Some people see eschatology as a dirty word thanks to the Left Behind mob – and I’ve always been pretty wary of people who define themselves by their views on “end times” – but here’s a second post tagged eschatology in two days. There was a comment on my post about how your eschatology shapes your actions that is worth sharing with everybody.
Joanna – who based on her email address I assume used to be a Richardson – but that’s a guess… pointed to a famous quote attributed to Luther:
“Interestingly, Martin Luther – who certainly agreed with you that preaching the gospel was an urgent task in the light of the return of Jesus – when asked what he would do today if he knew the world was ending tomorrow, answered ‘I would plant a tree.’ Was he a man with a poor eschatology, or just a strong theology of creation? Or both, do you think?”
From what I can gather – the quote, more accurately rendered is:
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
I’m not about to throw stones at Luther’s eschatology, that would be profound arrogance on my part. I am curious as to why he would answer the question that way – so I’m doing some research. At the outset I’d posit that either he really enjoyed gardening, or he thought that guessing games concerning the end of the world were pointless and that we should go on living life regardless, others speculate that Luther’s vision of the New Creation features a redeemed version of the current one, and a tree would be a part of that…
There are a few seemingly reputable sites that cast some doubt on whether or not he actually said this at all… but it turns out he did enjoy gardening.
From my initial googling, Option 2 seems to be the favoured interpretation around the online traps.
However, there are others who run with it more literally, like those planning the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 theses… who plan to plant 500 trees in the Luthergarden as a visual celebration.
Then there’s the TreeLink mob who claim Luther as a tree-planting champion…
Personally, and this is probably again shaped by my “bias” – and the weight of Luther’s teachings regarding the importance of evangelism against this one quote of dubious origins – I think if he did say it he was probably emphasising the fact that “nobody knows the time and place” so we shouldn’t live as though each day should be our last – but should go on living in readiness. Which, given the weight of Luther’s teachings and the picture we have of the life he lived would involve bold proclamation of the word as a priority.
Some poor souls who run a repository of “spiritual quotes” attributed this one to Martin Luther King Jr.
Incidentally my favourite Luther quote for a long time was this:
Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ.