John Calvin and Spiritual Warfare


Another great reformer was John Calvin. In view of the great quantity of literature he produced, he spent little time on the subject of demonology. He was even silent about witchcraft, even though the witch trials were proceeding in his day. He apparently accepted most of the popular beliefs concerning demonology, as the belief in the existence of possession, and of the physical power of the devil (but only towards those who had given themselves over to him). Once he took part in an investigation of the disappearance of a man who had given himself over to Satan, and accepted the testimony of witnesses who claimed to have seen the man being carried over two high walls by invisible powers. He also accepted the common Protestant belief that the Catholics were under the power of the devil.

Among his labors, he sought to defend the belief in the existence of good and evil spirits which the secularists were trying to deny.

But what did Calvin believe as far as Christians being affected by an unclean spirit? On this point he was specific.  His strong focus on God’s sovereignty led him to believe that believers could be oppressed but never possessed.  Remember, though, that the Bible never differentiates between these.  It refers to a person as being ‘demonized’ – influenced by a demon.  The Bible never says if the demon works from within or without.  The cause for both is the same and so is the cure.  Thu it isn’t necessary, or possible, to differentiate between the two.

The Calvinists never did use either the baptismal exorcisms or the renunciation, believing that these were unscriptural practices. Nor did they use exorcism of any kind, agreeing with Luther that this was valid only in the early church.  Obviously, if the Calvinists did not believe that any of their members could be possessed, they would have no need of exorcism. So there is no further information to be added concerning this matter.

Ignoring or denying the work of demons in Christians plays into the hands of the enemy.  We never want to give Satan too much credit or in any way empower him by fear, but going to the other extreme and not being aware of his work against us is also wrong (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

(For more information on the subject of spiritual warfare go to  or email me at and I’ll send you a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook).


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