Pastor Robert Jeffress, a prominent evangelical supporter of the president–earned some major media attention this week when he said, “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”

He later explained on Fox News that his statement is biblical. “Romans 13 gives President Trump moral authority to use whatever force necessary, including assassination or even war, to topple an evil dictator like Kim Jong-un.”

But the Southern Baptist mega-church pastor is largely standing alone in his bold statement as other faith leaders and conservative analysts take a much more tempered approach to escalating tensions with the rogue state.

Dr. Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told CBN News that he believes Jeffress is “basically right” but would have expanded his statement. He explained that while Romans 13 does make it clear that a legitimate government should protect its own people and defend what is right and just, the government does not have a blank check to act in any way it wants.

“The president represents our government as commander in chief and has a clear responsibility,” said Mohler, “but his exercise has to be justified.”

Conservative analyst and National Review senior writer David French had a much more forceful reaction to Jeffress. He called the statement a “disgrace” on Twitter and told CBN News he found it appalling. “That blank check mentality is the absolute last thing that the president needs to be hearing right now,” he said noting “the wrong move can cost millions of lives.”

Mark Tooley, the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, also spoke out this week about the nuances of Romans 13 in light of Jeffress’s comments. Tooley said the decision over whether to wage war is not typically a theological question but a pragmatic one made by people in civil authority.

“It’s safe to say, contra Jeffress, that no serious segment of Christian tradition has understood Romans 13 to specifically sanction blanket authority for any particular ruler of any nation to ‘use whatever means necessary…to stop evil’ anywhere in the world,” he said.

Tooley and other faith leaders point believers to the just war tradition which is rooted in classical Christian thought.

Dr. Eric Patterson, dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University, said the tradition begins with the idea of “when is it just to use force?” The answer lies in legitimate political authority, a just cause and right intentions he said.

“Those political authorities are also expected to act as stewards,” said Patterson, counting the costs such as likelihood of success and whether threat justifies the risk.

Many faith leaders have taken to social media this week to urge prayer. Bible study teacher Beth Moore tweeted “prayer will matter here.”

Evangelist and humanitarian Franklin Graham used Facebook to call for prayer for President, Trump, Kim Jong-un and for the de-escalation of tensions.

Johnnie Moore, a prominent evangelical advisor to the president, told CBN News he considers it to be a “solemn and serious moment-the first serious nuclear threat to the United States in decades” and urged Christians to pray fervently for peace and for wisdom for their leaders.

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coaltion, also called for prayer for believers in North and South Korea. “As an evangelical leader and Assemblies of God pastor it is not lost on me that millions of people live within miles of the DMZ,” he said noting that some of the largest congregations are in Seoul, including the largest Pentecostal church in the world, Yoido Full Gospel Church.
 

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