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Since the Arminian controversy, the Reformed tradition—as a branch of Protestantism distinguished from Lutheranism—divided into two separate groups, Arminians and Calvinists.

However, it is now rare to call Arminians a part of the Reformed tradition, as many see these two schools of thought as opposed, making the terms Calvinist and Reformed synonymous.

First-generation Reformed theologians include Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531), Martin Bucer (1491–1551), Wolfgang Capito (1478–1541), John Oecolampadius (1482–1531), and Guillaume Farel (1489–1565).

These reformers came from diverse academic backgrounds, but later distinctions within Reformed theology can already be detected in their thought, especially the priority of scripture as a source of authority.

This and the Belgic Confession were adopted as confessional standards in the first synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1571.

Leading divines, either Calvinist or those sympathetic to Calvinism, settled in England (Martin Bucer, Peter Martyr, and Jan Łaski) and Scotland (John Knox).

Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536–59) was one of the most influential theologies of the era.

Toward the middle of the 16th century, the Reformed began to commit their beliefs to confessions of faith, which would shape the future definition of the Reformed faith.

The remainder of the 16th century saw an explosion of confessional activity.

The stability and breadth of Reformed theology during this period stand in marked contrast to the bitter controversy experienced by Lutherans prior to the 1579 Formula of Concord.

In the twentieth century, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, B. Nevertheless, the term first came out of Lutheran circles.