That Jesus Christ died to save people from their sins, and that Easter celebrates his resurrection, is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
But Sen. Raphael Warnock appears to have a different take.
The Georgia Democrat, who rose to national prominence as senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said in an Easter Sunday tweet that the holiday is about more than Jesus rising from the dead, and that people can save themselves by helping others.
“The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Mr. Warnock tweeted. “Whether you are a Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”
He deleted the tweet several hours later after being lambasted on Twitter as a “phony pastor” and “false teacher” and for promoting “false doctrine,” “blasphemy” and “unbiblical theology.”
“With all due respect, this is literally the opposite of what the Gospel says. Ephesians 2 states that clearly. Faith alone, Christ alone,” said former ESPN producer Jason Romano.
Said a self-identified Lutheran pastor: “Rev. Warnock, with respect, the whole point of Easter is that Christ died to take away the sins of the world and rose to show they were sealed in the grave. Christ saves, nothing else. It’s disheartening to see you, a fellow clergyman, downplaying the central tenet of our faith.”
Christian theologian Kyle J. Howard tweeted: “A pastor should know better than this, I have to believe @ReverendWarnock does know better. Christian ministers MUST avoid social pressures on both sides of the spectrum & not give in. We are saved by Faith alone & Easter IS about Christ who is God & therefore transcendent.”
Jenna Ellis, a former Colorado Christian University professor and Trump 2020 campaign legal adviser, called Mr. Warnock’s message “false gospel and heresy. We cannot save ourselves.”
Others sided with Mr. Warnock, including MSNBC host Joy Reid, who rebuked Ms. Ellis for challenging his interpretation.
“This lady is literally calling the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church — The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s church — a heretic. This actually happened today,” Ms. Reid tweeted. “Madame, I’m gonna take @ReverendWarnock’s take, as a pastor and a scholar on the Word over yours, if you don’t mind.”
Some cheered Mr. Warnock for being inclusive.
“What could possibly be objectionable about this? He’s clearly trying to reach out to people beyond his own faith and include them in what Christians celebrate,” said former Weather Channel writer Terrell Johnson.
Mr. Warnock has been criticized for his ties to left-wing theology — he delivered the 2018 eulogy for James Hal Cone, founder of Black liberation theology — and pro-choice stance on abortion.
More than 25 Black pastors signed a letter in December urging Mr. Warnock to “uphold the Biblical defense of life and to fight against the systemic racism of abortion.”