Why We Shouldn’t Call Ourselves Born-Again Christians

Funny how we grab a random title or catch-phrase and hold on to it for dear life.

Take, for instance, our identity. We’ve been chosen and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Who are we?

Saints.
Christians.
Children of God.
Disciples.
Followers.
Believers.

Consider the lingo of the evangelical world. We shy away from “saints” at risk of sounding Catholic. “Christian” is perhaps the most popular. The others are also biblical terms, though some are rarely used.

But then there’s the ever-popular addition {especially in the 70s-80s, thanks to Pres. Carter}: born again. You’ve heard the phrase tossed around. “I’m a born-again Christian.” “The Lord’s table is for born-again believers.”

Where does this phrase “born again” originate?3695471693_3465ca3a10_o

Oh, look. That one encounter with Nicodemus. Recorded only in John’s Gospel.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.'” John 3:3-7

Somehow Peter got the memo, because he mentions it. Twice.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Pet 1:3

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. 1 Pet 1:23

And . . . that’s it. A total of three separate instances. Years of “born-again Christians” from these few mentions! Amazing! And it’s not even an adjective! No “born-again Christian” or “born-again believer.” John and Peter simply tell us what it means to be “born again.”

{Need} You must be born again.
{Cause} God has caused us to be born again.
{Origin} According to Peter, we have been born again of imperishable seed, which is the Word. According to John, we are born of the Spirit.
{Result} You must be born again to enter the kingdom of God.
{Effect} Since we have been born again, we should love one another.

Folks, don’t call yourselves born-again Christians unless you know what it means. Furthermore, it’s a bit redundant. Born-again Christian? As opposed to one who’s not born again? Really, I think “Christian” will do.

For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Acts 11:26

If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him glorify God in that name. 1 Pet 4:16

 [image  credit: flickr.com]


17 thoughts on “Why We Shouldn’t Call Ourselves Born-Again Christians

  1. “Furthermore, it’s a bit redundant. Born-again Christian? As opposed to one who’s not born again? Really, I think “Christian” will do.”

    I completely disagree. 1000% percent. It is the furthest thing from the truth to say that it is a redundant statement.

    The term ‘Christian’ is such a watered down term these days – including a variations of different religions. Catholic, Protestant, Mormon (yes, I’ve had people tell me they are a Christian and then say Mormon later in the conversation.). It’s a generalized term in our society. Just like other terms such as Republican. You can be a Republican but there are other divisions of that such as a conservative Republican for one.

    By dropping the born-again phrase, you fall into this trap of wanting to keep your true religion under your hat. Instead of being “one of those” fanatic Jesus followers. No, thank you. We’ve had enough political correctness corrupt our way of thinking and I’m not okay with the passive aggressive statement of “I think Christian will do.” because I’m not afraid to admit it.

    I’m proud to admit that I am a born-again believer, washed with the blood of Jesus Christ. And without that second birth, I would not have a way to spend eternity in Heaven. And because of that glorious gift, I will not be afraid to say it.

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    1. Thanks, Ana, for your feedback! I understand where you’re coming from. Part of my aim in this article is to point us back to biblical terminology. The Bible calls us Christians, so that’s what we should be called. The Bible never calls us “born-again Christians,” because Christians are born-again. Rather than adopt new terms, I think it will usually be more profitable and effective to show non-Christians (who claim to be Christians) what a Christian really is. We don’t have to prove it with a term. Let’s prove it with our lives and message. I am proud to be born again and will declare it! I am proud to be a Christian, and I’ll declare that, too! I do not mean to add to the political correctness of this world, trust me. My point in this article is simply: know what you claim, and say it like God says it. Thanks again for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Laura. That is a very interesting thought. I have never considered the “water” referred to in John 3:5 to mean “baptism.” Rather, I think it refers to physical birth, as opposed to spiritual birth. We’re all born of water (physically coming from the womb), but we must be born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. This is consistent with the surrounding verses in John 3. Plus, the Bible teaches that a person is saved by grace through faith, and not of works (baptism).

      Those are my thoughts! 🙂 Thanks again for sharing!

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  2. Hi! I’ve just come through your blog through Strangers and Pilgrims – and I am so glad I did.

    I completely agree with you. When I was a new Christian, being brought up in a Pentecostal family, I used the term “born again Christian”. Now, I feel a little ashamed – in the sense that I felt I was somehow *more* Christian than someone who referred to themselves as that. I don’t know if all people feel this way by using the term, but I know I did. Now, I say I am a Christian. If pushed further, I say I am evangelical. If asked what denomination I’m from, I say Anglican.

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  3. I think I understand the point you make to bring awareness to the terms and phrases we use and to make sure of there meaning when we use them. I also understand that when speaking to people who do not understand christianity, to those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior and do not understand who Jesus is, we must be careful because some of the terms and/or phrases we use they do not understand what they mean.

