Evangelical "born again" experience: real, exaggeration, or hoax?


#1

Maybe some of you ex-evangelicals can help me out with this. For much of my life I never even knew about the evangelical notion of being “born again” at one moment in life before being baptized. Ever since going to college about four years ago, however, I have become more aware of this relatively novel Christian belief.

Many of my friends claim that at one time in their lives they repented and gave themselves to Christ, and Wallah!, they suddenly feel totally new, and then become convinced that they are saved and that nothing can keep them out of heaven. I’m referring of course to the notion of Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS). Anyhow, what really concerns me is the fact that these people claim to have a profound religious experience by which everything all of a sudden makes sense to them, and that they are assured of their salvation. What confuses me even more is that many Catholic Charismatics I know say that after being Baptized in the Spirit that they have become “born again.”

Anyhow, my primary concern rests in how I should view these experiences. I read about these cruel and un-Christian people who claim that ever since their “born again” experience that they are completely different people. Some of my friends almost threaten me by the way they talk about these supernatural experiences as a must to be a Christian. Oftentimes I just tend to think that their experience is one of conversion that they have magnified into falsely believing that they are already saved once and for all. But I still feel a bit awkard in not knowing what their conversion experience is like, since I’ve never had anything of the sort.

Could some of you ex-evangelicals maybe tell me how your “born again” experience was, how you viewed it before you became Catholic, and how you now view it as Catholic? Thanks! It really means a lot to me. :slight_smile:


#2

I am only now coming into the Catholic Church, but I have been a serious Christian for 28+ years. My “born again” experience. at the age of almost-30, was a real experience and turned my life around.

DaveBj


#3

I am not sure of the OSAS theolgy of all protostents. But in my FundieX upbringing it was really not much differant then CC sense of salvations Faith/Works but its referred to as faith. Once you give your heart to Jesus you are saved, but you need to still have Faith in him forever and live and walk like him in your actions and thoughts. You can “backslide” from salvation such as you can in the CC in my FundieX upbringing.
As for being “born again” I was raised into the FundieX communitie so I was always “there” I was simular to a “cradle Catholic”. Now when I converted to Catholicism, I went thru something that I still describe as my “birth”, I still reference my home parish as my “birthplace”.
As for the act of being “saved”. There really is no Catholic term for it really, none of the sacraments really describe it, becuase its all the sacraments or none. So if you take the sacraments as real and honor what they mean then you are saved already, if you just go thru the motions of the sacraments and they mean little to you, then your not saved. But also I felt saved the minute I decided to follow Jesus and went on with the RCIA process, at that time I felt my salvation was secured at the table with the Father, but I did not have any sacraments yet till months later.


#4

I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of 7 and was baptised. It was at a James Robinson tent revival at our Baptist church. He scared the you know what out of me. I did most sincerely commit my life to Jesus, however. The difference between us and them (I’m Catholic now) is that they think it’s kind of a one time deal (though it may be repeated, in another, equally emotional “trip down the aisle”) whereas we as Catholics look upon it as a ongoing conversion of our whole lives. There are Catholics, many of them now Saints, who have a pivotal conversion moment.


#5

[quote=DaveBj]I am only now coming into the Catholic Church, but I have been a serious Christian for 28+ years. My “born again” experience. at the age of almost-30, was a real experience and turned my life around.

DaveBj
[/quote]

Dave: You’re in Cullman? One of my godmother’s is a nun in the Sacred Heart Monestary there. Best wishes in RCIA, welcome home!


#6

Having been an evangelical from my experience I never had that wham experience that blew me over as being bron again in an emotional sense even though I went through all the motions sinners prayer etc. However I have met several people who has life changing experiences in a born again surrounding. The scripture says we do not not control when and where the Holy Spirit goes. I think the Holy Spirit can work in such situations. However I also think you can have this same expereince in the Catholic Church even on an emotional level thus the Catholic Charasmatic Renewal movement. It may not be my thing but it has its place in the church and many benfit from a more pentacostal type experience. However one must be grounded in catholic theology and recognzie true faith is often known best when its dry and your all alone in your thoughts with christ. Especially in eucharistic adoration and prayer.

Unfortuneatly many catholics go to such a sercie in a protestant setting and expericne something they never have before and ditch their catholic church thinking it was something the church lacked becuse you never expereinced it before. That is false we do have charismatic services. Also perhaps the graces of baptism finally got kick started it was not the church setting that mattered but the grace from the sacrament that mattered it just so happened to get kick started in protestant setting. Their is no reason to beleive you would drop this new renewal in a catholic church it would only enchange what you already have.


