born again

   Born again is a phrase used by many Protestants to describe the phenomenon of gaining faith in Jesus Christ. It is an experience when everything they have been taught as Christians becomes real, and they develop a direct and personal relationship with God. The phrase derives from an incident in the Gospel of John, when Jesus tells Nicodemus, who is undergoing conversion: "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
   The experience is accompanied by a sense of God's forgiveness and an opening to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. While often associated with Evangelical Christianity, the phenomenon is common across the entire spectrum of Protestant churches. In churches that emphasize evangelism, the "born again" experience tends to become the norm, and everyone is expected to be able to recount such an experience.
   Most Protestants place the born again experience within the process of entering the Christian life. In this view, the beginning of faith should be followed by water baptism and joining a church (becoming active in a worshipping community), if these have not been done previously.
   Because many who experience being "born again" were already churchgoers, some critics compare the life of an ordinary church member unfavorably with the life of faith. In a minority of cases, this can lead to a rejection of church life, though most Protestants would point out that such a conclusion is unbiblical.
   Some Protestants who note that Jesus also told Nicodemus that unless someone is "born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God" believe that baptism is a necessary part of the born again experience, and that the absence of baptism negates its salvific effect. This idea is called baptismal regeneration and is rejected by most Protestants.
   See also Evangelicalism.
   Further reading:
   ■ Charles "Chuck" Colson, Born Again (Old Tappan, N.J.: Chosen Books, 1978
   ■ Richard D. Dixon, Diane E. Levy, and Roger C. Low-ery, "Asking the Born-Again Question," Review of Religious Research 30 (1988): 33-39; Billy Graham, How to Be Born Again (Waco, Tex.: Word, 1977).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.


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