Since its inception thousands of years ago, Christianity has born almost countless variations of its original practice. As a result, hundreds of religions exist today, many with direct roots in Christianity and the Apostolic Succession. Some of the most prevalent religions today, such as the Catholic Church, were derived from the Apostolic Church. Protestantism, along with Catholicism, is a major faction of Christianity. The sects constitute two of the three largest branches of Christianity.
Protestantism began in the early 16th century, through the Protestant Reformation. During the Reformation, a group of European Christians decided to break away from the Apostolic Church, protest its practices and begin their own sect of Christianity founded in dramatically different principles. The Reformation was led by Martin Luther and John Calvin.
A fundamental difference between the Apostolic Church and Protestantism is the disagreement over the church's authority. In Apostolic religions, such as the Roman Catholic Church, followers believe that special church figures, bishops for example, have spiritual and ecclesiastical powers because they are believed to be direct decedents of the 12 apostles. These powers give the bishops authority on matters of faith and morals within the church. In Protestantism, the only source of religious authority is the Bible.
The Apostolic Church practiced many traditions in order to demonstrate their faith, and believed salvation would be attained through dedication to these traditions. Typical traditions, many of which are still followed today by Catholic Churches, include confession, last rites, confirmation, baptism, and mass. The Protestants do not believe that salvation is attained through traditions, but through faith.
Whereas the Apostolic Churches are led by the Pope, who is the highest-ranking ordained member in the Catholic Church, most Protestants look only to Christ as the leader of their church. Protestants also believe in the idea of "the priesthood of all believers," which gives every member of the Protestant church equal rights.
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