Thursday, June 24, 2004

Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism: Born again I

Old Post: Way back when I was first writing this series, I told you I'd get back to this topic. The last substantive post was on the inerrancy of Scripture. So it took a couple of months. Let's begin.

The phrase "born again" appears twice in the Bible. The first time is in Jesus's conversation with Nicodemus, in John 3:1-8:
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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

The second time is in 1 Peter 1:13-23:
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."

Although Paul never uses the phrase, you can see its association with his talk about Christians being new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17; also Galatians 6:15,Ephesians 4:24, Colossions 3:10):
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

From these, you can see that Christians are born-again by definition. What does it mean? Well, it means that you have a new beginning, the old sins and alienation are washed away (2 Corinthians 5:17), you are adopted into the family of God, in a sense born into his family, so now you may be called a son of God (John 1:12). Finally, you have eternal life that begins with your new birth (1 Peter 1:23) and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

So, this is what it means to be born again. The question is how do you become born again. When fundamentalists and evangelicals talk about being born again, they're usually referring not to this "new creature" understanding, but to the moment when someone becomes a Christian. This is also called being saved or coming to Christ.

I'll talk about a couple of different views on this in the next post on this topic.

New Post: This discussion is continued above.

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