When facing a potential foreign policy crisis, the President must listen to some advisors – intelligence experts, regional experts, military experts, and so on and so forth. I don’t think a Southern Baptist pastor with no foreign policy, national security, and military experience should be at the top of the list (or even the middle of the list). I say this as a former pastor.
Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX, and one of President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisors, just gave President Trump the thumbs-up to attack North Korea.
If you are not familiar with what has taken place with North Korea the last couple days here’s a recap:
First, The Washington Post reported that analysis from the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that North Korea has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon that can fit inside of one of their missiles. This step puts them closer to becoming a nuclear power, not to mention, a grave threat to the region.
Second, President Donald Trump responded, and reportedly did so off-the-cuff.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States, they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” President Donald Trump said. “He (DPRK leader Kim Jong Un) has been very threatening beyond a normal statement. And as I said they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly, power the likes with which this world has never seen before.”
President Trump vows America will respond to North Korean threats with "fire & fury" in a warning to the rogue nation pic.twitter.com/UaE2rPkZ6f
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) August 9, 2017
North Korea responded with a threat of a preemptive strike on Guam, the American territory closest to North Korea that hosts Anderson Air Force Base, as well as, a naval base.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in a statement said, “The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
Just before this, The New York Times reported that U.S. Secretary of State while making a stop in Guam for his plane to refuel as he returned from a trip to Asia, “I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days. Nothing I have seen and nothing I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours.”
So in the midst of all of this Dr. Jeffress released the following statement after Trump’s remarks.
“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil, In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,” he said referencing Romans 13.
The passage that Dr. Jeffress refers to says:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing? Pay to all what is owed them, taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed,” (Romans 13:1-7, ESV).
Dr. Jeffress’ advice is why cherry-picking a Bible verse is dangerous. If you read the context of this passage, it isn’t talking about war powers. The Apostle Paul addresses how Christians subjects (or in our case citizens) should respond to our governing authorities. We are to obey them because God has given them authority over us and the ability to punish those who break the law.
This passage does not give the “governing authorities” absolute power as they are to approve what is good. This passage also refers to governing authorities as “God’s servant for your good,” “the servant of God,” and “ministers of God.” At the time Paul wrote this Christians suffered injustice from the Roman government. This particular text paints an ideal picture, and it doesn’t mean God affirms everything that is done by a ruler.
This passage also doesn’t mean we are to submit under any circumstance. In Acts, after being told not to preach in the name of Jesus told the Jewish authorities, “We must obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5:29, ESV).
Even so, this passage addresses the State and how it deals with individuals. Romans 13 does not refer to how a state deals with other nation-states. It certainly does not give rulers carte blanche power to respond to another nation any way they please.
I am not saying there aren’t circumstances the United States should respond to North Korea with military action, but it shouldn’t be on a whim especially considering they have nuclear weapons with a leader who is unstable enough to use them. Also, can it be done in a constitutional manner? Can we please get a declaration of war from Congress first instead the President abusing the War Powers Act yet again. Any military action certainly shouldn’t be done based on a misuse of scripture.