Sunday, November 05, 2006

Are Catholics “Born Again?”

What does it mean to be “born again” and how important is it?

First of all, it’s PLENTY important. Jesus said,

“"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

That means it’s plenty important. You can’t get into heaven without it.

But what does it mean?

From Catholic Answers, “Is Baptism Merely a Symbol?” By Kenneth J. Howell
OBJECTOR: I heard the most absurd thing the other day—a Catholic said baptism is necessary for salvation. That certainly can’t be true, because the Bible says in Acts 4:12 that Jesus is the only "name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

CATHOLIC: Baptism is necessary for salvation because 1 Peter 3:21 also says "baptism . . . now saves you." Jesus as the only Savior uses the waters of baptism to save people from their sins. Further, our Lord once said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16).

OBJECTOR: But that’s impossible. Baptism is a symbol of our faith in Christ. It is not the Savior himself. The Catholic doctrine confuses the symbol and the reality.

CATHOLIC: The Catholic doctrine of baptism unites the symbol and the reality. It is because of the union of the symbol—water—with the reality—the Holy Spirit—that the apostle Peter can say, "baptism now saves you." It is the same idea as Jesus said in John 3:5, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Being born of the water and the Spirit is an explanation of what he says in verse 3, "Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

OBJECTOR: But surely Jesus is not speaking here of baptism. Either he is speaking metaphorically or he is referring to the "water" that comes out during natural birth. He is saying that a person must be born twice: once naturally and once spiritually.

CATHOLIC: So you would agree that Jesus meant a spiritual birth, or regeneration, when he spoke of "being born of the Spirit"?

OBJECTOR: Yes, when he spoke of "being born again," he used the Greek word anothen, which means both again and from above. He intended to draw on the systematic ambiguity of the word to show that a supernatural birth is involved in being born again.

CATHOLIC: I agree. But tell me: When does a person have this experience of "being born again" or "being born from above"?

[Read the rest of the dialogue here.]

And so it goes. The Protestant challenges the Catholic view of being “born again.”

But it is important stuff. In fact, the most important kind of stuff.

If you’re ready to deepen your understanding [perhaps even discover how to save your soul!], I offer the following:

An evangelical-friendly discussion of questions surrounding the “born again” issue.

A more scholarly reply [but engaging] from a Catholic apologist.

To answer the question Are Catholics ‘born again?’ Steve Ray, a well known Catholic convert, offers a downloadable [Word document] short tale of “Andy.”

According to the Bible, not everyone makes it to heaven.

My aim is to enter heaven. I’d like to see you there too. Jesus has a plan. If I can help you find your way, please email me.

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