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Born again, or to experience the new birth, is a phrase, particularly in , that refers to a "spiritual rebirth", or a regeneration of the human spirit. In contrast to one's physical birth, being "born again" is distinctly and separately caused by in the , it is not caused by baptism in water. It is a core doctrine of the denominations of the , , , , Plymouth Brethren and Churches along with all other evangelical Christian denominations. All of these Churches strongly believe 's words in the : "You must be born again before you can see, or enter, the Kingdom of ." Their doctrines also mandate that to be both "born again" and "saved", one must have a personal and intimate relationship with .

(2023). 9780804753364, Stanford University Press. .
(2023). 9781604771152 .

The term born again has its origin in the . In his first epistle, Apostle Peter describes the new birth as taking place from the seed which is the Word of God. (Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God. 1 Peter 1:23) In the gospel of Luke, himself refers to the Word of God as the seed. (The seed is the Word of God. Luke 8:11)

In contemporary Christian usage and apart from evangelicalism, the term is distinct from similar terms which are sometimes used in in reference to a person who is being or becoming a Christian. This usage of the term is usually linked to with water and the related doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Individuals who profess to be "born again" (meaning in the "Holy Spirit") often state that they have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ".

(1993). 9781434477484, . .

In addition to using this phrase with those who do not profess to be Christians, some Evangelical Christians use the phrase and those who belong to other Christian denominations or groups. This practice is based on the belief that non-Evangelical Christians, even those Christians who are professed Christians, are not "born again" and do not have a "personal relationship with Jesus." They therefore believe that they should evangelize to non-Evangelical Christians in the same way that they would evangelize to people who do not profess the Christian faith.

The phrase "born again" is also used as an adjective to describe individual members of the movement who espouse this belief, and it is also used as an adjective to describe the movement itself ("born-again Christian" and the "born-again movement").

The term is derived from an event in the Gospel of John in which the words of were not understood by a Jewish pharisee, .

The Gospel of John was written in , and the original text is ambiguous which results in a that Nicodemus misunderstands. The word translated as again is ἄνωθεν (), which could mean either "again", or "from above".Danker, Frederick W., et al, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed (Chicago: University of Chicago,2010), 92. Specifically see the first (from above) and fourth (again, anew) meanings. The double entendre is a figure of speech that the gospel writer uses to create bewilderment or in the hearer; the misunderstanding is then clarified by either Jesus or the narrator. Nicodemus takes only the literal meaning from Jesus's statement, while Jesus clarifies that he means more of a spiritual rebirth from above. English translations have to pick one sense of the phrase or another; the NIV, King James Version, and use "born again", while the New Revised Standard Version and the New English Translation prefer the "born from above" translation.Mullen, MS., in Kurian, GT., The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, J. Wiley & Sons, 2012, p. 302. Most versions will note the alternative sense of the phrase in a footnote.

Edwyn Hoskyns argues that "born from above" is to be preferred as the fundamental meaning and he drew attention to phrases such as "birth of the Spirit", "birth from God",cf. ; , , , but maintains that this necessarily carries with it an emphasis upon the newness of the life as given by God himself.Hoskyns, Sir Edwyn C. and Davy, F.N.(ed), The Fourth Gospel, Faber & Faber 2nd ed. 1947, pp. 211,212

The final use of the phrase occurs in the First Epistle of Peter, rendered in the King James Version as:

Here, the Greek word translated as "born again" is ἀναγεγεννημένοι ().Fisichella, SJ., Taking Away the Veil: To See Beyond the Curtain of Illusion, iUniverse, 2003, pp. 55–56.

The traditional Jewish understanding of the promise of salvation is interpreted as being rooted in "the seed of Abraham"; that is, physical lineage from Abraham. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that this doctrine was in error—that every person must have two births—natural birth of the physical body and another of the water and the spirit.Emmons, Samuel B. A Bible Dictionary. BiblioLife, 2008. . This discourse with Nicodemus established the Christian belief that all human beings—whether Jew or Gentile—must be "born again" of the spiritual seed of Christ. The further reinforced this understanding in 1 Peter 1:23. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that "a controversy existed in the primitive church over the interpretation of the expression the seed of Abraham. It is the teaching in one instance that all who are Christ's by faith are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to promise. He is concerned, however, with the fact that the promise is not being fulfilled to the seed of Abraham (referring to the Jews)."Driscoll, James F. "Divine Promise (in Scripture)". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 15 November 2009.[1]

writes that "The subjective change wrought in the soul by the grace of God, is variously designated in Scripture" with terms such as new birth, resurrection, new life, new creation, renewing of the mind, dying to sin and living to righteousness, and translation from darkness to light.

