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Religion and Spirituality

At the time Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1558, Catholics and Protestants wrangled for political power in England. Because she was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth's claim to the throne was threatened by the Roman Catholic view that her parents' marriage was not legal. As a result, Elizabeth aligned herself with the Protestants. Seeking to avoid unnecessary conflict, Elizabeth sought to chart a moderate course for England's religious establishment. However, England's defeat of the Spanish Armada during her reign marked not only a political victory but the championing of Protestantism in England and the rest of Europe.

In addition, the Forty-Two Articles of Anglican doctrine, written by Thomas Cranmer in 1552, were adapted by a convocation of clergy under Elizabeth I to form the Thirty-Nine Articles in 1563. At the other end of the spectrum of Anglican Christianity, the Puritans arose to become a powerful force for renewal in the Church. The Puritans were members of a group of English Protestants seeking further reforms or even separation from the established Church of England. They sought to cleanse the church of its papal influences and restore the proper authority of the Bible. Puritans objected to ornaments and ritual in churches (vestments, musical organs, genuflection) as idolatrous, denouncing them as "popish pomp and rags." They also objected to ecclesiastical courts. They refused to endorse completely all of the ritual directions and formulas of the Book of Common Prayer; the imposition of its liturgical order by legal force and inspection sharpened Puritanism into a definite opposition movement.

Elsewhere around the world, Lutheranism became popular in Germany. The Reformation begun by John Calvin spread across Switzerland and Europe, culminating in his Geneva community. His Reformed theology was articulated in The Institutes of the Christian Religion which stressed such themes as the sovereignty of God, the inability of man to achieve his own salvation, and the grace of God in the predestination of the elect. Calvinism has been crystalized into five essential points today, under the acronymn "TULIP" which stands for total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistable grace, and the perseverence of the saints. It has been said that John Calvin's thinking influenced Western Culture, and in particular American culture, even more so than his Reformation predecessor Martin Luther. Meanwhile, Jacob Arminius argued for a view of soteriology that accounted more for man's freedom and ability to choose right. Today, Arminianism and Calvinism continue to be debated within Christianity. Other spiritual awakenings occured under John Knox in Scotland, which lead to the formation of the Presbyterian denomination, and Theresa of Avila whose Roman Catholic mystic writings continue to inspire today.