Thursday, June 12, 2014

[Opinion] Defining Calvinism

John Calvin (1509 - 1564)


1. This blog post is an exercise in definition.

The purpose is to define "Calvinism".

The technique for this exercise is definition by genus and difference.

Calvinism can be defined in many ways.

This exercise is only one of many ways in defining Calvinism.

2. (Hurley 2012, 106):

"A definition by genus and difference assigns a meaning to a term by identifying a genus term and one or more difference words that, when combined, convey the meaning of the term being defined. Definition by genus and difference is more generally applicable and achieves more adequate results than any of the other kinds of intensional definition. To explain how it works, we must first explain the meanings of the terms genus, species, and specific difference."

"In logic, genus and species have a somewhat different meaning than they have in biology. In logic, genus simply means a relatively larger class, and species means a relatively smaller subclass of the genus. For example, we may speak of the genus animal and the species mammal, or of the genus mammal and the species feline, or of the genus feline and the species tiger, or the genus tiger and the species Bengal tiger. In other words, genus and species are merely relative classifications."

"The specific difference, or difference, is the attribute or attributes that distinguish the various species within a genus. For example, the specific difference that distinguishes tigers from other species in the genus feline would include the attributes of being large, striped, ferocious, and so on. Because the specific difference is what distinguishes the species, when a genus is qualified by a specific difference, a species is identified. Definition by genus and difference is based on this fact. It consists of combining a term denoting a genus with a word or group of words connoting a specific difference so that the combination identifies the meaning of the term denoting the species."

3. The first iteration:

Genus: Worldview.

Specific difference: Belief that God exists or that many gods exist.

Species: Theism.


A worldview is the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.

The two major worldviews in western societies are theism and naturalism.

Naturalism can properly be understood as the denial of theism, the denial that God or god(s) exists.

4. The second iteration:

Genus: Theism.

Specific difference: There is only one God.

Species: Monotheism.


The three major monotheistic religions are Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

5. The third iteration:

Genus: Monotheism.

Specific difference: The doctrine of Trinity.

Species: Christianity.


The doctrine of Trinity is the claim that there are three persons in one Godhead.

Both Judaism and Islam denied the doctrine of the Trinity.

6. The fourth iteration:

Genus: Christianity.

Specific difference: The doctrine that the Holy Spirit processes from the Father and the Son.

Species: Western Christianity.


Western Christianity affirmed the double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son.

Eastern Christianity denied double procession and affirmed the Holy Spirit processes from the Father alone.

7. The fifth iteration:

Genus: Western Christianity.

Specific difference: Justification is by faith alone (without works).

Species: Protestantism.


The two main branches of Western Christianity are Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.

Protestantism believes that Justification is by faith alone (without works).

Roman Catholicism believes that Justification is by faith and works.

8. The Sixth iteration:

Genus: Protestantism.

Specific difference: The doctrine of the Eternal Decree of God.

Species: Calvinism.


Calvinism or Reformed Theology is mostly known by the doctrine of Predestination.

The doctrine of Predestination is a subhead or implication of the doctrine of the Eternal Decree of God.


Hurley, Patrick J. 2012. A Concise Introduction to Logic. 11th ed. Boston, Massachusetts: Wadsworth.