Over the weekend, millions of Christians celebrated Jesus's resurrection and victory over sin. In many churches, after a year plagued by the pandemic, Resurrection Sunday provided hope that despite life's hardships, Jesus has defeated death and reconciled repentant sinners to God. Pastors around the country reminded their congregants that Jesus's resurrection is at the center of the gospel and the reason we celebrate Easter.
However, on the day when Jesus's resurrection normally takes center stage, Raphael Warnock, the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Georgia's junior Senator took to Twitter to share a very different message: "The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves."
It is no surprise that Raphael Warnock is a liberal politician. Warnock ran on a progressive platform and has been a reliable rubber stamp for Chuck Schumer's liberal priorities since taking office. In his short tenure in the U.S. Senate, he has voted to confirm President Joe Biden's most progressive nominees including Xavier Becerra for HHS Secretary and Rachel Levine for Assistant Secretary of Health. After the House of Representatives narrowly passed legislation that would cut religious freedom protection and expand abortion access, Warnock tweeted support for the bill and encouraged a vote in the Senate. Again, Warnock has not surprised anyone with his voting record or rhetoric since arriving in Washington.
However, the reverend's since-deleted Easter tweet underscores something even more pernicious than his liberal political instincts. Warnock, despite pastoring a well-known church, holds to a progressive form of Christianity that regularly co-opts the gospel for social action and reduces Christian faith to nothing more than a means to something else. For many so-called "progressive" Christians, the Bible's message of reconciliation with a holy God is subservient to political and cultural goals.
In one sense, Warnock's diminished understanding of Jesus's resurrection is not surprising. Warnock is a three-time graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, one of the most theologically liberal seminaries in the world. Although the seminary maintains it is "grounded in the Christian tradition," it admits Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarian Universalists, and students who identify as "pagan" into its programs of study. Student groups on campus include "Seminarians for Reproductive Justice" and a caucus for "queer people of color." In 2019, seminary students were encouraged in a chapel service confess to plants. In another, a ritual to melting ice was performed.
Warnock's Easter remark is revealing in the same way his claim to be a "pro-choice pastor" was on the campaign trail. Both comments are similar in that they reveal Warnock's propensity to misinterpret and misapply Scripture. The Bible is clear on the personhood of the unborn. It is also crystal clear on the meaning of Easter (Mark 16). To be completely wrong on both issues suggests an approach to Scripture that ignores the clear meaning of the biblical text in favor of an ulterior agenda or motive.
To be clear, there is nothing "more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ" as Warnock believes. The message of Easter, the very center of Christianity, is that God took the initiative to save sinners because sinners cannot save themselves. As Paul explains in Ephesians 2:1, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked." However, because of God's love, verse four says, "when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ." As Paul explains elsewhere, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). In other words, Christ died as a sacrifice for sin. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus reconciled us with God (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
There is nothing anyone can do to save themselves. This is made clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 which says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Of course, Christians are called to do good works. A verse later, Paul writes, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." However, the suggestion that "through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves" is contrary to everything that Bible teaches about salvation and strips the empty tomb of its power.
Raphael Warnock is free to believe and teach whatever he wants. However, the message he is preaching of salvation through good works directly contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ which promises salvation on the basis of Christ's completed work on the cross. Faith in Jesus, not works, is the only way to be saved (Acts 4:12).
In short, many of Senator Warnock's policy proposals are bad for America. But nothing is more dangerous for your soul than Reverend Warnock's misguided beliefs about Jesus's resurrection. For the sake of your eternal destiny, trust Scripture which says, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9).