500 years ago, Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. This was the spark that led to the Reformation of the 1500-year-old visible church. The Roman Catholic Church, which (falsely) claims Apostolic succession beginning with the Apostle Peter, slowly began to apostatize from the true apostolic faith in the first few centuries A.D.
One of the prevailing reasons (among many) that Luther began his protest against the Roman Catholic Church was the idea that one could work or earn their salvation, namely through the sale of indulgences. This protest has been at the core of the Protestant faith ever since, leading to the core doctrines, known as the “Five Solas,” of salvation by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone according to the Scriptures Alone to the Glory of God Alone.
Of course, this reformation didn’t go over well with the Vatican and a massive counter-reformation effort was launched. In 1545, the Council of Trent was launched which affirmed and made dogmatic several key doctrines that opposed the Reformed biblical faith, including salvation by grace plus works. Carefully worded doctrines were outlined which made it clear that any who opposed the Roman Catholic idea of grace plus works soteriology was not only in error but in danger of excommunication and eternal damnation.
According to a recent Pew Research study, however, it appears that the Roman Catholic counter-reformation has made massive inroads into the Protestant faith. Through the softening stance of Protestant and Evangelical leaders against Roman Catholicism and the ecumenical movement which is intent on reversing the doctrinal divide between Protestants and gospel-deficient Roman Catholics, many Christians now see Roman Catholicism as just merely another “denomination” of the Christian faith.
The study shows that 52 percent of U.S. Protestants affirm that good deeds are required for salvation as opposed to 46 percent who affirm the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone. Other troubling statistics show that 52 percent of Protestants also believe that the Church is on equal authority with Scripture when it comes to official teachings of the Christian faith.