During the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe, Protestantism arose through those who were protesting the Catholic Church and its doctrines. Protestants believed that salvation is attained by way of God's grace as an act of faith. The freedom of thought inspired by the advent of the Gutenberg Press is often credited as a key trigger to the Protestant Reformation.
Belief that Christ is the son of God and died on the cross to save all of mankind from eternal death so that believers will live again after physical death is the core principle of the various Protestant religions. No amount of deeds can "buy" salvation, nor can forgiveness be purchased through priests or the Church. Protestants believe that deeds are a way of expressing one's faith, a natural outcome of deep faith in God and a way of bringing God's love onto the planet. Planet Earth is where the third dimension, practical world is expressed. Protestants believe in being practical.
A variety of Protestant churches evolved as groups of people had slightly different ideas about fundamental concepts, though the rejection of certain aspects of Catholic doctrine is the common ground from which all Protestantism came forth. All emphasize the critical importance of the Bible as the source of doctrine, every man's ability to access the Bible's wisdom without need for interpretation by a priest and the premises surrounding salvation through belief in Christ as son of God.
There is now a very long list of Protestant denominations, reflecting diverse positions concerning many issues, including this partial list, as example:
• Presbyterian (Calvanists)
• Church of Christ
• The Christian Church
• Latter Day Saints
It is unclear just how many total members the various protestant churches can count. The way to an accurate count has not yet been found and many churches do not keep membership roles. Variation of thought is always evolving, and it may be possible to have as many churches as there are people. Even when joining a particular church, variance of thought can prevail. Enough variation will always weaken the fundamental structure of a particular religion. Uniformity of thought becomes one primary objective of many churches. The church will struggle to create this uniformity through its preaching and teaching, as well as its outreach programs.
Essentially, the Reformation led to the advent of and very beginnings of Protestantism but one can argue that the Protestant movement was an unexpected outcome of Lutheranism. While those who funded Lutheranism to split the Catholic Church may have been pleased with the outcome; Protestantism carried what was a controllable phenomenon in the direction of an uncontrollable movement. Powerful people may begin social changes for a reason but that does not mean they can predict the end result.