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Christian fundamentalists read the Bible as the "inerrant, infallible" Word of God, as do the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches, but interpret it in a literalist fashion without using the historical critical method.
"Biblical Christianity" focused on a deep study of the Bible is characteristic of most Protestants as opposed to "Church Christianity," focused on performing rituals and good works, represented by Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
The Protestants characterize the dogma concerning the Pope as Christ's representative head of the Church on earth, the concept of works made meritorious by Christ, and the Catholic idea of a treasury of the merits of Christ and his saints, as a denial that Christ is the only mediator between God and man.
Catholics, on the other hand, maintained the traditional understanding of Judaism on these questions, and appealed to the universal consensus of Christian tradition.
The term Protestant later acquired a broader sense, referring to a member of any Western church which subscribed to the main Protestant principles.
Various experts on the subject tried to determine what makes a Christian denomination a part of Protestantism.
A common consensus approved by most of them is that if a Christian denomination is to be considered Protestant, it must acknowledge the following three fundamental principles of Protestantism.
The many abuses that had occurred in the Western Church before the Protestant Reformation led the Reformers to reject much of its tradition, though some would maintain tradition has been maintained and reorganized in the liturgy and in the confessions of the Protestant churches of the Reformation.
In the early 20th century, a less critical reading of the Bible developed in the United States, leading to a "fundamentalist" reading of Scripture.
It is opposed to the hierarchical system which puts the essence and authority of the Church in an exclusive priesthood, and makes ordained priests the necessary mediators between God and the people.