The division of the Christian Churches that came about in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is called the Reformation. The position of the Catholic Church was set forth in the twenty-five sessions of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which supplies a definite statement of Catholic doctrine denied by Protestants.
The Reformation was more than a religious movement, for in history it was a many-faceted event that involved humanism, politics and economic factors. The trends at the center, however, were theological and religious.
As launched by Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, there was a genuine search for and appeal to return to the ancient Christian truth that had suffered many deformations because of human failure, misinterpretation and error. But the reform, which is parallel in some respects to the renewal of the Church in our times through the far-reaching expositions of the Vatican II, was looked upon by Catholic theologians of those centuries as an attack on, and rejection of, Christian truth. This resulted in many open and disguised attacks on the Church.
Religion as contained in the message of Christ was to suffer division into denominations; one group of beliefs was set in opposition to others. The result, the error of many, was a fragmentation.
Some estimates put the number of different Christian denominations in the U.S. at more than 30,000. It must be said nevertheless that the Reformation brought a certain awareness, an acute concentration upon the preaching of the truth of the Scriptures and an acknowledgement that the entire body of human persons who are believers are also the “royal priesthood” and have an obligation to teach and effect the salvation of mankind through their faith and living of the Gospels. (6:40)