Pastor-Turned-Senator Warnock Pushes Salvation by Works, Social Justice Over God’s Grace … on Easter
One of the sticks Protestants have used to hit Catholics with in the past is the charge that Catholics believe in salvation by works. Meanwhile, non-Catholic Christians have taken refuge in the doctrines of salvation by faith alone — maintaining that you cannot be saved by good works.
However, if you were to ask any person in the street how to get to heaven, nine out of 10 would probably say, “You have to be a good person.” The idea that one can be saved simply by being a good person has been around a long time. It used to go by the name of “Pelagianism” after a British preacher named Pelagius from the fourth century. The heresy of Pelagianism was condemned by the Catholic council of Ephesus in the year 431, and the Catholic authorities have condemned the theory of salvation by works ever since.
Considering the Protestant Christians’ historic condemnation of salvation by works, it was stunning to see a prominent Protestant pastor publicly teach the heresy over the Easter holiday. On Twitter the Reverend Raphael Warnock, the newly-minted Senator from Georgia wrote: “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are a Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.” He has since deleted the tweet, following backlash.
So Social Justice is Our Source of Salvation, Rev. Warnock?
Any Christian pastor — Catholic or Protestant — should be able to assess the problems with this statement. First, “we are able to save ourselves?” I don’t think so. We are saved by God’s grace. Second, “Whether you are a Christian or not…” So faith and commitment to Jesus Christ and the gospel are not required? All that is needed is “a commitment to helping others”? If any teaching qualifies for “salvation by works alone” surely it is Reverend Warnock’s distorted version of the gospel.
This false gospel is not “Jesus saves” but “Social Justice Saves.” That this parody of the gospel should be preached over Easter by a nationally recognized pastor is shocking. Any Christian who has basic Bible knowledge and a smidgen of theology should know that we can’t save ourselves and salvation is not by good works. This unfaithfulness to the core Christian message is almost as bad as the pro-abortion stance of the so-called “devout Catholics” who are the current president and speaker of the house.
Good Deeds Come From the Gospel, But are Not the Gospel
Good deeds or “a commitment to help others” is certainly a necessary part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He says so in Matthew’s gospel when he reminds us that “whatever we do to the least of these” we do to him, but this important part of the message is not the heart of the message. As the reformer John Calvin summed it up, “You can’t get into heaven by good works, but you also can’t get into heaven without good works.”
During this Easter season all Christians should be clear: a commitment to helping others is the result of the gospel, but it is not the gospel. The gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the old, old, story of a sinful humanity in need of a savior — Jesus of Nazareth — who gave his life and rose triumphant to redeem our world. Salvation is through the God-empowered decision to turn from our own way and put our faith in Christ’s one, full, final sacrifice. Then, being baptized into his death and resurrection we can truly live the life of helping others.
Dwight Longenecker is the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He is the author of Immortal Combat: Confronting the Heart of Darkness.