Born again, or to experience the new birth, is a phrase, particularly in evangelicalism, 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 baptism in the Christianity, it is not caused by baptism in water. It is a core doctrine of the denominations of the Anabaptism, Moravian Church, Methodism, Quakers, Baptists, Plymouth Brethren and Pentecostalism Churches along with all other evangelical Christian denominations. All of these Churches strongly believe Jesus's words in the Gospels: "You must be born again before you can see, or enter, the Kingdom of Heaven." Their doctrines also mandate that to be both "born again" and "saved", one must have a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus.
The term born again has its origin in the New Testament. 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 1:22) In the gospel of Luke, Jesus 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 Christianity in reference to a person who is being or becoming a Christian. This usage of the term is usually linked to baptism 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".
In addition to using this phrase with those who do not profess to be Christians, some Evangelical Christians use the phrase and evangelize 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 Gospel of John was written in Koine Greek, and the original text is ambiguous which results in a double entendre 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 Ambiguity 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 Revised Version 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.
Charles Hodge 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:
An early example of the term in its more modern use appears in the sermons of John Wesley. 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 Unitarianism 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. 
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 catechesis 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."
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."
Following the new birth, George Fox 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).
A prophet in the Book of Mormon taught his people that:
"the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."
Catholic Answers says:
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.
According to Encyclopædia Britannica:
According to J. Gordon Melton:
According to Andrew Purves and Charles Partee:
The term born again has become widely associated with the Evangelicalism Christian renewal since the late 1960s, first in the United States and then around the world. Associated perhaps initially with Jesus movement 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 Chuck Colson'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 Jimmy Carter described himself as "born again" in the first Playboy 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:
Jimmy Carter 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 "Ronald Reagan'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, "African American 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.