PROTESTANT, the generic name for an adherent of those Churches which base their teaching on the principles of the Reformation (q v.). The name is derived from the formal Pratestatio handed in by the evangelical states of the empire, including some of the more important princes and 14 imperial cities, against the recess of the diet of Spires (1529), which decreed that the religious status quo was to be preserved, that no innovations were to be introduced in those states which had not hitherto made them, and that the mass was everywhere to be tolerated. The name Protestant seems to have been first applied to the protesting princes by their opponents, and it soon came to be used indiscriminately of all the adherents of the reformed religion. Its use appears to have spread more rapidly outside Germany than in Germany itself, one cause of its popularity being that it was negative and colourless, and could thus be applied by adherents of the “ old religion ” to those of the “ new religion, ” without giving offence, on occasions when it was expedient to avoid abusive language. The designation was moreover grateful to the Reformers as connoting a certain boldness of attitude; and Professor Kattenbusch (Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopddie, 3rd ed., xvi. p. 136, 15) points out with great truth how, from this point of view, the name “ Protestantism ” has survived as embodying for many the conception of liberty, of the right private judgment, of toleration for every progressive idea religion, as opposed to the Roman Catholic principles of do
authority and tradition; so that many even of those who not “profess and call themselves Christians ” yet glory in the name of “ Protestant.”
As the designation of a Church, “ Protestant ” was unknown during the Reformation period and for a long while after. In Germany the Reformers called themselves usually evangelic, and avoided special designations for their communities, which they conceived only as part of the true Catholic Church; “ Calvinists, ” “ Lutherans, ” “ Zwinglians ” were, in the main, terms of abuse intended to stamp them as followers of one or other heretical leader, like Arians or Hussites. It was not until the period of the Thirty Years' War that the two main schools of the reformed or evangelical Churches marked their definitive separation: the Calvinists describing themselves as the “ Reformed Chureh, ” the Lutherans as the “ Lutheran Church.” In France, in England, in Holland the evangelicals continued to describe their churches as ecclesiae reformatae, without the arriére pensée which in Germany had confined the designation “ Reformed ” to the followers of a particular church order and doctrine. As to the word “ Protestant, ” it was never applied to the Church of England or to any other, save unoilicially and in the wide sense above indicated, until the style “Protestant Episcopal Church ” (see below) was assumed by the Anglican communion in the United States. Even in the Bill of Rights the phrase “ Protestant religion ” occurs, but not “ Protestant Church, ” and it was reserved for the Liberal government, in the original draft (afterwards changed) of the Accession Declaration Bill introduced in 1910, to suggest “ Protestant Reformed Church of England ” as a new title for the Established Church. The style “ Protestant” had, however, during the 19th century assumed a. variety of new shades of meaning which necessarily made its particular application a somewhat hazardous proceeding. In Germany it had, for a while, been assumed by the Lutherans as against the Calvinists, and when in 1817 King Frederick William III. of Prussia forcibly amalgamated the Lutheran and Reformed Churches in the new “ Evangelical Church ” its public use was forbidden in the Prussian dominions. It survived, however, in spite of royal decrees, but in an altered sense. It became-to quote Professor Kattenbusch-the “secular” designation of the adherents of the Reformation, the shibboleth of the “liberal ” ecclesiastical and theological tendencies. Finally, in opposition to the ultramontane move- ment in the Roman Catholic Church, it came once more into fashion in something of its original sense among the evangelicals. In the Church of England, on the other hand, the name “ Protestant ” has, under the influence of the High Church reaction, been repudiated by an increasingly large number of the clergy and laity, and is even sometimes used by them in a derogatory sense as applied to their fellow churchmen who still uphold in their integrity the principles of the Reformation. Among the latter, on the other hand, “ Protestantism ” is used as exclusive of a good many of the doctrines and practices which in the Lutheran Church were at one time “ Protestant ” as opposed to “ Reformed, ” e.g. the doctrine of the real Presence, auricular confession, the use of ceremonial lights and vestments. By many churchmen, too, the name of “ Protestant ” is accepted in what they take to be the old sense as implying repudiation of the claims of Rome, but as not necessarily involving a denial of “ Catholic ” doctrine or any confusion of the Church of England with non-episcopal churches at home or abroad. In contradistinction to all these somewhat refined meanings, the term “Protestant ” is in common parlance applied to all Christians who do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church, or to one or other of the ancient Churches of the East.
PROTESTANTENVEREIN is the name of a society in Germany the general object of which is to promote the union (Verein) and progress of the various established Protestant Churches of the country in harmony with the advance of culture and on the basis of Christianity. It was founded at Frankfort-on-the Main in 1863 by a number of distinguished clergymen and laymen of liberal tendencies, representing the freer parties of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of the various German states, amongst Whom were the statesmen Bluntschli and Von Bennigsen and the professors R. Rothe, H. Ewald, D. Schenkel, A. Hilgenfeld and F. Hitzig. The more special objects of the association are the following: the development of the Churches on the basis of a representative parochial and synodal system of government in which the laity shall enjoy their full rights; the promotion of a federation of all the Churches in one national Church; resistance to all hierarchical tendencies both within and without the Protestant Churches; the promotion of Christian toleration and mutual respect amongst the various confessions; the rousing and nurture of the Christian life and of all Christian works necessary for the moral strength and prosperity of the nation. These objects include opposition to the claims of Rome and to autocratic interference with the Church on the part of either political or ecclesiastical authorities, efforts to' induce the laity to claim and exercise their privileges as members of the Church, the assertion of the right of the clergy, laity and both lay and clerical professors to search for and proclaim freely the truth in independence of the creeds and the letter of Scripture. Membership in the association is open to all Germans who are Protestants and declare their willingness to co-operate in promoting its objects. The means used to promote these objects are mainly (1) the formation of local branch associations throughout the country, the duty of which is by lectures, meetings and the distribution of suitable literature to make known and advocate its principles, and (2) the holding of great annual or biennial meetings of the whole association, at which its objects and principles are expounded and applied to the circumstances of the Church at the moment. The “ theses ” accepted by the general meetings of the association as the result of the discussions on the papers read indicate the theological position of its members. The following may serve as illustrations:- The creeds of the Protestant Church shut the doors on the past only, but open them for advance in the future; it is immoral and contrary to true Protestantism to require subscription to them. The limits of the freedom of teaching are not prescribed by the letter of Scripture, but a fundamental requirement of Protestantism is free inquiry in and about the Scriptures. The attempt to limit the freedom of theological inquiry and teaching in the universities is a violation of the vital principle of Protestantism. Only such conceptions of the person of lesus can satisf the religious necessities of this age as fully recognize the idea ofy his humanity and place in history. The higher reason only has unconditional authority, and the Bible must justify itself before its tribunal; we find the history of divine revelation and its fulfilment in the Bible alone, and reason bids us regard the Bible as the only authority and canon in matters of religious belief.
The formation of the association at once provoked fierce and determined opposition on the part of the orthodox sections