin Luther’s Reformation. The two basic principles of Reformation are the achievement of salvation based on the justification by faith alone, sola fide, and the ultimate authority of Scripture in Christian beliefs, sola scriptura.
Today, according to the study, more than half of American Protestants disagree with those two basic principles. In regard to salvation, they believe that faith needs to be accompanied by good works in order to be guaranteed eternal salvation.
Regarding the sola scriptura doctrine, American Protestants also disagree with Martin Luther, who emphasized the Bible as the highest authority in Church. Present-day American Protestants now say that besides the Bible, Christians should also look for other guidance from Church teaching and tradition.
This result shows that American Protestants have drifted from Martin Luther and the Reformers by believing in justification by works and viewing other authority besides the Scripture. Sola fide and sola scriptura are the foundation of the Reformation that gave birth to the Protestant movement.
The study also surveyed American Catholics to see how they view the Protestant faith. The result confirms that most Catholics in America view the Protestant faith as similar to them. About 65 percent of Catholics say that Protestant and Catholics have more similarities than differences.
A similar phenomenon also occurs in Western Europe. In Germany, the birthplace of Reformation, 61 percent of Protestants believe that justification by faith alone is not sufficient to achieve salvation, while in Switzerland, the home of another renowned Reformer, John Calvin, 57 percent of Protestants disagree with sola fide.
In regard to the view of similarity between Protestant and Catholics, 78 percent of Protestants and 58 percent of Catholics believe both faiths are more similar religiously. In Switzerland, 54 percent of Protestants and 60 percent of Catholics share the same view.
After five centuries, the division between Protestants and Catholics on the two basic tenets of Reformation has slowly faded. This similarity may catch Luther and other Reformers by surprise as it gives authority, which originally belongs to Christ, to the Church. Such practice was opposed by Martin Luther 500 years ago.
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