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Ronald Reagan on the divinity of Christ

In a March 1978 letter to a liberal Methodist minister who expressed doubts about Christ’s divinity—and accused the then future President Reagan (born 100 years ago this month) of a “limited Sunday school level theology”—Reagan responded:

Perhaps it is true that Jesus never used the word ‘Messiah’ with regard to himself (although I’m not sure that he didn’t) but in John 1, 10 and 14 he identifies himself pretty definitely and more than once. Is there really any ambiguity in his words: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me?’… In John 10 he says, ‘I am in the Father and the Father in me.’ And he makes reference to being with God, ‘before the world was,’ and sitting on the ‘right hand of God.’…
These and other statements he made about himself, foreclose in my opinion, any question as to his divinity. It doesn’t seem to me that he gave us any choice; either he was what he said he was or he was the world’s greatest liar. It is impossible for me to believe a liar or charlatan could have had the effect on mankind that he has had for 2000 years. We could ask, would even the greatest of liars carry his lie through the crucifixion, when a simple confession would have saved him? … Did he allow us the choice you say that you and others have made, to believe in his teachings but reject his statements about his own identity? [Note that Reagan is using C.S. Lewis’s famous ‘liar, lord or lunatic’ trilemma argument]
I still can't help wondering how we can explain away what to me is the greatest miracle of all and which is recorded in history. No one denies there was such a man, that he lived and that he was put to death by crucifixion. Where … is the miracle I spoke of? Well consider this and let your imagination translate the story into our own time—possibly to your own home town. A young man whose father is a carpenter grows up working in his father's shop. One day he puts down his tools and walks out of his father’s shop. He starts preaching on street corners and in the nearby countryside, walking from place to place, preaching all the while, even though he is not an ordained minister. He never gets farther than an area perhaps 100 miles wide at the most. He does this for three years. Then he is arrested, tried and convicted. There is no court of appeal, so he is executed at age 33 along with two common thieves. Those in charge of his execution roll dice to see who gets his clothing—the only possessions he has. His family cannot afford a burial place for him so he is interred in a borrowed tomb. End of story? No, this uneducated, property-less young man has, for 2,000 years, had a greater effect on the world than all the rulers, kings, emperors; all the conquerors, generals and admirals, all the scholars, scientists and philosophers who have ever lived—all of them put together. How do we explain that—unless He really was what He said He was? 1

Reference

  1. Ronald Reagan, cited in Paul Kengor, God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life, pp. 127–128, Harper, 4004. Return to text.

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