I generally try not to use the phrase, “born-again Christian.” It is grammatically incorrect.
In principle, we add an adjective to a noun in order to provide necessary information about the thing we are talking about. For example, if there are several dogs in the yard, I might refer to the “spotted dog,” in order distinguish it from the plain, black dog
and the shaggy, yellow dog. Sometimes we can be clumsy with our adjectives. One way of being clumsy with our adjectives is to create a redundant phrase. That happens when you use an adjective that is essentially synonymous with the noun you attach it to. For example, the phrase, “canine dog,” is a waste of breath and letters. The adjective “canine” adds nothing to the phrase that isn’t already present in the noun “dog.” All dogs are canines. There are no dogs that are not canines. The phrase “canine dog” means no more and no less than the word “dog.”
Theologically, and therefore also grammatically, “born-again Christian” is a redundant phrase. Biblically, and certainly in the mind of Jesus, to be a Christian is to be born-again. In his conversation with Nicodemus (John 3), Jesus is quite clear about this point. The adjective “born-again” adds nothing to the phrase — “born-again Christian”– that isn’t already present in the noun “Christian.” All Christians, according to Jesus, are born-again. There are not Christians that are not born-again.
John repeats that theme here in 1 John 3:4-10. To be a Christian is to be “begotten” of God, to be fathered by God. What we were before, we are no more. To become a Christian is to break with who we were and to become something altogether new.
Read 1 John 3:4-10.
Then listen to “Born Again.”
©2012 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.
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