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     For visitors looking for a detailed explanation of the Reformed tradition and the development of the Presbyterian Church, read on…

    What follows below is a brief overview of the stream of Christianity known as the Reformed tradition. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, and the Christian Reformed Church are among those considered to be churches in the Reformed tradition.


     The churches of the Reformed tradition diverged from the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity at the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.


     Martin Luther of Germany precipitated the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when he nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Cathedral.   

     Soon Huldrych Zwingli was leading the Reformation in Switzerland; there were important theological differences between Zwingli and Luther. As the Reformation progressed, the term “Reformed” became attached to the Swiss Reformation because of its insistence on reforming the church strictly through the application of biblical principles to the life of the church.

     John Calvin, who came after Zwingli and is one of the Swiss Reformers, wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion, which set forth the tenets of the Reformed tradition.      

     John Knox studied with Calvin in Geneva and returned home the hero of the Scottish Reformation. As the Church of Scotland came into existence, influenced by Calvin’s theology and polity, it developed Presbyterianism.


    Five Latin phrases, the five solas, emphasized the distinctions between the early Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church.

  1. Sola scriptura:  “scripture alone” – the Bible only is the source of authority for Christians.

  2. Sola fide:  “faith alone” – emphasized salvation as a free gift to all who accept it by faith.

  3. Sola gratia:  “grace alone” – the reason for our salvation.  Salvation comes from what God has done rather than what we do.

  4. Solo Christo:  “Christ alone” – emphasizes the role of Jesus in salvation.  He intercedes on our behalf before the Father.

  5. Soli Deo gloria:  “to the glory of God alone” – emphasizes the glory of God as the goal of life.

                “What are the five ?”


     In other words, “We are only saved by grace. Grace is the kindness and love and favor of God. God grants us this grace only because we have faith in God’s only son Jesus Christ, and we need only have faith in Christ, nothing else. And we need only know this through the Bible, and because of all this love showered down upon us by God, we give glory only to God.”

     These ideas, strung together as they are, lead us down the road we need to follow to find comfort, love, and salvation in the arms of Christ and be well within the bounds of the Reformed Faith.

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