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Southern Baptist Seminarians Recall Reagan's Faith in God

( [email protected] ) Jun 08, 2004 06:11 PM EDT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Many Christian leaders are mourning over the death of former President Ronald Reagan as America has lost one of the most significant figures in America history. Southern Baptist theological seminary leaders R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Paige Patterson, along with other Southern Baptist leaders, noted Reagan’s optimistic outlook toward America as deeply founded on faith in God.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said Christians should remember how confident Reagan was in speaking of divine providence and taking a strong stand for the sanctity of human life by telling the nation the truth about abortion.

"He spoke of his confidence in divine providence and his security in knowing that this life is not the end."

Mohler recalled his young adulthood when he was working as a volunteer in Reagan’s 1976 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination at the age of 16.

“I had been inspired by Reagan's clear and confident voice, articulating a bold vision for America when others preached disillusionment. He presented a conservative political philosophy that changed a generation -- and made a great impact on my life,” Mohler said in a statement to Baptist Press.

"Ronald Reagan transformed the world by refusing to believe that freedom and liberty were too expensive to defend," Mohler added. "He transformed the presidency by demonstrating that conviction, rather than political calculation, would drive his policies and decisions.... He believed in the American dream and the American people, and he gave the nation a new confidence in its most cherished ideals."

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, called Reagan the greatest U.S. president since Theodore Roosevelt and ranked Reagan among the five most influential presidents in the history of America.

"President Reagan was a gracious friend who demonstrated his own reverence for the Word of God by designating 1983 as the Year of the Bible," Patterson said.

Patterson also mentioned about how Patterson's wife, Dorothy, was appointed by Reagan to serve as chair of the Presidential Bible Committee, which raised money for a special edition of the New King James Version of the Bible.

"President Reagan was a colorful, decisive, humble, principle-driven statesman who was as little affected by Beltway politics as any president we have ever had. We will miss him profoundly," Patterson said.

Other prominent Christian leaders such as Billy Graham and the Southern Baptist Convention President Adrian Rogers also recalled Reagan’s deep faith.

Billy Graham expressed his wishes to be present with the Reagan family during their time of mourning but is recuperating in Asheville, N.C., from pelvic surgery.

"Ronald Reagan was one of my closest personal friends for many years," Graham said in a statement. "Ruth and I spent a number of nights at the White House and had hundreds of hours of conversations with the president and first lady. Mr. Reagan had a religious faith deeper than most people knew."

SBC President Adrian Rogers, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, said he recounted how he put his arm around him and prayed when he first met Reagan in 1980 when he was a candidate for president.

“Someone asked him this question at the end of the meeting, 'Governor, I want to ask you a very personal question. Do you know Jesus Christ? Not do you know about Him, but do you know Him?'

“He said, ‘Oh, yes. He is very real to me. I have trusted Him as my personal Lord and Savior, and I pray every day. But I don’t wear my religion on my sleeves.’

“I felt impressed to pray for him, and I put my arm around him and prayed,” Rogers recounted. “I got a letter from him, and I really appreciated it. ... He said, ‘Thank you for remembering me in prayer before our Lord.’”

Reagan died June 5 at home in Bel Air, California, from pneumonia as a result of almost 10-year long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 93.