#7

Most people who “get saved” respond to the cadence of the preacher’s voice, what could be described as music to cry by, and the emotionally charged mood of the congregation during an “altar call” by having an emotional experience of their own To an Evangelical or Fundamentalist, being “born again” (usually) means the emotional high that comes from “accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.” It’s the raw emotion of the sorrow of repentance and the joy of conversion. The whole atmosphere in which this occurs is manipulated to create maximum emotion. Been there, done that. I “got saved” (and baptized as a “symbol” of my commitment/recommitment to Christ) more than once! “Altar calls” are designed to make the congregation feel guilty for their sins and bring on repentance and conversion.

But this version of “born again” is a doctrine unheard of before the so-called Reformation. It is a Protestant misinterpretation of John 3:5.

There is no Scripture that directs us to “accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.” Baptism is our rebirth (Titus 3:5). Every baptized Christian has been born again – i.e., born of water and the Spirit. Emotion is not necessary. Baptism effects a spiritual rebirth worked by Divine Grace.

How did early Christians understand it? "Then they [the converts] are brought by us where there is water, and are born again in the same manner of rebirth by which we ourselves are born again, for then they receive washing in water in the name of God the
Father and Master of all, and of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. For Christ also said, ‘Except you are born again, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’ " St. Justin Martyr, First Apology (to the Roman Emperor), 155 A.D. St. Justin wrote his Apology only about 55 years after the death of St. John the Apostle.

JMJ Jay
Ex-Southern Baptist, ex-agnostic, ex-atheist, ecstatic to be Catholic!


#8

I am currently attending RCIA knowing the Catholic Church is the true church of our Lord. I was “born again” given new life in Christ through a definite life changing experience. I won’t go into details, but it was not in a church and I was not lathered up in a “camp meeting”. I was alone physically but closer than a brother was the Lord spiritually. I pray that everyone could experience what I did. Don’t put a limit on God’s ability to touch a life. I was baptized at a later date when I understood what it meant. That was 11 years ago. I have come a long way since then. Be blessed. Mike


#9

[quote=Mike316]I am currently attending RCIA knowing the Catholic Church is the true church of our Lord. I was “born again” given new life in Christ through a definite life changing experience. I won’t go into details, but it was not in a church and I was not lathered up in a “camp meeting”. I was alone physically but closer than a brother was the Lord spiritually. I pray that everyone could experience what I did. Don’t put a limit on God’s ability to touch a life. I was baptized at a later date when I understood what it meant. That was 11 years ago. I have come a long way since then. Be blessed. Mike
[/quote]

Thank you for that! :thumbsup:


#10

I believe that even “Cradle Catholics” can be born again. And the “born again” experience might not be the same for all.

I spent my early 20s to my early 40s as a lapsed Catholic, not gravitating to another faith, but not totally abandoning hope that I might return some day. I attribute much of my behavior to just plain laziness.

Then, after many years of inquiring, dabblinig in not a few “New Age” movements, one night, after finishing one of them, I picked up a book that I had owned for those 20 years, but never read: Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed. I read it in a couple of days.

Immediately, I knew where I belonged and conveniently, a parish near me was having a one day retreat which I attended, and there I received the Sacrament of Penance for the first time in maybe 20 years.

A few weeks later, as I was moving up in the Communion line (I can still point out the spot), I was pondering why I had been granted this reprieve. I said to the Lord, “Lord, I don’t why you did this for me, because you know that I don’t deserve it.” After a short pause, I continued “But I accept it.” I immediately became awash in a wave of love that permeated my entire body to the point that I thought I would fall over. That became my real “born again” experience which I can never forget. He does love me!

And I’m still not deserving. But I do my best, occasionally failing. But I would never leave the Church again.

The born again experience seems to be different for many. But in my experience, it is not just faith, but my faith and my works upon which I will be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ at the end of times.

And I thank him for that knowledge and opportunity.


#11

Can some conversion experiences be a result of the atmosphere? Of course. But I see it more like the seed that was scattered on rocky thin soil. There was enough there for the seed to be planted and start to grow, but not enough soil to sustain life.

As a bapized Catholic but had parents who fell away from the church, I see my born again experience as completely real, completely intense, but a time when I accepted the Grace God had been trying to give me for 25 years. Of course, I did not see it in that light until I came back to the Catholic Church:D


#12

I had a “born again” experience.

It had nothing to do with a powerful preacher with a voice of peculiar cadence. It had nothing to do with any big crusade. It had nothing to do with some sort of hyped up atmosphere. It had nothing to do with responding to an altar call (btw, can anyone tell me exactly what is wrong with asking at a meeting if anyone wants to know Jesus and then asking them up for prayer? People go on as if this is a foul satanic thing to do). There was no atmosphere “manipulated for maximum emotion”.

I had the born again experience without even going to any sort of church meeting. I hadn’t been to any form of service for years - probably since I was thrown out of the church choir as a child for not attending the church except when the choir sang.

