“Christianity is what we think it is; it has always been what we thought it was. But we almost unique among the Christian generations, have submitted it to the principle that Christianity is what someone else thought it was – what Jesus, the Apostles, Paul, Augustine, Luther, thought it was … What we must do now is to follow, like good conservatives, the generations before us & make our Christianity, as they made theirs. There is no external test – an external test of truth is a figment of false logic. A thing is what it develops into – & this development at this point is in our hands … It is a work of apologetic; but with a new principle of apology – i.e. to admit everything that must be admitted, but to enquire into its bearing. To reconstruct rather than to buttress; to rebuild rather than to reconstruct; to reform rather than to rebuild.
One of our problems – by what criterion are we to decide whether a certain growth belongs to the main stem, or whether it is parasitic? For all religions & moral ideas which have currency in Western Europe are somehow attached to or derived from Christianity: ours is a Christian civilization in that its formative conceptions, its atmosphere, etc are derived from Christianity. I do not mean that every idea we have can be traced to a definite source: I mean that the whole to which our ideas belong is dominated by the name Christianity. And those who have rejected the particular brand or phase of Christianity professed by their generation are not less influenced by it, than those who accept it.
But which is apple-tree & which is mistletoe?
The mistletoe feeds on the same sap – though it may modify it at the last moment – & is organically attached to the main stem.
Is Nietzsche mistletoe or apple-tree?” – Michael Oakeshott, unpublished Notebooks, (11, 11-14).