Reagan responds to a critique...
Reagan responds to a critique of one of his radio addresses, "Christmas," taped January 9, 1978. The commentary was a retrospective on the 1977 Christmas season in which Reagan lamented the tendency to minimize the divinity of Jesus and concluded that the effect of Jesus on the world is a miracle that cannot be explained "unless he really was what he said he was"—the promised Messiah, the Son of God.
[Mr.] Thomas H. Griffith
Shell Beach, California
March 1, 1978
Dear [Mr.] Griffith:
I appreciate your taking the time and trouble to write as you did regarding my radio commentaries. It would seem, however, that we are epitomizing the theological debate I spoke of on the air. While I do not pretend to be a theologian, I do have a deep-seated religious belief and have frequent contact with theologians of some stature, including my own pastor, Donn Moomaw.
My difficulty in understanding your own view of Jesus does not come from a "limited Sunday school level theology." 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?" Then he said, "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” 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.”
I realize, of course, that you are familiar with these words of Jesus. 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?
I could refer to the scores and scores of prophecies in the Old Testament made several hundred years before his birth (all of which were realized in his life). You, of course, could answer that, as a Jew he was aware of those prophecies. But, then again, wouldn't we be describing the act of a faker? 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?
Again my thanks for your letter and for allowing me to state my case.
Reagan: A Life in Letters. Eds. Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson. New York: Free/Simon and Schuster, 2003. pp. 276-77.