Jordan Ballor Nota Bene

Luther’s Apocryphal Apple Tree

Jesus Christ the Apple TreeDavid C. Barker and David H. Bearce would have us believe that Christian belief in the return of Christ is linked with lack of concern about the natural environment. Joe Carter does a good job providing some perspective on this piece, which appears in Political Research Quarterly under the title, “End-Times Theology, the Shadow of the Future, and Public Resistance to Addressing Global Climate Change.”

It’s unfortunate that apparently Luther didn’t utter the apocryphal quote, “If I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.” Despite efforts to the contrary, as Scott Hendrix relates, “So far, however, this statement has not been found in his writings. Scholars believe it originated in the German Confessing Church, which used it to inspire hope and perseverance during its opposition to the Nazi dictatorship.”

Like most apocryphal quotes, Luther’s sentiment about the apple tree and the end-times resonates because it rings true with many Christians’ own self-perception. So even though Luther may not have said it, you can still quote me to the same effect if you like.

By Jordan Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012), and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous volumes. Jordan also serves as associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research of Calvin Theological Seminary.