A recently discovered letter sheds light on Ronald Reagan's faith.
Loyal Davis, father-in-law to the 40th president, was dying of congestive heart failure and knew, as a longtime surgeon, that his end was drawing near.
His son-in-law Ronald Reagan knew it, too, so on a Saturday afternoon in 1982 the president sat down and wrote Loyal a four-page letter begging the atheist doctor to give his heart to Jesus.
Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty discovered the letter while researching former First Lady Nancy Reagan for a biography.
In the letter, Reagan shares how he came to Christ after God healed him of an ulcer. He reasons with Dr. Davis about fulfilled prophecy in the Bible that points to Jesus Christ and the miracle – as he called it – of a 30-year-old man, with no scholarly credential or even possessions, turning the world upside down.
He also quotes John 3:16 and begs his father in law to accept Christ before he died.
David Barton says Reagan's faith matured over the years from a "pretty shallow" faith early on to more mature understanding of scripture.
"As president what he did with biblical worldview was fairly amazing," recalls Barton, "from declaring the year of the Bible in 1983 to his speeches. His speeches became very Abraham Lincolnesque in a lot of ways."
Farther down in the letter, Reagan wrote:
Loyal, you & Edith have known a great love — more than many have been permitted to know. That love will not end with the end of this life. We’ve been promised this is only a part of life and that a greater life, a greater glory awaits us. It awaits you together one day and all that is required is that you believe and tell God you put yourself in his hands.
So did that last-minute plea affect the dying doctor?
Nancy Reagan recalled in a speech how her father, two days before his death, asked to see the hospital chaplain. She didn't know what they discussed, she said, but the conversation gave her father comfort and he was at peace when he died.