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Robert Jeffress on God, Trump and North Korea: A pastor explains his politics

President Donald Trump, left, is greeted by Pastor Robert Jeffress of Dallas at the Celebrate Freedom Rally on July 1, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

DALLAS (RNS) — Anyone who knows the Bible shouldn’t take issue with the idea that God has given President Trump authority to take out North Korea’s dictator, said Pastor Robert Jeffress, the Dallas megachurch leader who drew sharp rebukes for stating just that.

Jeffress sat down for an interview with RNS after his sermon Sunday (Aug. 13), just days after his words made headlines around the world. Some Christians and non-Christians accused him of exacerbating an already alarming war of words between Trump and the temperamental, young leader of nuclear-armed North Korea.

The critics have overreacted, said Jeffress, lead pastor of First Baptist Dallas, whose public observances on current events have not for the first time made him a target. A public pastor with the president’s ear, Jeffress, 61, does not shy away from sharing his belief that Scripture should undergird politics and diplomacy.

“What I said was that the Bible has given government the authority to use whatever force necessary, including assassination or war, to topple an evil dictator like Kim Jong Un,” said Jeffress, elaborating on a Tuesday (Aug. 8) statement in which he said that God has giving Trump “authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”


READ: Texas pastor: ‘God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un’


Pastor Robert Jeffress preaches at First Baptist Dallas. Photo courtesy of First Baptist Dallas

“That authority comes from Romans 13. Paul said that government has been established by God to be an avenger of those who practice evil,” Jeffress told RNS. “I made it very clear that Romans 12 says we are to forgive one another when people offend us — don’t repay evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.

“But in Romans 13, Paul isn’t talking about individual Christians. He’s talking about government. Government is an organization God uses to bring vengeance against those who practice evil.”

Jeffress said his statement wasn’t the same as saying that “God ordained President Trump to nuke North Korea.”

But many thought it came too close.

Dallas Morning News columnist Robert Wilonsky questioned “how a man whose calling is supposed to be that of peace could so fervently proselytize in favor of war.”

In a National Review piece, Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, criticized Jeffress’ “bellicosity.”

And Christianity Today editor in chief Mark Galli penned an editorial titled “The Use of Nuclear Weapons is Inherently Evil.” After naming Jeffress, Galli wrote: “One would hope that Christian supporters of the President’s views would at least qualify and nuance their statements.”

North Korea did not come up in Jeffress’ public comments Sunday at First Baptist, a Southern Baptist megachurch that claims 13,000 members and occupies six city blocks on a $135 million campus at the heart of downtown Dallas.

The pastor — whose sermon focused on Jesus’ last supper with his disciples in Luke 22 — said he felt compelled to address the fatal violent clashes between white supremacist groups and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va. Saturday (Aug. 12).


READ: Virginia governor urges Trump to call white supremacists out ‘for what they are’


“Whether it’s immorality, or racism that we’ve seen on display in Charlottesville this week, the ultimate answer is the transformed heart that comes from knowing Jesus Christ,” the pastor told the congregation.

At home in Jeffress’ high-tech megachurch, congregants don’t see their pastor as inappropriately political. They are at ease with their leader, whose sermon on Sunday was captured by a half-dozen television cameras — including a moving one atop a crane — following Jeffress’ every gesture and facial expression. The congregation can watch him on a screen that stretches 142 feet across the front of the 3,000-seat sanctuary.

Services at First Baptist Dallas feature large choirs and high-tech displays. Photo courtesy of First Baptist Dallas

With coffee kiosks, themed areas for children and giant escalators rising amid wide, glass-lined corridors, First Baptist Dallas’ worship center — completed in 2013 — resembles a modern shopping mall. Multiple assemblies each Sunday feature a robed choir of about 125 voices, accompanied by a full orchestra and a line of singers leading worship songs with hand-held microphones.

Jeffress grew up in the historic Dallas congregation, which formed in 1868 and will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year. As a boy, he gained spiritual insight from the late Rev. W.A. Criswell, First Baptist’s preacher for half a century.

“When I was 5, I started to become interested in becoming a Christian,” said Jeffress, who has served as senior pastor for 10 years. “My dad brought me down to Dr. Criswell’s office, and he presented the gospel, and I accepted Christ as my savior here.”

While a popular figure at his home congregation, Jeffress is no stranger to controversy outside First Baptist’s walls.

In 2011, he suggested at the Values Voter Summit that Republican Mitt Romney, a Mormon, was part of a “theological cult.”

In 2014, he wrote a book, “Perfect Ending,” that claimed then-President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage was clearing the way for the Antichrist.