Jesus used the "birth" analogy in tracing spiritual newness of life to a divine beginning. Contemporary Christian theologians have provided explanations for "born from above" being a more accurate translation of the original Greek word transliterated . The New Testament Greek Lexicon. 30 July 2009. Theologian Frank Stagg cites two reasons why the newer translation is significant:

  1. The emphasis "from above" (implying "from Heaven") calls attention to the source of the "newness of life". Stagg writes that the word "again" does not include the source of the new kind of beginning;
  2. More than personal improvement is needed; "a new destiny requires a new origin, and the new origin must be from God."Stagg, Evelyn and Frank. Woman in the World of Jesus. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978.

An early example of the term in its more modern use appears in the sermons of . In the sermon entitled A New Birth he writes, "none can be holy unless he be born again", and "except he be born again, none can be happy even in this world. For ... a man should not be happy who is not holy." Also, "I say, a may be born again and so become an heir of salvation." Wesley also states infants who are baptized are born again, but for adults it is different:

A work called The Gospel Anchor noted in the 1830s that the phrase was not mentioned by the other Evangelists, nor by the Apostles except Peter. "It was not regarded by any of the Evangelists but John of sufficient importance to record." It adds that without John, "we should hardly have known that it was necessary for one to be born again." This suggests that "the text and context was meant to apply to Nicodemus particularly, and not to the world."LeFevre, CF. and Williamson, ID., The Gospel anchor. Troy, NY, 1831–32, p. 66. [3]

Scholars of , that is, attempting to ascertain how closely the stories of Jesus match the historical events they are based on, generally treat Jesus's conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 with skepticism. It details what is presumably a private conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, with none of the disciples seemingly attending, making it unclear how a record of this conversation was acquired. In addition, the conversation is recorded in no other ancient Christian source other than John and works based on John. According to , the larger issue is that the same problem English translations of the Bible have with the Greek ἄνωθεν () is a problem in the as well: there is no single word in Aramaic that means both "again" and "from above", yet the conversation rests on Nicodemus making this misunderstanding. As the conversation was between two Jews in Jerusalem, where Aramaic was the native language, there is no reason to think that they would have spoken in Greek. This implies that even if based on a real conversation, the author of John heavily modified it to include Greek wordplay and idiom.
(2023). 9780062285201, .

Denominational positions

Historically, the classic text from John 3 was consistently interpreted by early as a reference to baptism.Joel C. Elworthy, Ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament IVa, John 1-10 (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2007), p. 109-110 Modern Catholic interpreters have noted that the phrase 'born from above' or 'born again' is clarified as 'being born of water and Spirit'.

Catholic commentator John F. McHugh notes, "Rebirth, and the commencement of this new life, are said to come about ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ πνεύματος, of water and spirit. This phrase (without the article) refers to a rebirth which the early Church regarded as taking place through baptism."John F. McHugh, John 1-4, The International Critical Commentary (New York: T&T Clark, 2009), p. 227

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) notes that the essential elements of Christian initiation are: "proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion."CCC 1229 Baptism gives the person the grace of forgiveness for all prior sins; it makes the newly baptized person a new creature and an adopted child of God;; it incorporates them into the Body of Christ and creates a sacramental bond of unity leaving an indelible mark on the person's soul.CCC 1262-1274 "Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated."CCC 1272 The Holy Spirit is involved with each aspect of the movement of grace. "The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion. ... Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high."CCC 1989

The Catholic Church also teaches that under special circumstances, the need for water baptism can be superseded by the Holy Spirit in a 'Baptism of desire', such as when die or are martyred prior to Baptism.CCC 1260

Pope John Paul II wrote in Catechesi Tradendae about "the problem of children baptized in infancy who come for in the parish without receiving any other initiation into the faith and still without any explicit personal attachment to Jesus Christ." He noted that "being a Christian means saying 'yes' to Jesus Christ, but let us remember that this 'yes' has two levels: It consists of surrendering to the word of God and relying on it, but it also means, at a later stage, endeavoring to know better—and better the profound meaning of this word."CT 20

The modern expression being "born again" is really about the concept of "conversion".

The National Directory of Catechesis (published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB) defines conversion as, "the acceptance of a personal relationship with Christ, a sincere adherence to him, and a willingness to conform one's life to his." United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Directory of Catechesis (2005) p. 48 To put it more simply, "Conversion to Christ involves making a genuine commitment to him and a personal decision to follow him as his disciple."

Echoing the writings of Pope John Paul II, the National Directory of Catechesis describes a new intervention required by the modern world called the "New Evangelization". This is directed to the Church, to the baptized who were never effectively evangelized before, to those who have never made a personal commitment to Christ and the Gospel, to those formed by the values of secular culture, to those who have lost a sense of faith, and to those who are alienated. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Directory of Catechesis (2005) p. 47

Declan O'Sullivan, co-founder of the Catholic Men's Fellowship and knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, wrote that the "New Evangelization emphasizes the personal encounter with Jesus Christ as a pre-condition for spreading the gospel. The born-again experience is not just an emotional, mystical high; the really important matter is what happened in the convert's life after the moment or period of radical change."

