Another reformer that had significant influence was John Calvin, who founded the Presbyterian Church. He was a French theologian who came about following Luther's reform, devoting his life to the idea of building a Christian society based on Christian beliefs, actions and practices.
Calvin's vision was a church governed by elders (in Greek presbyteros) which developed from the doctrines that led to the founding of Presbyterianism, by John Knox in 1557. Many churches today in Germany, France and Holland lead back to Calvinist roots.
Presbyterians believe that Scripture is inspired and infallible, the sole, final rule of faith. That God is the Supreme authority throughout the universe. Also, the clear beliefs of Calvin's, justification by faith, priesthood of all believers, the importance of the Bible and the sovereignty of God. The Presbyterians do not claim that their church is the "one true church".
The Presbyterian Church (USA), or PCUSA, believes that Scripture is "the witness without parallel" to Christ, but in merely human words reflecting the beliefs of that time. Therefore, belief and practice are derived from the Bible, not from tradition. The standard Protestant canon is accepted. Presbyterian Doctrine is defined in The Westminster Confessional of Faith, written during 1643-1649. Among the most important historical confessions in the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions are The Second Helvetic confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.
Presbyterians do not believe that Baptism is necessary for salvation, but is a sign of a new covenant of Grace, for infants and adults alike.
The PCUSA, in America is the largest doctrinally conservative church body. The liberal side of the Presbyterian/Reformed spectrum is represented in the United Church of Christ, which promotes unity of all believers and encourages theological diversity among its members more so than the Presbyterian churches.
Conservatives affirm the "five points of Calvinism":
- Humans are so sinful that they cannot initiate return to God;
- God chooses who will be saved;
- Christ died specifically to save those whom God chose;
- God infallibly draws to Christ those whom He chooses;
- They will never fall away.
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