In dealing with a subject of such a general character, I am well aware of the limitations of the undertaking. It is not possible to define the nature of Protestantism in such a manner as to establish certain principles to which all its historical expressions must or do conform. I accept the statement of Wilhelm Dilthey which reads as follows:
The religions which appear within a developed civilization have common features. They lift the human consciousness to a point at which, by its connection with divinity and the invisible, it renders itself independent from the world. Hence it is the aim of these religions to overcome the contradictions and repressions of life (Hemmungen) by an inner connection with God. Beatitude signifies the developing total state of mind in which all single emotions arising from participation in the world are resolved. Hence religion is neither a cult nor a dogma nor a mode of action but the total life context of a person in which this aim has been attained. From this there result significant consequences for the historian. No religion or communion can be represented by a principle from which cult, dogma, and morality can be derived. The endless theological debates about a principle of Christianity, of Reformed religiousness, of the Lutheran or Reformed church, are without object. This life context cannot even be wholly analysed. As in every form of life, there remains something unanalysable also in every form of religiousness. Just therein religion is, like art; superior to scientific knowledge. One cannot state in one sentence the essence of Christianity. Every attempt of such a sort is historical metaphysics. Knowledge of Christianity is the analysis of the Christian religiousness in individual Christians and in society.