It seems to me the term, “born again,” isn’t as popular in Christian circles as it was, say, thirty or forty years ago. Christians these days will say, “I’m an evangelical” rather than “I’m a born-again Christian.” Back when I was a Catholic teenager and young adult, Catholic friends, family, and myself were bemused by all the people claiming to be “born again.” “That’s so ridiculous,” we said. “Is a person supposed to crawl back into their mother?,” we mocked, not realizing we were repeating Nicodemus’ question in John 3:4. As Catholics, we had very little Bible knowledge because our church never encouraged us to read Scripture.
Several years later, through God’s Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I came to the knowledge that I was a sinner on my way to hell and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. At that wonderful and blessed moment, I was born again! My Savior’s perfect righteousness was imputed to me, I had no righteousness of my own. I have eternal life and fellowship with God through my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. All genuine Christians understand a person is born again, spiritually reborn, at the moment they accept Christ.
However, Catholics have an entirely different concept of what it means to be “born again.”
On the Catholic talk radio show I listen to, you’ll periodically hear the following question and answer:
Caller: Father, I was talking to my Protestant friend the other day and he asked me if I was “born again.” What should I tell him?
Priest: [with indignant anger] You tell him you were born again when you were baptized!!!
The Catholic church teaches that baptism (which occurs at infancy for the vast majority of Catholics) washes away all sin and then by subsequently participating in the church’s sacraments (eucharist, confession, confirmation, last rites), a Catholic allegedly receives graces which allegedly give them the ability to avoid sin so that they can hopefully be in a “state of grace” (without serious sin) immediately prior to death so as to merit Heaven. For Catholics, salvation is a process, which involves a lifelong effort to “cooperate with grace” and obey the Ten Commandments and church rules. But a Catholic can never have assurance of salvation because they don’t really know if they’ve done enough to be in a “state of grace” from one day to the next. Bible Christians know we could never be in a Vatican-defined “state of grace.” The only person who ever walked this Earth who was without sin, “serious” or otherwise, for even one hour was Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God.
The Catholic definition of being born again (i.e., baptism followed by a lifelong process of ritual and works) is antithetical to the Biblical teaching of accepting Jesus as Savior by faith alone in a moment of time (and then following Him as Lord).
I’m sure there are some Catholics who become so discouraged by trying to obey their church’s religious laundry list that they finally just collapse at the feet of Jesus and beg for His forgiveness and salvation. They’ve been saved in spite of their church, not because of it. No Catholic will find salvation by adhering to their church’s standard faith-works theology.
Of course, sitting in an evangelical church pew doesn’t make anyone a Christian, either. Everyone must individually accept Christ as Savior by faith alone.
Question: “I am a Catholic. Why should I consider becoming a Christian?”