Some of us may have encountered a Born Again Christian who tried to evangelize us with their belief. They may be a student in the same school you study in, or someone who just visits you at home very frequently, or he might be a very good friend of yours.No matter who he is, he might have asked you if you are saved, if you have already accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, or if you have been born again.
But sadly, there are many Catholics who do not know how to respond to these questions especially that many among us have not been properly instructed about our Faith. I myself didn’t know how to respond to those questions when a friend started to ask me. That was when I was still a High School Student who had a very limited understanding why I believe what I believe.
“Born-Again” Christians think that Catholics are not really considered Christians. They believe that we Catholics are lost souls who needs a total conversion by accepting Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. Of course, to a fully informed Catholic, salvation had already been recieved the very moment he was baptized with water and the Holy Spirit as an infant, and this baptism is continuously renewed every time we recite the Apostle’s creed.But let’s focus more with the issue. Born Again Christians love quoting John 3 to justify their reason why we have to be “Born Again”
It us but fair for all us to know the truth regarding how John 3 should be understood. Protestant and Catholic bibles have a bit different translation from each other regarding some verses in John 3. For example, John 3:3, if taken from a Protestant Bible like the New International Version (NIV), you will be able to read the verse this way:“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is BORN AGAIN.” (NIV Bible)
The Catholic Bible on the other hand will somewhat have a different use of words to clarify biblical meaning further. Reading from New American Bible (NAB), a Catholic Bible , we will be able to read the same verse this way:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being BORN FROM ABOVE.” (NAB Bible).
So which of these two translations actually interpret scripture more accurately? To answer that question, the original Greek Translation will guide us further to its accuracy as we see below:
In Greek, the verse is originally written in this manner: “Ean me tis gennethe anothen, ou idein ten basilean tou Theou.”GENNETHE means Born and ANOTHEN means from above. We will never be able to find the word “AGAIN” in the verse because the Greek word for AGAIN is palin. Obviously, “Born Again” is not synonymous to “Born from above”, even if we use the Greek word “Anothen”, it can never be the same with “Palin”.
Yet for some reasons, the phrase “born again” has been somehow accepted by both Catholics and Protestants alike, but of course, our understanding as Catholics will never be the same as how Born Again Christians understand it, taking into consideration that understanding the verse must be dependent according to what it really means. Even if Jesus’ expression was literally “born from above”, Born Again Christians conclude that the understanding of Nicodemus was that Jesus was speaking of being “born again” as shown in John 3:4, “How can a man be born again once he is old? Can he return to his mother’s womb and be born over again?”.The Greek text goes this way: ”Pos dunatai anthropos gennethai geron on? Me dunatai ten koilian tes metros autou deuteron eiselthein kai gennethai.” If this text is to be organized in the English translation accordingly, you will come to read it in this way:”How can a man be born, being an old man? He cannot enter into the womb of his mother a second time and be born.” Here, we never have the word “to be born” or “gennethai” used with “palin” or “again”. The only word that can be considered synonymous with “again” is the word “deuteron” which means “second” or in this case “a second time”. This word is used, however, with the concept of entering the mother’s womb for a second time – a concept that indicates that Nicodemus clearly misunderstood what Jesus was saying about “being born from above.” The translators of the expression, “born again”, is a clear indication that just like Nicodemus, they also misunderstood what it means to be “born from above”.
The Catholic understand is clear since the very start that to be “born from above” means to become a child of God. This happens when Jesus states in John 3:5, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” This even is something that clearly happens to us during baptism – when we also become “temples of the Holy Spirit and heirs to heaven.”
A “Born Again” Christian, however will continue to object: “How can you be born of the Spirit when you were just an infant when you were baptized? Infants are not aware of what is happening, therefore, they can’t be baptized yet.”This time, the answer is clear in any translation of the text of John 3:7-8 where Jesus tells Nicodemus: “Do not be surprised that I tell that you must be born from above. The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes, but YOU DO NOT KNOW where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with EVERYONE who is born of the Spirit.” Here, Jesus makes it clear that the work of the Spirit is far greater than our own limited human awareness, so that the one who is baptized in spite of his being an infant does not have to be aware of the work of the Spirit in his life. Besides, such grace is not exclusive only to those who are aware because the Kingdom of heaven is supposed to be for everybody, young and old alike.
The Catholic Church, thereby, does not limit the grace of baptism only to those who can already be aware of what is happening to them but rather extends it to all, whether infant or adult. In this sense, the Church fulfills the mission entrusted to her by Christ, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of ALL THE NATIONS. Baptize THEM(it didn’t say except infants), in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach then to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!” (Matthew 28:19-20)
If you are being asked, “Are you Born Again?” You must answer a very sure “YES I AM!” As Catholics, we are truly Born again, or more accurately BORN FROM ABOVE! That is what Christ wanted us to be as shown by the Original Greek Bible where our modern day bibles were translated from!