Pastor Robert Jeffress grew up in the First Baptist Dallas congregation where he now preaches. Photo by Luke Edmonson, courtesy of First Baptist Dallas

Jeffress’ North Korea statement came after Trump warned that North Korea would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” if its leader kept threatening the U.S. In July, North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach California.

“I believe that the job of a pastor, a preacher of God’s word, is to share what God is saying about issues that are confronting people today,” Jeffress said in Sunday’s interview. “The Bible teaches us how to be saved, and to go to heaven, but it tells us more than that.

“It tells us how we are to live in the world as well,” he added. “So whether the issue is the use of force and dealing with an evil dictator, or dealing with racism in this country, I think the job of a pastor is to share what God’s word says.”

Patsy Cato, a Dallas real estate agent who has attended First Baptist for seven years, said she, like her pastor, voted for Trump.

“We prayed morning, noon and night, and God put him there,” she said. “It could have very well gone the other way, but we prayed, and now he’s there.”

Trump, who identifies as Presbyterian, has embraced white evangelicals and won their support despite concerns about his personal character. He has embraced issues important to them, such as opposition to abortion. More than 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, according to exit polls.

But Cato said politics — and her pastor’s relationship with Trump — has nothing to do with why she likes Jeffress.

Pastor Robert Jeffress preaches to a large congregation in the 3,000-seat sanctuary at First Baptist Dallas. Photo by Luke Edmonson, courtesy of First Baptist Dallas

“He doesn’t teach a message that’s about things other than the word of God,” she said. “That’s my favorite part. If you sit in his message, he takes it right from the Bible, and that’s it. That’s why I come here.”

Jeffress says those who doubt his message fall into two camps: “either people who are ignorant of what the Bible says or people who don’t believe what the Bible says.

“But if you had listened to some of the Christian pacifists we’re hearing today in World War II, when Hitler was marching toward world domination, we would all be speaking German and saying ‘Heil Hitler,’” he continued.

“I know President Trump wants a diplomatic solution,” the pastor added. “But if diplomacy fails, he has the God-given authority to use force to remove an evil dictator.”

About the author

Bobby Ross Jr.

74 Comments

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  • The authority the United States wields comes from the people not some man-made deity with a bad track record.

  • When Paul referenced governmental authority, within the parameters of the time, he was referencing the role of a government to it’s own citizens, not the actions of another nation. That is not to say that God has never directed or empowered one nation to chastise another, re: Babylon and Assyria against Israel, Persia against Babylon, etc.. As always, biblical context is everything. God can use ungodly men to achieve a particular end, but I wouldn’t necessarily assume that it is true in this instance.

  • “…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    As far as I know, god is not registered to vote in any of the 50 states.

  • Robert Jeffers should fight some of the fights he picks for others. Looking at his picture he and Kim Jung would probably match up nicely. I think a great to settle this whole North Korean conflict thing could be to put Robert Jeffers and Kim Jung-Un in a steel cage with some kind of a death wheel set up and let them go at it…it could be billed as the clash of the gerbils.

  • It is possible that God could be causing nations to rise up as a punishment of America. With NK leading the way. It could be just the opposite. Jeffress don’t know. I don’t know.

  • “If we shall suppose that American Slavery…He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?” — Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address.

  • Robert Jeffress, why do you want to see Seoul, a bustling metropolis of over 25 million people, reduced to rubble?

    Did you have one of those exploding Samsung phones?
    Do you just despise the smell of kimchee?
    Did you short LG stock and need to cover the payment?

  • Pastors (herders of sheep) like Jeffress give Christianity a bad name. You can find just about anything you want in the Bible from good to bad, from incomprehensible to indifferent. No wonder Trump likes this guy.

  • Floydlee seems unaware that Franklin was a Deist and that Lincoln, an admirer of Thomas Paine, was not a church member.

  • This waste of space is no better than the Westboro Baptist “Church”. Back in the day of my SBC preachers grandfather & great uncle this piece of garbage would have been denounced and thrown out of the SBC as they forbid the mixing of religion & politics.

  • Sounds like Edd is inviting a couple of choice quotations that he would rather not find out about.
    (Although Shawnie5’s quotation should have sufficed already!)

  • Here you go, Floyd!

    “In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.”

    –Franklin’s speech before the Constitutional Convention, 1787

    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_628.asp

    Quite a theist and a visionary, even if we of course can’t claim him as a full-fledged Christian.

