History of Presbyterianism

History of Presbyterianism

The roots of the Presbyterian Church trace back to John Calvin, a 16th-century French reformer. Calvin trained for the Catholic priesthood, but later converted to the Reformation Movement and became a theologian and minister.

Calvin dedicated a great deal of thought to practical matters such as the ministry, the church, religious education, and the Christian life. He was somewhat coerced into leading the Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1541, the town council of Geneva enacted Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Ordinances, which set forth regulations on issues related to church order, religious training, gambling, dancing, and even swearing. Strict disciplinary measures were enacted to deal with those who broke these ordinances. As a result a religious renaissance was experienced in Geneva.

Calvin’s theology was very similar to Martin Luther’s. He agreed with Luther on the doctrines of original sin, justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the sole authority of the scriptures. He distinguishes himself theologically from Luther primarily in his degree of emphasis.

Second in importance to John Calvin in the history of Presbyterianism is John Knox. He lived in Scotland in the mid 1500’s. He led the Reformation in Scotland following Calvinistic principles, protesting against the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, and Catholic practices. His ideas set the moral tone for the Church of Scotland and also shaped its democratic form of government. The Presbyterian form of church government and Reformed theology were formally adopted as the national Church of Scotland in 1690. The Church of Scotland remains Presbyterian today.

Since the colonial period, Presbyterianism has had a strong presence in America. Reformed churches were first established in the early 1600s with Presbyterians shaping the religious and political life of the newly established nation. The only Christian minister to sign the Declaration of Independence, was Reverend John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian.

In the Philippines, Presbyterianism started at the end of the Spanish conquest when Americans took over the Philippines in 1898. James Rodgers, an American missionary was dispatched by the Foreign Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church (US) to preach the gospel in the Philippine islands.

The second wave of Presbyterianism came to the Philippines when the Presbyterian Church in Korea sent its missionaries in the 1977. Gerardo Kim was the pioneer Korean Presbyterian missionary who registered the Evangelical Presbyterian Mission (EPM). Soon after, many Korean missionaries arrived and became part of EPM which later birthed the Presbyterian Church of the Philippines.

Presbyterians believe in

  • The Authority of Scripture
  • Justification by Grace through Faith
  • Eternal Security
  • The Priesthood of All Believers
  • The Sovereignty of God

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