The Washington Post ran a 1982 letter written by former president Ronald Reagan to his dying father-in-law. His father-in-law, Dr. Loyal Davis had not been a religious man, and on the brink of eternity, Reagan felt compelled to stress the importance of faith.
The most powerful man in the world pointing someone to the most powerful being in the universe.
The newly published letter was discovered by Washington Post writer Karen Tumulty who was going through a box of Nancy Reagan’s personal effects in researching for a book on the former first lady.
Reagan’s letter is a work of apologetics where he looks at Jesus as having come in fulfillment of prophesies. Using a similar line of reasoning to C.S. Lewis, Reagan talks of how Jesus either was who he claimed to be or a great con man (which would beg the question of why he would follow a “lie” to the point of dying for it). Reagan talks of the impact that this one man (who had such a short ministry) has had on the rest of the history of the world:
The miracle is that a young man of 30 yrs. without credentials as a scholar or priest began preaching on street corners. He owned nothing but the clothes on his back & he didn’t travel beyond a circle less than one hundred miles across. He did this for only 3 years and then was executed as a common criminal.
But for two thousand years he has … had more impact on the world than all the teachers, scientists, emperors, generals and admirals who ever lived, all put together.
Reagan talks of the importance of faith in Jesus and ends the letter by appealing to his father to put himself in God’s hands.
I appreciate this letter. Presidents are complicated individuals and Reagan’s faith is a subject of debate. But in this letter, his sincere desire is for his father-in-law to place faith in Jesus. He thought sharing the gospel with a beloved family member was worth doing.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.