  • Our constituion gave us all unalienable rights to freedom of a pursuit to free speech and to our personal welfare under a Judeo-christian view- point. The English pilgrims were under heavy govt. control by a ruling king in england. They were taxed too much and they HAD to go to church and pay tithes to one of two churches or be prosecuted!-The Church of England or the Roman catholic church even if you were an atheist.When the new americans arrived here, they decided very quickly they would not do this in their new homeland! We should be very glad that here in the USA we denounce such prohibitive rules over people and the founders of our government had foresight for each person to believe or disbelieve without impunity. Yet the leftists still bring up all the anti religious salvos without looking much at the facts. Yes they were imperfect men but they had foresight to write up the most profound historical amendments to give everyone a chance to be an Individual and not become a drone of the state that obama and hillary would love to do to us all. It is evident by many on here that they would want to give up freedoms just to be taken care of by the State..STATISM is marxist ideology..your 1’st and 2’nd amendment rights and other rights would be subject to these hideous evil democrats I also include many in the republican party as well who hate the U.S. Constitution! What we need in America is a new understanding of Americanism and what it means to this nation. Nanny State or a Individual right to freedom which goes against the collective that Obama and hillary so wanted to do! So glad we avoided the toke on the pipe of self debasement with those two traitors to our way of life. Many great leaders including Gandhi believed in a form of Nationalism..check out online the famous people who embraced a healthy nationalistic state pride of their country…and their rule of law that Protects them! Look at western europe- it’s falling apart due to these leftist ideologies and folks- it doesn’t work..if you think it does then whats stopping you from moving from here?! Besides, Gods track record is offensive mainly to people who first off never give God a thought or a chance and yet they bring up God when they don’t even believe there is one- isn’t that a conundrum of thought. There is the Old covenant of god towards us and the New covenant spilling over with grace and a freedom for the human spirit to evolve in. It’s plainly a personal point but here in the U.S. i believe we have witnessed this many times over and we see many nations abandoning God for a self fulfilling desperate philosophy that men cannot develop equally without some sort self interest in the mix. germany, sweden and many western european states are now going through some of the roughest consequences we are seeing from our shores. It’s true God doesn’t vote- but in men’s hearts who are honest and good from a heart that loves god , good things come our way through that influence to grant us peace and some effort of safety to our land and great opportunity we all have. I can make any transaction here in the USA as long as it is legal and is not having some bureaucratic eye on everything i do- money in our hands is our last frame of security of privacy and keeping gov’t out of our faces by keeping our ‘privacy’ sacred. I think it’s great that we have solid sound non-lunatic voices in good churches where thinking is allowed to express it. When the Church is removed from the world then you will se what hell on this earth will be like, for by our presence here- Grace is still instituted towards all men at present. then when that happens yes- and it will- You will have your way..and you will pay for it individually by a system that is coming soon to this world unlike any other empire that has been lost to history.

  • Romans 13 is not about declaring war against any nation. The clear, immediate context is about obeying civil and criminal law with an admonition to avoid sedition: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities…whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment upon themselves…” Paul in no way addresses by direct statement or inference that God is calling Rome to start a war with Gaul or Britain. Paul is addressing Christians telling them they should obey the law because the government exists to make certain that society does not implode upon itself through violent lawlessness.

    Is North Korea subject to the American government? Are they called by God to obey the President or Congress of the United States? I wouldn’t know, but I do know that Romans 13 does not comment on international relationships or declarations of war against other countries.

  • I wished I’d read your comment before I posted my own! We’re saying essentially the same thing. The context of Romans 13 does not address international relationships or the right of one nation to wage war against another. It is clearly addressing, as you said, “the role of governments to it’s own citizens, not the actions of another nation.” Well said. Well said.

  • So he “didn’t really mean it?” LOL! I’m afraid not. There is far too much in the same vein in his personal writings and letters. Shall I share some of them?

  • Now’s my turn, brother Bobby Ross Jr., to make an assessment and in this manner.

    (1) TRUE OR FALSE: “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un … Government(‘s) … authority to use whatever force necessary, including assassination or war, to topple an evil dictator like Kim Jong Un … comes from Romans 13. … If diplomacy fails, (US President Trump) has the God-given authority to use force to remove an evil dictator.”

    FALSE. Because: for “Romans 13” to be applicable, Kim Jong Un must first qualify as a “person …

    (a) Who “is … in subjection to the governing authorities” in America (Romans 13:1), but he isn’t; and

    (b) Who … resists authority” in North Korea (Romans 13:2), but he doesn’t; and

    (c) Who has “fear of authority” in North Korea and lacks the “praise from the same” (Romans 13:3), but he doesn’t; and

    (d) “Who loves his neighbor” in North Korea so as to ha(ve) fulfilled Israel’s law of Moses (Romans 13:8), but he doesn’t; and

    (e) Who does “lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12), but he doesn’t; and

    (f) Who does “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14), but he doesn’t.

