Christianity Knowledge Base

Born again is a term used primarily in the Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Pentecostal branches of Protestant Christianity, where it is associated with salvation, conversion and spiritual rebirth. Outside of these circles, the term is often applied by extension to other phenomena, including a transcending personal experience — or the experience of being spiritually reborn as a "new" human being.

Christian concepts[]

To be born again in Christianity is synonymous with spiritual rebirth and, in many denominational traditions, salvation. The term is used somewhat differently in different Christian traditions.

The Christian use of the term is derived from the third chapter of the Gospel of John, where Nicodemus visits Jesus:

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
-John 3:1-5 (King James Version)
(Note that some translators consider "born from above" to be a better translation than "born again".)

Most Christian denominations hold that a person must be born again in some sense in order to be a Christian, and thus that all who are true Christians are in fact born again, whether they describe themselves as such or not. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, considers that "Baptism is ... the sacrament by which we are born again of water and the Holy Ghost." [1], though the term is not frequently used by Catholics. This is also the belief held by Eastern Christianity, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism, among other Christian traditions. However, the term itself is most frequently used by Fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and Evangelical Protestants, where it is often associated with an intense conversion experience and an encounter of the individual with the power of God. Many Christians who are "born again" in this sense deny that those without such an experience are true Christians.

The idea of being born again carries with it the theological idea that a Christian is a new creation, given a fresh start by the action of God, freed from a sinful past life and able to begin a new life in relationship with Christ via the Holy Spirit. John Wesley and Christians associated with early Methodism referred to the born again experience as "the New Birth". The Unity Church suggests that being born again is a continuous process that must be done repeatedly as one "dies" to old, ineffective ideas and redirects oneself toward Christ consciousness.

In recent history, born again is a term that has been associated with evangelical renewal since the late 1960s, first in the United States and then later around the world. Associated perhaps initially with Jesus People and the Christian counterculture, born again came to refer to an intense conversion experience, 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. A 1976 book of that title by Watergate conspirator and convicted felon Charles Colson, describing his path to faith in conjunction with his criminal imprisonment, played a significant role in solidifying Born Again identity as a cultural construct in the U.S. The term was sufficiently prevalent that, during that year's Presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter described himself as born again, notably in the first Playboy magazine interview of a U.S. Presidential candidate. Modern music legends Little Richard and Bob Dylan were notable artists whose born again conversions in the late 1950's and 1970's, respectively, were particularly impacting on modern culture. Reborn Christians are also very often referred to as "New Born Christians".

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