Wednesday, October 01, 2008

John Calvin on Demons

Today, in my RMS "Kingdom of God I" class I mentioned that John Calvin believed demons existed in New Testament times but no longer existed. I did not state that correctly, so I'm writing this to clarify things.

Francis MacNutt writes: Calvin "taught that demons had been banished from this world after the resurrection; so, in addition to calling for the abolition of the healing ministry, he also did away with exorcism and deliverance, at least for Christians." (The Healing Reawakening, 141)

Why "for Christians?" I'm now thinking because of what Calvin writes here:

"Yes, the devil is called the prince of this world. But what of it? Jesus Christ holds him in check for He is King of heaven and earth. There are devils above us in the air who make war against us. But what of it? Jesus Christ rules above, having entire control of the battle. Thus, we need not doubt that He gives us the victory."

Here, in The Institutes Ch. IV, Calvin says:

"As angelic host help in God’s plan, so demons are in opposition to His work, though under His control. Scripture warns us against the adversary and equips us for combat against the adversary. Scriptural references to devils (in the plural) remind us of the vast host of enemies against us, that we may not slacken our efforts and the references to Satan (in the singular) set the king­dom of wickedness over against the kingdom of righteous­ness, the church of the saints over against the faction of the impious. Yet, the devil stands under God's power and Satan can only act with God's permission and sufferance."

My current thought is that Calvin believes demons exist now, but for those of us in Christ they have little or no effect on us personally. On non-believers? Yes. On believers? No. And, I don't think MacNutt's quote is very helpful because it's inaccurate (imprecise). It seems like Calvin's high views on the sovereignty of God render the need to battle demons superfluous. God governs all creatures, to include the devil himself.
If anyone has some good resources on Calvin's demonology I'm interested.