Saturday, March 04, 2006
Melanchthon Vs. Eck on the Ultimate Authority
After the famous debate between Luther and John Eck, Melanchthon commented that the debate was an “attempt to distinguish the early theology of Christ from the recent Aristotelian innovations of scholasticism.”
In the debate, Eck had relied on the church fathers rather than on the Scriptures. The early reformers though were committed to only one ultimate authority: the sacred Scriptures. In a response to Eck after the debate, Melanchthon stated:
“I greatly revere the historic leaders of the church, those illustrious vindicators of Christian doctrine. However, the holy fathers often have conflicting views, and when they do, they are to be judged by Scripture, not vice versa. Sacred Scripture has a simplicity and unity that can be comprehended by anyone who will carefully follow the text. For this reason, we are told to search the Word. It is an anvil on which to test the doctrines and views of men.
All of us interpret Scripture differently, because we have had different experiences and feelings. As the polyp reflects the color of the stone to which it clings, so we strive to conform our prejudices, first this and then that interpretation pleasing us. Frequently we get the right meaning and sincerely pursue a proper course, but we are diverted, too, sometimes quite unconsciously. So it was with the Fathers. Their emotions often led them astray, and they abused the Word, interpreting it not necessarily maliciously but inappropriately.”
The scholastics have turned Scripture into a Proteus, a sea god who can change at will; they have metamorphosed the Word of God into a word of man. But why go on? The divine canonical Scriptures alone are inspired and true and pure in all things.”
Source: Clyde Manschreck, Melanchthon The Quiet Reformer (New York: Abingdon Press, 1958), 50-51.