The holds that "we are cleansed of our sins and born again and renewed in Holy Baptism by the Holy Ghost. But she also teaches that whoever is baptized must, through daily contrition and repentance, drown The Old Adam so that daily a new man come forth and arise who walks before God in righteousness and purity forever. She teaches that whoever lives in sins after his baptism has again lost the grace of baptism."
(2023). 9780982252321, Joel Baseley. .

With regard to the new birth, the holds that a personal conversion to Christianity is a joyful experience, in which the individual "accepts Christ as Lord" after which faith "daily grows inside the person." For Moravians, "Christ lived as a man because he wanted to provide a blueprint for future generations" and "a converted person could attempt to live in his image and daily become more like Jesus." As such, "heart religion" characterizes Moravian Christianity. The Moravian Church has historically emphasized , especially missionary work, to spread the faith.

, such as the , teach that "True faith entails a new birth, a spiritual regeneration by God's grace and power; 'believers' are those who have become the spiritual children of God." In Anabaptist theology, the pathway to salvation, is "marked not by a forensic understanding of salvation by 'faith alone', but by the entire process of repentance, self-denial, faith rebirth and obedience." Those who wish to tarry this path receive after the new birth.
(2005). 9780664230036, Westminster John Knox Press.

The phrase born again is mentioned in the 39 Articles of the in article XV, entitled "Of Christ alone without Sin". In part, it reads: "sin, as S. John saith, was not in Him. But all we the rest, although baptized and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things: and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

Although the phrase "baptized and born again in Christ" occurs in Article XV, the reference is clearly to the scripture passage in John 3:3.

In Reformed theology, is the sign and the seal of one's regeneration, which is of comfort to the believer. The time of one's regeneration, however, is a mystery to oneself according to the Canons of Dort.

According to the Reformed churches being born again refers to "the inward working of the Spirit which induces the sinner to respond to the effectual call". According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q 88, "the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all of which are made effectual to the elect for salvation." Effectual calling is "the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel." Shorter Westminster Catechism, Question 31.

In Reformed theology, "regeneration precedes faith."

(2005). 9781585586523, Baker Books. .
Samuel Storms writes that, "Calvinists insist that the sole cause of regeneration or being born again is the will of God. God first sovereignly and efficaciously regenerates, and only in consequence of that do we act. Therefore, the individual is passive in regeneration, neither preparing himself nor making himself receptive to what God will do. Regeneration is a change wrought in us by God, not an autonomous act performed by us for ourselves."
(2007). 9781433519635, Crossway. .

The majority of the world's Quakers are evangelical in churchmanship and teach a born-again experience (cf. Evangelical Friends Church International).
(2018). 9781107136601, Cambridge University Press.
(2016). 9781442244320, Rowman & Littlefield.

The Central Yearly Meeting of Friends, a Holiness Quaker denomination, teaches that regeneration is the "divine work of initial salvation (Tit. 3:5), or conversion, which involves the accompanying works of justification (Rom. 5:18) and adoption (Rom. 8:15, 16)." In regeneration, which occurs in the new birth, there is a "transformation in the heart of the believer wherein he finds himself a new creation in Christ (II Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:27)."

Following the new birth, taught the possibility of "holiness of heart and life through the instantaneous baptism with the Holy Spirit subsequent to the new birth" (cf. Christian perfection).

In , the "new birth is necessary for salvation because it marks the move toward holiness. That comes with faith."
(2023). 9780664230395, Westminster John Knox Press. .
, held that the New Birth "is that great change which God works in the soul when he brings it into life, when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness." Works, vol. 2, pp. 193–194 In the life of a Christian, the new birth is considered the first work of grace.
(1998). 9780687082124, Abingdon Press.
In keeping with Wesleyan-Arminian covenant theology, the Articles of Religion, in Article XVII—Of Baptism, state that is a "sign of regeneration or the new birth." The Methodist Visitor in describing this doctrine, admonishes individuals: "'Ye must be born again.' Yield to God that He may perform this work in and for you. Admit Him to your heart. 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.'"
(1993). 9780687307821, Kingswood Books. .
Methodist theology teaches that the new birth contains two phases that occur together, justification and regeneration:

teach that people are born again when they believe that Jesus died for their sin, and was buried, and rose again, and that by believing/trusting in Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, eternal life shall be granted as a gift by God. Those who have been born again, according to Baptist teaching, know that they are "children of God because the Holy Spirit witnesses to them that they are" (cf. assurance).
(2023). 9789996027024, African Books Collective.

