Conservative Christians accuse Raphael Warnock of 'heresy' over Easter tweet

Raphael Warnock
Rev. Raphael Warnock |

Many conservatives and Christians have accused Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., of heresy after he insisted that people could save themselves through works and without the need for our Savior Jesus Christ.

Warnock serves as the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the late civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, and narrowly won a special Senate election earlier this year. On Easter Sunday, Warnock sent out a tweet stating that “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” adding, “Whether you are a Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.” 

His tweet quickly led many to rebuke such assertions and he subsequently deleted it from his account. 

Benjamin Watson, a former NFL football player and outspoken pro-life activist, maintained that “Easter is not a story for moral motivation toward good works” in a Sunday evening tweet. “The resurrection reveals our INABILITY to save ourselves in this life and the next, proving Jesus alone holds that power. Urging people to help others need not come at the expense of doctrine. To do so is heresy.”

Former Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., a pastor who's running for a seat in the U.S. Senate, posted a video in response to Warnock’s tweet. “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the meaning of Easter, it is the Gospel,” he said.

“He went on to say that ‘we can save ourselves.’ This is antithetical of the scriptures. As a former pastor, I hope people, no matter what your background or affiliation, will join me in calling this guy out for exactly what he is: nothing short of a false prophet,” Walker asserted.

Debbie Dooley, the co-founder and president of the Atlanta Tea Party, posted a screenshot of a Bible passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians that directly contradicts Warnock’s analysis. “For by grace are ye saved by faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Dooley also suggested that Warnock should read John 3:16, which proclaims that “Easter is about God giving his only son as a sacrifice for our sins and Jesus rising from the dead on the 3rd day.”  

A tweet from the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative grassroots organization, alleged that Warnock’s “liberal theology completely demeans the sacrifice that we just celebrated on Easter Sunday,” adding, “The focus should never be on us, but on the all-powerful Son of God and His love for every man and woman.”

David Brody, the chief political analyst of CBN News, characterized Warnock’s tweet as “100% theologically WRONG.” 

“We can’t save ourselves. That’s the WHOLE POINT of why Jesus came to this Earth. He came so we have a way to Heaven to be with Him. Shame on the ‘Reverend,’” he wrote.

While conservatives criticized Warnock’s tweet, liberals came to the senator’s defense.

Eugene Scott, a political reporter for The Washington Post, strongly pushed back on the accusation by some that “Warnock is a heretic and has no business calling himself a Christian when he does not agree with Christianity and truth.”

Jenna Ellis, attorney to former President Donald Trump, made the aforementioned comment when slamming Warnock’s support for abortion, arguing that such a position was “against the Bible and Moral Truth.”

Scott added, “So many of these individual disagreements are really a microcosm of a larger (and longstanding) culture war between White evangelicals are the Black church over what exactly is ‘Christian’ and how that faith will shape policy and culture.”

When someone left a comment on Scott’s post lamenting that a pastor was getting “Jesus-splained,” the reporter described Ellis as “someone whose boss couldn’t even name one Bible verse despite being evangelicals’ ‘dream president.’” 

Ellis was one of the most forceful critics of Warnock’s comments, sending out multiple tweets taking issue with the Georgia senator’s analysis. In one tweet, she suggested, “If Warnock’s church were truly biblical and Christian, he would not be a pastor. His theology and practice is inconsistent with the Bible.”

“You cannot be a genuine Christian without accepting what the Bible teaches. Truth is an exclusive concept. Anything contrary is false,” she added.

In her first tweet on the matter, Ellis described Warnock’s Easter message as “a false gospel and heresy” because “we cannot save ourselves.” She explained that “the absolute truth and only meaning of Easter that matters is the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we must accept Him as Lord and Savior” in addition to advising Warnock to “Read Romans.”  

Ellis got into a back-and-forth with MSNBC opinion host Joy Reid, another defender of Warnock, who blasted the constitutional law attorney for “literally calling the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church -- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s church -- a heretic.”

Reid told Ellis that she would take Warnock’s take, “as a pastor and a scholar,” over Ellis.

Ellis responded by telling the television personality, “You don’t have to listen to my take, but always a better bet to believe God’s take. Read your Bible, and you’d have known this was heresy and a false gospel.” 

When Ellis remarked that Warnock should “delete Reverend in front of his name,” Reid asked: “What are your credentials to debate theology with an actual pastor??? Defending Donald Trump, the golden idol of the right, as he lied to his supporters to further a grift on them?”

In response, Ellis replied that she was qualified to debate Warnock because she was an “actual Christian.” 

Ellis was not the only conservative to suggest that Warnock’s beliefs do not correlate with authentic Christianity. Conservative political commentator Allie Beth Stuckey sent out a lengthy Twitter thread which, in part, contended that Warnock was an “advocate of Liberation Theology,” which “views Jesus as an example in political activism, not as King & Conqueror of sin & death.”

“But people who know a bit about this theology understand that this is ‘progressive Christianity’: Jesus/Christianity is a means to their political and social activist ends, which they like to categorize as helping others (what they typically mean is government programs). Warnock’s ‘Christianity’ is that of social justice moralism, wherein Jesus is a mascot for left-wing causes and beliefs & righteousness is earned via wokeness. It’s the same view as Ibram X. Kendi -- Jesus is not a savior but a liberator, and not from sin, but from ‘systems.’” 

Stuckey continued to elaborate on her belief that “liberation theology” informs Warnock’s beliefs: “Kendi said in a recorded talk posted on Twitter recently that while Jesus is not a savior, but ‘antiracism’ is. ‘It can literally save humanity,’ he said. Warnock says ‘we can save ourselves.’ Same concept by these 2 Liberation Theology advocates: we are our own gods.” 

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