No scientist ever begins his work de novo; while he works with the methodological questioning of what he has already known he builds on knowledge already achieved and engages in a movement of advance. But it is one of the worst characteristics of theological study, whether in biblical interpretation or in dogmatic formulation, that every scholar nowadays thinks he must start all over again, and too many give the impression that no one ever understood this or that until they came along.
True thinking takes place within a frame of continuous historical development in which progress in understanding is being made. . . . No constructive thinking that is worth while can be undertaken that sets at nought the intellectual labours of the centuries that are enshrined in tradition, or be undertaken on the arrogant assumption that everything must be thought through de novo as if nothing true had already been done or said. He who undertakes that kind of work will inevitably be determined unconsciously by the assumptions of popular piety which have already been built into his mind.