Miniblog #150: Do I Affirm the Necessity of a Born Again Experience? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate

Miniblog #150: Do I Affirm the Necessity of a Born Again Experience? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate.

This is one of those rare areas where I differ from my virtual friend Carson Clark.

I tend to believe that the ‘born again’ experience that is so central to evangelical spirituality is a marginal theme biblically, and that the concept is so marred by the abuse of it ‘from Charles Finney and the Second Great Awakening’ that it cannot be saved and would better be replaced with something less prone to misunderstanding and more rooted in ‘the whole counsel of God’.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

4 thoughts on “Miniblog #150: Do I Affirm the Necessity of a Born Again Experience? | Musings of a Hardlining Moderate”

  1. Dear Danut, just a few questions that jumped to my mind as I read your statement.
    1. What do you really mean by a “marginal theme biblically”?
    2. Could you give a few other examples in the same category?
    3. What criteria do you employ in judging what a biblically minor or a major theme is?
    4. How do you cross check your criteria?
    5. What would be compromised if you are wrong?

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    1. My friend, let me respond quickly, sometimes returning questions to your questions (I guess you will admit this is ‘biblical’ 🙂
      1. ‘marginal’ is a theme that appears scarcely in Scripture. How many times did you find in the Bible the phrase ‘born again’ and the similar?
      2. other examples: baptist for the dead, book of Enoch, the millennium etc. The evangelicals seem to have a propensity for picking i=on such minor themes. Other traditions have their similar ‘holy cows’ too;
      3. criteria: a. number of times it is mentioned; b. their ability to act as a sort of ‘canon in the canon’ – i.e. to be a cluster for other more minor themes;
      4. since I am not a Catholic, and do not use the category of ‘magisterium’, nor a ‘charismatic’, in need of some extra direct revelation, not even an individualistic ‘biblicist’ (strict ‘sola Scriptura’ kind of guy), I need to appeal to the ‘hermeneutic community’ (i.e. Tradition – the way in which the Church has more or less unanimously interpreted Scripture;
      5. nothing, really; since, according to John 1:11-13, one’s spiritual transformation is the sovereign act of God, not the work of men, to use the the phrase so dear to evangelicals, one would be ‘born again’ whether they believe or not that this is a central theme in the Bible. The most important part of one’s spiritual life follows after that (in case ‘that’ (meaning a more or less traumatic conversion experience happens – which, according to my covenantal soteriology does not have to happen; it can simply a progressive and continuous ‘conversion’ – permanent reorientation in relation to Christ).
      I am sure this can in no way satisfy you, but it is good enough for me.

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    2. Desi probabil ‘verificarea criteriului de catre comunitatea hermeneutica’ (punctul 4) ar putea constitui diferenta intre exemplul ‘nasterii din nou’ si cel pe care l-as da eu – cel al conceptului de ‘indumenzeire’ atat de drag teologiei rasaritene -, cred ca in rest nu vad de ce n-am putea renunta dupa acelasi tipar, (si sa cautam un inlocuitor – si pentru ‘indumnezeire’. Caci ‘indumnezeirea’ apare direct intr-un singur loc din Scriptura (2 Petru 1:4), si intr-o epistola nou testamentala destul de ‘marginala’.

      Se poate contraargumenta, ca, desi e marginal, conceptul poate fi implicit prezent in multe alte locuri din Scriptura, constituind un ‘cluster for more minor themes’ (punctul 3).

      Adevarat, dar nu se poate spune acelasi lucru si despre ‘nasterea din nou’? Chiar daca nu e prezent decat rar in Scriptura, conceptul este strans legat de cel de ‘viata noua in Cristos’ (o idee foarte prezenta in scrierile nou testamentare), si – sub numele de ‘viata in Dumnezeu’ -, constituie o tema centrala a teologiei rasaritene.

      Ori, daca, dupa (aproximativ) acelasi criteriu, am elimina ‘indumnezeirea’ din teologia ortodoxa, asta ar constitui pentru rasariteni o adevarata catastrofa.

      Chiar daca nasterea din nou este deseori strans legata de ideea de ‘experienta a convertirii’ (in cazul evanghelicilor), nu este obligatoriu ca experienta (emotionala, asociata cu un moment clar biografic) sa insoteasca in mod esential conceptul respectiv. Se poate ca cineva sa nu stie cand anume s-a nascut din nou (adica a primit viata din Dumnezeu), dar asta nu inseamna ca acest lucru nu s-a intamplat – mai mult sau mai putin constient- in viata lui (daca este un autentic crestin)

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  2. Hear, hear. I’d like to strike both “born again” and “saved” from the Evangelical dictionary, and then see if people are capable of describing their religion using meaningful words.

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