While both the protestant and reformed churches are Christian churches, they feature a set of practices and belief systems that set them apart from each other. They also feature several similarities, which make it difficult for many to differentiate these Christian religions, hence this Reformed vs. Protestant post.
The main difference between Protestant and Reformed churches is that while the Reformed church falls under the Protestant church, the Protestant church refers to the 500-year-old religious movement that was created when its founders tried to reform some of the practices and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in 1517. Reformed describes the Protestant Christian churches founded on Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s theological principles.
With Protestant and Reformed Christian beliefs having a lot in common, more specifically common roots in the 16th century Reformation, keep reading to learn more about the details of these two Christian beliefs.
What is the difference between Protestantism and Reformed?
During the 16th century split of the Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church, also called the Reformation, the differences in belief systems and practices set the Christian groups apart. Essentially, Protestantism was born out of the need for Reformation under the guidance of the most outstanding leaders of the time – John Calvin, who founded Calvinism, and Martin Luther, that created Lutheranism. Of these two, Calvinism turned into the version of Protestants called the Reformed Protestants, who differ from the rest of the Protestants, also called the non-reformed Protestants.
It’s worth noting that the Protestant churches refer to the non-Catholic churches like the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and Lutherans. And the Protestant churches can be Reformed or Calvinist, or Arminian.
How, then, do the Reformed Protestants differ from the non-reformed Protestants?
Formation of the Reformed Protestant Church
John Calvin founded the Reformed Protestant Church in the 16th century, which is why the Reformed Protestants were also called the Calvinists. Calvinism was created after the Protestants split from the Roman Catholic Church in the Western world. The church’s belief wasn’t referred to as Calvinism as expected because the title would have been misleading. Instead, the church and the movement by the French Reformer became the Protestant Reformed church. The reformed church was founded in th2 1520s after the Calvinist believers embraced Protestant beliefs.
The Reformed churches are not Catholic churches, and these churches were the churches born out of the Reformation of the church. Reformed doesn’t, however, mean Anabaptists or Lutherans.
It is also worth noting that while the Reformed church dates back to 1509-1564, under the teachings of John Calvin, the reformed church’s teachings date to earlier times and are attributed to the teachings of Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer who was alive between 1484 and 1531. In many ways, therefore, the Reformed church’s belief system dates back to the periods between 1483 and 1564. John Knox, between 1514 and 1572, also influenced it.
Protestantism was also founded in the 16th century in Europe, although the church was founded and centered in Germany, following reforms instigated by the German theologian Martin Luther between 1483 and 1546. Switzerland’s Ulrich Zwingli also influenced Protestantism to a large extent
Meaning of the name
Protestant is derived from the Latin word for bearing witness, protestari. On the other hand, the reformed church or reformed protestants refer to the reforms put in place concerning the alleged errs in both practice and the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Protestant church boasts over 1 billion members across the world. But because the reformed church isn’t technically a denomination, it can be challenging to determine the exact number of all the Reformed church’s adherents.
Some of the largest denominations of the Reformed church is the Presbyterian Church. In contrast, the main Protestant denominations include the United Methodist Church, Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
Significant Writings Away from the Bible
Some of the writings that inspired the Reformed protestant churches is the 1646’s The Institutes of Christian Religion: the Westminster Confessions of Faith by John Calvin. The other writings that the reformed church is based on include the Canons of Dort, Belgic Confessions of Faith, and the Heidelberg Confession of Faith.
On the other hand, the important writings that inspired Protestantism to include the Nicene and Apostle Creeds, sermons and writings of Martin Luther, The Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin, and the 95 Theses, among several other writings.
Beliefs around Jesus Christ
For the Protestants, Jesus is the second divinity, the Son of God, and God is in the form of flesh, meaning that he is 100% man and 100% God. The Protestants believe that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, and he led a sinless life, dying for the sake of the sins of mankind, then being resurrected on the 3rd day.
Conversely, the Reformed Christians subscribe to the idea of incarnation while also holding onto the Protestant belief of Christ’s virgin birth and that he led a sinless life. Additionally, in Reformed theology, they believe in penal-substitutionary sins’ atonement, as well as the resurrection.
Beliefs on Salvation
According to Reformed theologians, God places an implant of faith in the heart of the individual, allowing them to respond to Christ’s gospel. They also believe that God elects salvation for people unconditionally and that he dispenses grace to all sinners who cannot resist this grace.
On the other hand, the overall protestant belief is that the Grace of God saves believers through having faith in Jesus Christ.
What are the similarities between Protestantism and Reformed?
Take on the Scripture
Protestantism’s main hallmark is that the Protestant church believes in the full authority of the scriptures above the church’s traditions. Historically, the Protestants believe that the Scripture was inspired, and they believe in the phrase Sola Scriptura, which is the belief that the Scripture is authoritative and sufficient for believers to understand all about being saved and living in a way that is pleasing to God. Similarly, the Reformed church naturally believes in the Scripture’s authority, as well as its inspiration.
All Protestants, including the reformed Christians, believe they are Trinitarians. This means that they believe in the existence of one God as three persons, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – all divine figures.
Both Protestant and Reformed Christians believe in the importance of covenants. Notably, Reformed theology is focused on the importance of the covenants of God’s redemption, graces, and works.
What is the comparison between Protestant and Reformed beliefs and practices?
Protestants and Reformed Christians have a lot of standard practices and beliefs. They also have differences, as discussed below:
Protestant and Reformed Christians believe that where matters of Christian faith and practice are concerned, the Bible is the ultimate authority. Additionally, both Christian beliefs hold dear the concepts of grace and salvation as a gift to humankind.
Governance of the church
While Protestantism’s church governance is mainly decentralized such that every church leader enjoys some degree of autonomy, the Reformed Christian churches have more centralized governance emphasizing the authority of the creeds and the church’s councils.
In Reformed and Protestant Christianity, the church recognizes the sacrament of baptism. However, these Christians recognize different numbers of sacraments – the Protestants recognize the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, while Reformed Christianity only recognizes the sacrament of baptism.
Even though Protestant and Reformed Christian churches believed in salvation through having faith in Christ, the protestants emphasized gaining salvation through having faith alone or sola fides. On the other hand, Reformed Christianity believes in the importance of God’s sovereignty and predestination, meaning that God determines who he saves and who doesn’t receive the saving.
Which came first between Protestant and Reformed?
The Reformation was the foundation of Protestantism, leading to some of the church’s beliefs getting reformulation and, subsequently, the division of the Roman Catholic Church in Western Christendom to the Catholic and Protestant churches. The Protestant Reformation was established in the 1500s in Europe when Martin Luther, the German Monk, challenged how the church was run, sparking the Reformation of 1517. This Reformation was also the birth of the Protestant church because it ideally protested the practices of the Catholic Church and reformed the Christian Church. With the protests happening before the church’s Reformation, it is safe to say that the Protestant Christians came before the Reformed Christians, although they thrived together afterward.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.