I had it after lots and lots of discussion with a friend about Christianity and Jesus (I had been very anti-Christian). Sometimes the discussion would stretch through most of the night. Many people, I found out later, were praying for me. It took time. And thought. And in the end my own belief systems (New Age sorta things) seemed to collapse and I was convinced internally (without external proof) that Jesus is the Way, and that what my friend had with Jesus was what I wanted.

And so, with him, and another friend, I “prayed the sinners prayer” without expectation of anything. Immediately I was flooded with a deep feeling of peace, comfort, and hope. Wow. That was, in brief, my “born again experience”.

It was real, it was utterly convincing, it was entirely unexpected. No evangelistic hoax. No exaggeration from “knowing” what a born again experience should be. Just me, God, and God’s mercy and tenderness and welcome.

None of that goes into the theology of what it is to be born again. According to Catholic teaching I was not born again. Since I had not been baptised I had not entered in on the path to eternal salvation. So, according to catholic teaching, was the peace, comfort, hope, forgiveness, freedom etc that I felt at that time, that changed the way I lived, just a falsehood. After all, in catholic teaching, without baptism I wasn’t born again, forgiven, or anything similar.

So, after years of being anti-catholic, I am now in RCIA - still very surprised to find myself on this path. Even though I was baptised later I may have to be baptised as I haven’t got a piece of paper to prove it. And the church I was baptised in doesn’t do pieces of paper to prove it. So even now the catholic church doubts whether I have taken this step one on the path of salvation which in many ways I find very insulting.

What do I now believe about the “born again” experience? It was real. God was there. We were 2 or 3 gathered in His name. God was active within me. The peace within, the deep feeling and appreciation of his forgiveness and mercy, they were real, all the more real for being completely unexpected.

Though the catholic church may tell me that baptism frees us from sin and through baptism we are reborn, becoming members of Christ, I KNOW I met with God that evening, without being manipulated by anything or anyone. I know his mercy was real. I know that he held me in his arms and welcomed me that evening. I can either say it was real or say it was not real - and disregard years of walking (sometimes well sometimes very poorly) with Jesus, prayer, study, being a deacon, preacher, worship leader, etc and they that they were all rubbish arising from a man who wasn’t a member of Christ or incorporated into the church.

Forgive me if I am wrong, but I choose reality. After my conditional baptism (if it occurs), confirmation, and first eucharist I might change my mind. Let’s see what changes occur then.

Blessings

Asteroid


#13

Addendum: I was Baptized Catholic at age 23. You asked about being born again, I dont know about that but…

Every time I walk down the aisle to recieve Communion I have a special feeling, a feeling of getting too close to something that I don’t deserve, Jesus Christ. Then for a while after recieving Communion there is a real close feeling ( as I would put it, an almost Holy feeling) that comes over me. If that’s not being born again, it’s good enough for me.


#14

Forgive me if I am wrong, but I choose reality. After my conditional baptism (if it occurs), confirmation, and first eucharist I might change my mind. Let’s see what changes occur then.

From what you said, it sounds as though your truly did have a personal “born again” experience. However, concerning your above statement, I think that God sometimes works in our lives in a more subtle way. Don’t be surprised if at first, following your baptism, you don’t see any visible changes.

You know, it’s funny, I was reading Acts this morning. Acts 9 talks about how God appears to Saul and how Saul has a real conversion and later becomes Paul. However, despite this personal encounter with God, Saul still had to be baptized. We read about how God then sends Ananias on a mission to the blinded Saul:

“So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your spirit and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened. (Acts 9.17-19)”

We see that, even after a personal encounter with God, it is through baptism that we receive the Holy Spirit. I hope that helps you a little. :slight_smile:

And, by the way, I don’t think that the Catholic position is that God doesn’t work in the lives of non-Catholics and that what you experienced is rubbish. I think it’s more along the lines of: God works in the lives of non-Catholics and loves them deeply; but God works in the lives of non-Catholics with the hope that they will see the truth of the Catholic faith. I think that many converts to Catholicism would say the same.


#15

Don’t be insulted. Jesus was very clear. You must be baptized. The Church doesn’t say you weren’t – only that there is no evidence that you were. The Church needs evidence. She is the guardian of the Deposit of Faith left to her by the Apostles. You must be baptized in order to receive the other Sacraments. So you will be baptized conditionally – the priest will say “If you are not baptized, I baptize you . . .”

The Catholic Church teaches that God is not bound by His rules.
She does not pass judgment on your “born again” experience – or anyone else’s. We humans are bound by God’s rules, but God isn’t. The Spirit moves where He wills.

If others did not have your emotional experience, does that mean that their experience wasn’t real? I don’t think so. But feelings are simply feelings. They are not proof of God’s grace. One may feel nothing, yet be transformed by the grace of God.

I doubt you were as anti-Catholic as I was – as an avowed atheist, I was rabid about it and considered it a fraud. May God have mercy! Now I know that being Catholic – receiving the Sacraments, having the Divine Life of God within my soul – is the only important thing in life.

