Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), who is also the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, sparked a controversy with his Easter Sunday tweet stating that Christ's resurrection transcends to helping people.
"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," wrote Warnock which he eventually deleted after receiving backlash from several conservatives, reports Christian Headlines.
Jason Romano, an author and the director of media at Sports Spectrum, tweeted a response stating that much as he understand the Senator's sentiment, the theological assertion was off.
"With all due respect, this is literally the opposite of what the Gospel says. Ephesians 2 states that clearly. Faith alone, Christ alone," tweeted Jason Romano. "Love God, Love others. We should always help others. But ... that's [not] how we're saved. Romans, Ephesians, the Gospels all make it clear we can't save ourselves. If we could, then Jesus dying on the cross for nothing."
Following the same line of thought, Mark Jackson, the pastor of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Clarksdale, Mississippi, stressed the significance of the holiday.
"You sir have totally missed the meaning of this day. Without the resurrection of Christ, there is no hope of salvation at all. There is no greater meaning of this day than that of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ," he wrote in his tweet.
Other more hardline responses accused Warnock of bordering heresy.
"This is a false gospel and heresy," wrote attorney Jenna Ellis who is the legal counsel of John MacArthur's Grace Community Church. "We cannot save ourselves. 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. Read Romans, 'Reverend' Warnock. You are a false teacher."
"You're a heretic," Republican Caleb Hull also tweeted back.
Others tweeted verses like the College Republicans at Georgia which wrote Ephesians 2:8-10 as response to Warnock's claim.
But the senator/minister also had people defending him. Responding to one of Warnock's critics, MSNBC's Joy Reid commented that Jesus's death does not automatically mean the end of evil.
"Jesus didn't vow to end evil. He gave us a path to overcome it," said Reid. "He lay on the cross and asked his father why he had been forsaken. He died not to end sin but to teach courage in the midst of sin."
Nicole Phillips, director of the Black Church Studies Program at Emory University wished that Warnock had been careful with his word choices.
"I think he has to be careful about his wording," Phillips said. "He opens himself up to attack. I think it shows not much has changed."
Over 2,000 people commented on Warnock's tweet before he finally decided to delete it. Jenna Ellis tweeted again stating that the Senator also remove the title "Reverend" before his name.
"Warnock deleted his heretical tweet. He should delete Reverend in front of his name too," she tweeted.
Warnock deleted his heretical tweet.
He should delete Reverend in front of his name too. pic.twitter.com/6FYNG6LFZ1
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) April 5, 2021
A commentary in Washington Post states that these differing views among Christians over Warnock's post is reflective of the "religious and political chasms" about Christianity.
"For many conservative Christians, the tweet challenged the core belief of their faith: Jesus' literal resurrection is the way to salvation. To many progressive and moderate Christians, Warnock seemed to be suggesting closeness to God is more about their actions, what they do to relieve suffering and create justice. The seeking of social justice is emphasized in particular in the Black church," observes the columnist.
The Bible, however, is clear with regards to salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."