Note: This is an extremely brief description, and it should be either confirmed or denied by a full and careful study of the many subject presentations in BELIEVE (and elsewhere) regarding the subjects involved.
From when Jesus Died (around 30 AD) until 312 AD when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its religion, Christianity struggled to survive, particularly because Roman soldiers immediately killed anyone who was even thought to be a Christian.
Once the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, the combined pair constantly did everything it could to maintain its authority and control. One aspect of this was that NO ONE had or even saw any copy of the Bible except for Church leaders and Priests. Another was that the Bible was maintained in only the Latin language, the Vulgate Bible produced by Saint Jerome, which made it nearly impossible for any others to read or study the Bible's contents. Nearly all people were still illiterate anyway, but this arrangement guaranteed that no one could ever be in any position to question or challenge anything a Priest or the Church might ever say. It therefore guaranteed both peace and authority, for both the Church and the King(s) of any country that agreed to being Catholic.
Many copies of Wycliffe's Bible survived and they permitted many people to learn what the actual text of the Bible says. In 1454, Gutenburg invented the printing press which allowed even broader distribution of this knowledge. Large numbers of people soon started realizing that the Catholic Church and the Pope had been severely abusing their unique access to that information and had caused the Catholic Church to have adopted many things that are never mentioned in the Bible.
Martin Luther was the most famous of these, but there were many. Luther and the others were actually all loyal Catholics and they only wanted to REFORM the Church and not break away from it. But the Pope and the Catholic Church reacted so severely to the recommendations that a split was forced. It is now called the Protestant Reformation. Virtually all of the beliefs and procedures of the Roman Catholic Church were considered either desirable or acceptable. There were really only a few very specific areas where there was disagreement that could not be resolved. Specifically, (1) the Reformers insisted on trusting the Bible alone (called Sola Scriptura) rather than (primarily) using more than a thousand years of decisions made by Church leaders which the Church calls Tradition; (2) the Reformers found that the Bible does not clearly REQUIRE Good Works to EARN one's way into Heaven, but instead felt that God chose to apply Divine Grace, in a response to a person's personal Faith in Jesus (the assumption is that Good Works FLOW FROM those who have been Saved, by the Book of James); and (3) the Reformers felt that the Pope had greatly abused his authority regarding many things, including sending Crusades to Palestine, instituting Inquisitions to kill and eliminate any challenges to their power and authority, and giving Indulgences, which are guarantees of places in Heaven in exchange for gifts to the Church of wealth or property.
Other than these things, the many Protestant Denominations, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church all have the very same Christian beliefs! There are many small details of procedures and rules that vary, but all the central aspects of Christianity are the same in all those Churches, with the exception of the few noted above.
It is rather amazing that each of those Churches has chosen to Teach hatred for all the others to their Members, when they are actually so very, very similar! For 30 years, Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland actively killed anyone of the other view, and even children of the other side. All allegedly in the Name of the Lord! I personally suspect that the Lord was disgusted with both sides!
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