    (2) CONCLUSION: “Robert Jeffress … lead pastor of First Baptist Dallas” is a FALSE teacher of “Romans 13” with murderous hatred in his born-again Christian heart. Which makes him a dangerous hypocrite and a scandalizing laughingstock at the same time. Apostle Paul, bearing witness to the gospel TRUTH in “Romans 13”, was sent by God and His crucified, buried and resurrected Son, Christ Jesus. Robert Jeffress isn’t.

  • I love how at age 5 he was able to realize Christianity was legit. At 5…. Years. …Old… Nothing to do with brainwash cult, he was able to reason, rationalize christianity(his narrow version, not those dirty Catholics) was legit. When I was 5…., we’ll I really dont remember when I was 5. No one really remembers when they were 5. They sure as heck don’t evaluate life, decide its meaning, and go from there. He’s so full of crap it hurts my brain. Who follows this moron. His view of the Bible is just that, his view. No early church father agrees with his dribble. Gooogle early church fathers, read , then compare ! He has stolen Christianity, and he has made it man made(gospel by Jeffress anyone!). That’s why it’s all bs. He claims Catholics, orthodox, man made, well so is he. It’s all so stupid, how does he have presidents ear? Oh, yeah, I forgot.

  • Yes, but do we understand the term “Deist” in the same way that Franklin understood it? I think it unlikely. Official church membership is not a requisite for a Christian. Paine had some admirable ideas, but that does not mean Lincoln held an equivalent view of spiritual faith.

  • Hmm. 

    So, based on the sanctity of government described in the epistle to the Romans, Jeffress supports whatever the Apricot Wonder wants to do, without question. Yet, just a few years ago, he condemned then-president Obama as a tool of the Antichrist and openly questioned his legitimacy. 

    Hmm. 

    I’ve been turning this around in my head, but am unable to see the logical consistency in these positions. I wonder if anyone could shed some light on that? Maybe? 

    Or, perhaps, is it just that Jeffress is doing what Jeffress wants — sifting through scripture to rationalize unquestioning support for a president he personally likes, after having done the same thing to undermine a president he personally hates? 

    Maybe it’s just me — cynical, insolent, godless agnostic heathen that I am — but I think I’m going with the latter explanation.&nbsp

  • do not blame your perverted demonic criminal attitude, on ELOHEEM or THEIR Only Begotten He/She Son Adam. just because your father the devil, makes it appear as true to you.

    and what makes any criminal pervert think, you deserve a better appointed leader than trump. and even denounce the miracle, of how trump actually won. when i, know for a fact it was THE HAND of ELOHEEM that pulled the rabbit out of the hat.

  • sorry to tell you this, but we are all here in this Physical Finite Theocracy from ELOHEEM for seven full days from ELOHEEM. no matter how your, errant mental freewill falsely claims otherwise.

    ELOHEEM is responsible for all physical happenings here in TheTorah for Six full Days. and THEIR HaMosheeach Son, is in charge for The Last Day of Rest for ELOHEEM. exactly The Way it, is in The Written Torah Scroll given to Moshe.

    in case you, need a refresher course. after Adam, is crucified at the end of the fourth day. The Adam, is split into as brother and sister returned at this end of the sixth day.

    and so totally missed the message, of the atom being split also.

  • i, do not entertain any blasphemy. that, makes false claims that ELOHEEM does not know what THEY are doing commanding their physical seven Day Physical Theocracy to actually happen.

  • so you! hate trump because of the color of his skin, and/or his background and/or his religion? because your, antiG-D religion of hate says so.

  • well i, thank ELOHEEM that i am not an atheist, agnostic, jew, christian and especially muslim or other pagan. You! shall worship no all-hs before me also.

    there is unholy corruption in all churches, synagogues, and mosques today. and is why i, choose to remain a deist with only TheTorah Scroll.

  • Deists like Jefferson and Franklin were not orthodox Christians, nor were Washington or Madison, though they never discussed it publicly.

  • What I think about the Apricot Wonder doesn’t matter. What’s relevant here is Jeffress, and his moving of the goalposts. It doesn’t matter if I hate your president or love him; Jeffress definitely moved his goalposts. I care about nothing else. 

  • That is not the point, and it is an arguable point in some respects, particularly in regard to Jefferson. Nor did they comprise all the founding fathers.