    However, I would use great caution when saying something like “Really, I think “Christian” will do” because today, the term “Christian” means different things to different people as some people refer to themselves as a “Christian” based on the fact that they have been baptized and they teach that you must be baptized to enter Heaven.

    The word “again” in the phrase “Born Again” means “from above”. So people must understand that they too must be born from above to enter into Heaven’s gates and spend eternity with Jesus, the One who paid for our sins. The way we describe who we are, give the Gospel, etc. will also depend on who you are speaking to and where you are. To fellow born-again Christians, they will understand what you mean. If you are speaking to a person that has no idea who Jesus is….well, you may use different terminology.

    I do appreciate your response to one of the above comments…the Bible teaches that we are saved through faith and not of works… For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it (salvation) is a gift (a gift is something that you did not work for, it was freely given) of God: Not of works (including baptisim), lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:9. Your post is certainly food for thought 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Renee. I so appreciate your feedback and certainly understand your concern. I guess my approach would be to use the terms the Bible uses {that’s pretty important to me} and focus on showing the world their proper definition. So instead of shying away from a term because it’s misunderstand, I proudly use it, but use it properly. Instead of creating my own terms to help communicate truth, I cling to those God has given and make a difference in that way. So, I don’t think the terminology needs to change depending on the person. I think we should use God’s terminology and teach people {Christian and non-Christian alike} how He defines it. Hope that makes sense.

      Thanks again for sharing! So insightful!

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      1. Hi Lydia! When I said that we may need to change our terminology depending on who we are speaking to, I was referring to the fact that you may not explain the Gospel to a person from Mongolia using the same terms as you would someone from Tennessee. Until recently, there was no term, or no way to explain what grace means in the Mongolian language. My husband will be traveling to Ghana, Africa in a few months and I doubt he will be able to use the same terminology there. A lot of people speak English there but I still do not think he will be able to speak to an African using the same terminology he would use with someone from southern USA.

        Looks like you have a great discussion going on here! I wish you the best!

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        1. Ah, I see what you mean. Thanks for clarifying. Yes, I can see how there may be times to use different language to make it understandable for the person. And hopefully we always have the opportunity to point them back to the words of Jesus! Thanks again!

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  4. Again thank you for a thinking post. Personally I like being referred to as a Born-Again-Believer in Jesus Christ. I also enjoy being know as an extremist when it comes to being filled with the Holy Spirit and walking and talking daily with Jesus Christ. It is good to take scriptures apart and I am glad you also used Peter and his mention of born again. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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  5. Hey Lydia – love that you are looking at the words and demanding logic be followed with them. I am true believer that we need to know the meaning behind the words, and why we use them. We also need to make sure that we are looking at the meaning of the word at the time it was written (historical context). So in that way I am right there with you.

    However, keep in mind that the term “Christian” was also barely used in the Bible – at least if you start with KJV – it starts to show up more in more modern translations because of the use of the word in our more modern times – granted if you look at the NASB it shows up more.

    Just wanted to add to the conversation – I really do love seeing posts that inspire a conversation, thank you for sharing this with #TheCozyReadingSpot.

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    1. Great point, Marissa! Really, I just found it interesting that “Christian” was a title used by the early church to “label” followers of Christ. Translated into English, of course, because we can’t really get around that. But, the Bible never uses the phrase “born again” as a title or description of the Christian. We must be born again, but that is the definition of “Christian.” They are one and the same, so it doesn’t make sense to say “born-again Christian,” as that is redundant! Hope that makes sense.

      Many would think I’m being picky about all of this, and maybe I am. Really, I just think it’s important to know what we’re saying and to get back to “Bible language” instead of creating our own. A person’s choice of words can make a big difference, and I think God meant what he said!

      Thanks so much for joining the discussion!

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  6. Hey Lydia!

    Oh my goodness! I am praying for you sister. You are not afraid to delve into potentially sticky topics. But what you’ve shared here has been shared in love and with a good bit scriptural support.

    What’s so interesting is, as I was reading this post with the accompanying scriptures, I started to realize that born again and Christian are synonymous terms. Then, as I reached the bottom of your post I saw that was exactly your point. Lol! So the fact that we repeat them to explain what we are is redundant. I didn’t see that until I read this post.

    Thanks for sharing and providing some insight on this. I totally get where you are coming from and happen to agree that your point is scriptural. I found you over at Wedded Wednesday(I think?). :o)

    Have a blessed weekend!
    Tiffiney

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    1. Oh how funny! That’s so cool that you came to the same conclusion! Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for praying for me as I delve into potentially sticky topics, haha! I need all the prayer I can get! Appreciate your encouragement today!

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