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The reformations built around the teachings of John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, and Martin Luther all share one large aspect in common: they were attempting to address grievances that they had with the actions of the Pope and Catholic Church. Primarily, these three theologians had issues with misconduct of religious officials including the selling of indulgences, excesses of drinking, and collecting vast sums of tithes from poor parishioners and using the money to fund private projects. None of them intended to officially break away from the Catholic Church; they simply wanted to invite open dialogue and discourse for correcting what they saw as human errors in doctrine. However, in all three cases, their followers flocked to their causes and took up their teachings, eventually creating three new Protestant denominations.
These three approaches did differ in two major areas: the taking of Holy Communion and the path to salvation. Calvin felt that during the act of Communion the spirit of Christ was present in the bread and wine. Zwingli believed that the bread and wine were only symbolic in the memory of Christ and that no spirituality was involved. Luther believed in the concept of transubstantiation in which the bread and wine turned into the actual physical body and blood of Christ during the celebration.
These three men also differed on the perceived path to salvation. Calvin believed in predestination in which only “the elect,” or God’s preselected few, will be saved to go to Heaven. Zwingli and Luther disagreed with this position and believed that salvation was achieved through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
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