  • We have God given rights whether you believe or not- jeffrees is only calling out the obvious in our constituion for the right of this country to protect itself by these natural laws for all of us. Romans is a template of thought our Founders thought about to protect you and the thuggery out there! I suppose you would rather be burned alive by a nuke? The Democrat ANTIFA Party needs to clean up its past history if you haven’t read much.

  • were all post modernist in this 21’st century so you obviously don’t understand culture..as most people on here can barely figure out ..it’s not a bad thing it’s where we’re at in a modern age.

  • Proof for this truth-claim of yours, please: “Romans is a template of thought our Founders thought”. Otherwise, I rest my case that your previous and this comments have 0 to do with Robert “Nuke’em” Jeffress.

  • Judeo Christian ethics were founded into the US Constitution- about inalienable rights and managing government- it is okay to defend your self if you are assaulted personally- corporately as well as the USA..we did in WW-2, when we were bombed..we went after terrorists since
    9-11..comon think! It infers on the template in a logical way- read Romans 13 on how government should be and know they are put there by God. I don’t want to get into a tit for tat with you- just read and quit obstructing to everyone’s opinion..jeffrees doesn’t want war- he is saying a backdrop biblically how we should respond when thugs want war. don’t you turn this into a 3 day debate okay.God loves you
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  • Biblical passages all over the New Testament are templates for our Constitution- obviously, you have never read it- so there is no need to talk to someone who refuses to enlighten oneself..just believe in your post modernist ideology “all is relevant thinking” when that is normal for most people these days. ok got it?

  • it is saddening most college profs. are so marxist they can’t think out the box and students as you ” Never questioned their authority’ for a better grade!

  • Re: “So when you read the Bible how do you interpret it?” 

    I don’t “interpret” it. I read the words that are there. 

  • so doctrine actually matters to you? you said I read the words that are there..good start.
    Do you try to read into the passages to make them say it differently? just answer the question.

  • Re: “so doctrine actually matters to you?” 

    Nope. Not in the least. 

    Re: “you said I read the words that are there” 

    Yes I did. 

    Re: “good start.” 

    Thanks, I’m glad you approve. 

    Re: “Do you try to read into the passages to make them say it differently? just answer the question.” 

    I have no problem answering that question. My answer to it is, “No.” 

  • Re: “Post modernist thinking today is about -making up your own beliefs on what you read or equate to the modernist thinking our friends have … 

    Well, you don’t need to worry about me! I have no metaphysical beliefs — at all. 

    Re: “for instance many people saying this..’oh i believe if I’m a good person I can go to heaven’ that’s a p.m. thought.. flawed and feels good..but biblically the bible doesn’t say that at all.” 

    Actually the Bible says a few different things about that. In some places it says believing in God is enough (e.g. Rom 3:28, Gal 2:16). In others it says one needs to treat others well (e.g. Mt 25:31-46). I have no idea which one is the “real” answer, or if any of them have any veracity at all; I just know those are the words on the pages of the Bible. 

  • there are two words in understanding doctrine- hermeneutics have these two- eisegesis or exegesis ..eisegesis reads into the text and gets you into trouble intellectually ..you’re not acquainted with these terms..sorry too much to explain unless you read up
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  • then post modernist thinking is how you reconcile biblical context by taking it out of context to fit your post modernist viewpoint..this is typical of 90% of Americans who disbelieve the bible. You’re entitled to believe wrongly in the face of biblical doctrine..that is your right. I won’t use a hammer on your head..to convince you nor anyone. You make your choices this side of eternity.

  • And then there were John Adams (Unitarian) and Tom Paine (deist). That makes six of the main Founders.

  • “main founders?” most well known rather. Even as a Unitarian Adams would have had a more favorable view of the faith than today’s detractors. Paine was hardly a founder, he crossed the scene briefly, and his signature is affixed in place of prominence on any founding document. nor did he ever hold an elected office.

  • You are right, can’t talk to people with NO Religionlous Moral Compass, they will never understand. God Bless!

  • I tell these people to just move on- I refuse to debate illogical people on here. They perpetuate dialogue that goes in circles….circles and dead-ends – they just want the last word even if you can’t make out what they are saying- which means I won!
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  • Paine’s Crisis writings led to the Declaration of Independence and Paine’s draft of the Declaration was used by Jefferson, who got all the credit. Throughout the war his writings spurred our efforts. Paine clearly ranks as one of the Founders.

  • Jeffress’ mother, a distinguished Dallas journalism teacher, taught generations of students about critical thinking and fact vs. opinion. Son Robert makes blasphemy of Christianity and dishonors her memory.

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