The Key Tenets of the Protestant Reformation


Martin Luther in the Circle of Reformers by an anonymous artist, German School, c1625-1650, Deutsches Historisches Museum.  The painting portrays Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jan Hus, Philipp Melanchthon, and John Wycliffe among others.

The Protestant Reformation of the 1520s and 1530s was based on several key tenets that greatly affected the religious and political views of many Europeans including European immigrants who later migrated to America.

Protestants generally believed that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and the final source of authority for all religious doctrine and church matters.  The church approves and exalts the Bible because the Bible is believed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The church’s authority is secondary to the Bible.  The church has authority only when it is consistent with the Bible.  The Bible, Protestants also believed, is plain enough for all to read and able to be freely interpreted by Christians.  Protestants believed in salvation by grace or God’s unmerited favor toward humans.  They also believed in justification, or the gift of God’s grace, by faith alone.  Further, they believed in the “priesthood of all believers,” with Christ as the High Priest.  All Christians can go directly to God through Christ who, in the New Testament, clears the way for all Christians.  All Christians have ministerial responsibilities as priests who can intercede and pray for and minister to others.  Protestant clergymen were viewed as “ministers” or “pastors” who minister to and shepherd God’s people but who do not play the role of high priest or mediator for the church.  The Protestants ultimately rejected the authority of the pope.  The Old Testament of the Bible, for many Protestants, included only the books originally found in the Hebrew language.  While most Reformed groups generally shared these basic beliefs, some groups differed in their more specific interpretations of the Bible.

The Reformation had strong political implications for both church and state in Europe and led to shifts in political power in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s.


From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

Source:  Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Related Blogs/Videos:
1.  The Context of the Protestant Reformation
2.  The Igniting of the Protestant Reformation – Martin Luther’s 95 Theses
3.  The Key Political Thinkers & Writings of the Reformation era
4.  The Reformation Led to the Translation and Printing of the Bible Into People’s Common Languages
5.  The Catholic Counter-Reformation
6.  Three P’s That Led to Freedom in the West:  Printing Press, Protestant Reformation, & Pilgrims

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 1, Part 1, Activity 5:  Photo Story Unit Project, pp. 56-57.  HS.

This unit is available to download from the Member Resources at

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