Plymouth Brethren
The Plymouth Brethren teach that the new birth effects salvation and those who testify that they have been born again, repented, and have faith in the Scriptures are given the right hand of fellowship, after which they can partake of the Lord's Supper.

Holiness Pentecostals historically teach the new birth (first work of grace), entire sanctification (second work of grace) and baptism with the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by glossolalia, as the third work of grace.
(1999). 9789004116955, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.
The new birth, according to Pentecostal teaching, imparts "spiritual life".
(1965). 9783112044247, Mouton & Company.

Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that individuals do not have the power to choose to be born again, but that God calls and selects his followers "from above". Only those belonging to the "144,000" are considered to be born again.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Book of Mormon emphasizes the need for everyone to be reborn of God.

Disagreements between denominations
The term "born again" is used by several Christian denominations, but there are disagreements on what the term means, and whether members of other denominations are justified in claiming to be born-again Christians.


On the other hand, an Evangelical site argues:

The Reformed view of regeneration may be set apart from other outlooks in at least two ways.

History and usage
Historically, Christianity has used various to describe its rite of initiation, that is, spiritual regeneration via the of by the power of the water and the . This remains the common understanding in most of , held, for example, in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, , ,See the section on Anglicanism in Baptismal regeneration and in other historic branches of . However, sometime after the Reformation, attributed greater significance to the expression born again"born-again." Good Word Guide. London: A&C Black, 2007. Credo Reference. 30 July 2009 as an experience of religious conversion, symbolized by deep-water baptism, and rooted in a commitment to one's own personal faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. This same belief is, historically, also an integral part of doctrine, and is connected with the doctrine of Justification.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica:

According to J. Gordon Melton:

According to and Charles Partee:

The term born again has become widely associated with the Christian renewal since the late 1960s, first in the United States and then around the world. Associated perhaps initially with and the Christian counterculture, born again came to refer to a conversion experience, accepting Jesus Christ as lord and savior in order to be saved from hell and given eternal life with God in heaven, and was increasingly used as a term to identify devout believers. By the mid-1970s, born again Christians were increasingly referred to in the mainstream media as part of the born again movement.

In 1976, Watergate conspirator 's book Born Again gained international notice. Time magazine named him "One of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in America." The term was sufficiently prevalent so that during the year's presidential campaign, Democratic party nominee described himself as "born again" in the first magazine interview of an American presidential candidate.

Colson describes his path to faith in conjunction with his criminal imprisonment and played a significant role in solidifying the "born again" identity as a cultural construct in the US. He writes that his spiritual experience followed considerable struggle and hesitancy to have a "personal encounter with God." He recalls:

was the first President of the United States to publicly declare that he was born-again, in 1976.Hough, JF., Changing party coalitions, Algora Publishing, 2006, p. 203. By the 1980 campaign, all three major candidates stated that they had been born again.Utter, GH. and Tru, JL., Conservative Christians and political participation: a reference handbook, ABC-CLIO, 2004, p. 137.

Sider and KnippersSider, J. and Knippers, D. (eds), Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political Strategies for the Health of the Nation, Baker Books, 2005, p.51. state that "'s election that fall was aided by the votes of 61% of 'born-again' white Protestants."

The Gallup Organization reported that "In 2003, 42% of U.S. adults said they were born-again or evangelical; the 2004 percentage is 41%" and that, " are far more likely to identify themselves as born-again or evangelical, with 63% of blacks saying they are born-again, compared with 39% of . Republicans are far more likely to say they are born-again (52%) than Democrats (36%) or independents (32%)."

The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Politics, referring to several studies, reports "that 'born-again' identification is associated with lower support for government anti-poverty programs." It also notes that "self-reported born-again" Christianity, "strongly shapes attitudes towards economic policy."Smidt, C., Kellstedt, L., and Guth, J., The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Politics, Oxford Handbooks Online, 2009, pp.195-196.

Names which have been inspired by the term
The idea of "rebirth in Christ" has inspired Oxford Dictionary of First Names some common European : French René/Renée, Dutch Renaat/Renate, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Croatian , Latin /Renata, all of which mean "reborn", "born again". Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary, W. & R. Chambers (1954) p.1355

The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Politics notes: "The GSS ... has asked a born-again question on three occasions ... 'Would you say you have been 'born again' or have had a 'born-again' experience?" The Handbook says that "Evangelical, black, and Latino Protestants tend to respond similarly, with about two-thirds of each group answering in the affirmative. In contrast, only about one third of mainline Protestants and one sixth of Catholics (Anglo and Latino) claim a born-again experience." However, the handbook suggests that "born-again questions are poor measures even for capturing evangelical respondents. ... it is likely that people who report a born-again experience also claim it as an identity." The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Politics, OUP, p16.

See also

External links
  • The New Birth, , sermon No. 45. Wesley's teaching on being born again, and argument that it is fundamental to Christianity.

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