David Closson is Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council. This article appeared in the Western Journal on December 6, 2020.
The eyes of the political world are on Georgia, where a pair of runoff Senate races will decide control of the U.S. Senate for the 117th Congress.
Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are running for re-election against Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively.
While both races are important, Warnock’s runoff against Loeffler has injected faith into the contest and prompted voters to look into the pastor’s theological training, sermons and ministry.
What should Christians in Georgia know about Warnock?
Warnock has pastored Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta for the past 15 years and previously pastored churches in New York and Maryland. Ebenezer is the same church where Martin Luther King Sr. served as pastor for 40 years and where his son, Martin Luther King Jr., served before leading the civil rights movement.
Warnock is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he earned multiple graduate degrees, including a master of divinity, a master of philosophy and a doctorate in philosophy.
Because of the formative nature of theological training, as well as Warnock’s long tenure as a student at the school, it is worth understanding a little bit about the seminary.
Although Union maintains that it is “[g]rounded in the Christian tradition,” the seminary abandoned any semblance of orthodoxy decades ago. In fact, the student population includes Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarian Universalists and those who identify as “pagan.”
Student groups on campus include “Seminarians for Reproductive Justice,” “Queer Caucus” and a caucus for “queer people of color.”
The school’s liberal-leaning theology is not a recent trend; rather, the seminary has been a bastion for liberal theology for over a century.
In one well-known episode, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer accepted a teaching position at Union Theological Seminary in 1939, but soon left in disgust. “There is no theology here,” he wrote:
“They talk a blue streak without the slightest substantive foundation and with no evidence of any criteria. The students — on the average twenty-five to thirty years old — are completely clueless with respect to what dogmatics [theology] is really about. They are unfamiliar with even the most basic questions. They become intoxicated with liberal and humanistic phrases, laugh at the fundamentalists, and yet basically are not even up to their level.”
In short, the seminary’s progressive worldview is contrary to Scripture, and the school has been known to encourage and participate in heretical practices.
For example, during one chapel service, students confessed to plants.
During another chapel service, a ritual to melting ice was performed.
Christian political engagement, including on the part of pastors, is good and should be encouraged. However, it is critical that pastors and church leaders running for office align their political platforms with a biblical worldview.
Although Warnock is a pastor, his public statements make it clear that his theology and political views are not in step with a biblical worldview.
For example, Scripture is unequivocally clear that the unborn are human persons whom God knows in the womb.
However, when responding to a reporter’s questions about his stance on health care and abortion, Warnock said he believes abortion is a human right. “For me, reproductive justice is consistent with my commitment to that,” he said. “I believe unequivocally in a woman’s right to choose.”
Warnock has also made staunch statements concerning religious freedom, and specifically its relationship to LGBTQ issues. In an article for the Advocate, he wrote:
“Here’s what I know from over 20 years as a Baptist pastor — while faith at its best can heal and bring us closer together, too often, I have witnessed it used to justify injustice against women, minorities, and especially LGBTQ people. Faith wielded as a cudgel to harm our neighbor has no place in our pews, in our streets, or in the halls of Congress.”
In other words, Warnock believes that when your biblical beliefs or personal faith contradict the beliefs and convictions of the culture, your biblical beliefs or personal faith must yield to the culture.
Evidently, Warnock places a higher priority on making people feel comfortable than challenged and convicted. Such prioritization is a clear red flag and cause for concern for evangelical Christian voters.
While we are called to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31, Matthew 7:12), including those who disagree with us or hate us (Luke 6:27, 32-33), Scripture also warns us to beware of spiritual teachers who reject sound doctrine in favor of telling people what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Warnock says that Christian engagement in the public and political context is vital to ensuring the continuation of faith in all facets of society. Of course, Christians should be engaged and participate in public policy. However, we must ensure that our engagement is consistent with sound biblical doctrine.
Who we vote for matters because the leaders we vote into office will influence society and directly affect our daily lives and the lives of our neighbors.
Based on his public statements, Warnock is an example of someone who professes to be a Christian and holds the title of pastor but does not hold or promote a biblical worldview.