Peace be with you, JMJ Jay

Ex-Southern Baptist, ex-agnostic, ex-atheist, ecstatic to be Catholic!


#16

[quote=asteroid] That was, in brief, my “born again experience”.
. . . None of that goes into the theology of what it is to be born again. According to Catholic teaching I was not born again.
[/quote]

The Church teaches that when God established the New Covenent in Christ’s blood (Luke 22:20), He made certain rules that we humans must obey. Among them was the condition we must be baptized (John 3:5). And He said that through baptism, we would be “born again” (John 3:3-7) and receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16 et al.). Although*** we*** are bound by these rules, God isn’t. The Spirit moves where He wills. The Church does not pass judgment on personal religious experiences, particularly those of people outside her jurisdiction.

So, after years of being anti-catholic, I am now in RCIA - still very surprised to find myself on this path. Even though I was baptised later I may have to be baptised as I haven’t got a piece of paper to prove it. And the church I was baptised in doesn’t do pieces of paper to prove it. So even now the catholic church doubts whether I have taken this step one on the path of salvation which in many ways I find very insulting.

Because God requires it, the Church must be sure. So the priest will say, “If you are not baptized, I baptize you . . .” Baptism is required – we can’t get to heaven without it (John 3:3). So she is very careful about such details. And one must be baptized before the other Sacraments can be administered. The Church is the guardian of the Depositum Fides (the Deposit of Faith) “once for all handed down” (Jude 3) to her by the Apostles. It is a sacred trust. The Church must be certain of your baptism, not for her sake, but for yours.

What do I now believe about the “born again” experience? It was real.

I don’t doubt it. But the action of God’s grace upon our souls is not dependent upon our feelings. One may feel no emotion at all and be validly baptized – and according to Scripture (John 3:3-7) plus the 2,000-year-old tradition of the Church – we are “born again” through baptism.

Many who have had a profound religious experience don’t term it being “born again.” It’s the terminology that concerns me, since I’m a “Bible-believing Catholic,” not the experience itself.

Thank you for sharing very your powerful religious experience with us.

As a former Protestant clergyman (“deacon, preacher, worship leader”), you may want to check out www.chnetwork.org. You’d find yourself in good company.

JMJ Jay
Ex-Southern Baptist, ex-agnostic, ex-atheist, ecstatic to be Catholic!


#17

The term “born-again” is being used inappropriately by evangelical Christians and others. It’s not really being “born-again” but being “renewed” after one has gone thru genuine repentance. The beginning of being “born again” is done right after baptism–that’s where salvation begins.

Anyone who has experienced being “born again” or rightly to be called “renewal experience” doesn’t cease to sin. Every single day we need constant renewal. Renewal is the proper term that should be used.

Pio


#18

My apologies for the (sort of) duplicate posts, #14 and #15. I thought the first one didn’t go through, so I rewrote it and posted again. #15 is enough different that I will leave it, but similar enough to #14 that I feel I must explain the duplication. Sorry 'bout that!

Peace be to all who post at Catholic Answers.

Jay


#19

to katholikos I don’t doubt you had a genuine born again experience like I said we don’t control where the holy spirit blows its wind. Grace abounds outside of the church. What happens I think is baptism by desire we saw this when Peter declared Cornelis in Actas 10 the holy spirit descended upon Cornelius and the gentiles before their actual baptsim of course immediately Peter ordered gentiles to be baptized for the first time. Thus teh first evidence of baptism of desire and a sign to Peter that gentiles could have the holy spirit in them beyond the boundaries of Jewish Christianity. Likewise the ordinary means of salvation is bpatism but beyond the boundaries of this some beleivers can be touched by the holy spirit by the baptism of desires. That being said you don’t make dogma by exceptions to the rule thus baptism is a very important sacrament and seal of the born again experience if you happen to experince it before baptism. That expereince may not have the seal of sacrament that baptism ensure although it may be an authentic experience of the holy spirit. What protestant have doen is make the exception the rule by dealying the sacrament of baptism after a bron again experience. We differ of course in that we think baptism confers grace so why whithold grace? Look we humans are bound to the sacraments but God is not bound to them thus he can use the baptsim of desire but since we don’t rely on the excetpions of God’s rules of grace we adhere to the norm.


#20

I have been and have felt Catholic my whole life and close to God most of my life. However, this past year when my daughter was in Iraq I came so close to praying without ceasing, and feeling so very sure of God’s presence in my life that I understood for the first time how Jesus Christ was going to see me through all the troubles I was ever going to have. It was a born again feeling, that I feel to this day. I understand when people say they have that moment that they know without a doubt that Jesus Christ is their Lord and savior. I think baptised Catholics are saved, however I do understand the “born again” experience.


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