Doing theology starts with the assumption that the Church is right

As it would be the height of folly, on one’s first arrival in Switzerland, to make it appear that he is the first to investigate the Berner Oberland, since common sense compels him on the contrary to begin his journey by making inquiry among the guides of the country, the same is true here. In its rich and many-sided life, extending across so many ages, the Church tells you at once what fallible interpretations you need no longer try, and what interpretation on the other hand offers you the best chances for success. On this ground the claim must be put, that the investigator of the Holy Scriptures shall take account of what history and the life of the Church teaches concerning the general points of view, from which to start his investigation, and which paths it is useless to further reconnoitre.

…The investigator does not stand outside of the Church, but is himself a member of it. Hence into his own consciousness there is interwoven the historic consciousness of his Church. In this historic consciousness of his Church he finds not merely the tradition of theologians and the data by which to form an estimate of the results of their studies, but also the confessional utterances of the Church. And this implies more. These utterances of his Church do not consist of the interpretation of one or another theologian, but of the ripest fruit of a spiritual and dogmatic strife, battled through by a whole circle of confessors in violent combat, which enlightened their spiritual sense, sharpened their judgment, and stimulated their perception of the truth; which fruit, moreover, has been handed down to him by the Church through its divinely appointed organs. It will not do, therefore, to place these dogmatic utterances on the same plane with the opinions of individual theologians. In a much deeper sense, they provide a guarantee for freedom from error, and he who belongs to such a Church has himself been moulded in part by them. This gives rise to the demand, that every theologian shall, in his investigations, reckon with all those things that are taught him by the history of the churches concerning well and badly chosen paths in this territory to be investigated; and, also, in the second place, that he shall take the dogmas of his Church as his guide, and that he shall not diverge from them until he is compelled to do this by the Word of God. Hence, one should not begin by doubting everything, and by experimenting to see whether on the ground of his own investigation he arrives at the same point where the confession of his Church stands; but, on the contrary, he should start out from the assumption that his Church is right, while at the same time he should investigate it, and only oppose it when he finds himself compelled to do so by the Word of God.

– Abraham Kuyper, Sacred Theology, 252-253.

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