Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Born into life

There's a debate among some Christians of many denominations as to whether being "Born Again" is a process or an event.

Growing up I was taught in the LDS Church that it was a process.  It was described by top leaders as an "imperceptible" process and what was to be expected was something without any significant events like you can read about in scripture.  The topic as it was taught to me from the pulpit had such little substance it had no ability to elevate or inspire my mind or heart.  It was a mere vocabulary word describing something so boring it carried no light.    

Fast forward a number of years.  I'm 26 by then and doing a lot of personal study and searching.  Abruptly my view of the topic went from the "process" I had heard about to "event" as I now had my own study and experience to draw from.  From that point for many years I was firmly on the "event" side of the discussion.

NC Mosiah 11:28 
And it came to pass, after they had fasted and prayed for the space of two days and two nights, the limbs of Alma received their strength. And he stood up and began to speak unto them, bidding them to be of good comfort. For, said he, I have repented of my sins and have been redeemed of the Lord. Behold, I am born of the spirit. And the Lord said unto me, Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women — all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people — must be born again, yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters. And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
Clearly this was an event for Alma.

NC  Mosiah 3:1-2
And now it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them. And they all cried with one voice, saying, Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us! And also, we know of their surety and truth because of the spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. And we, ourselves, also through the infinite goodness of God and the manifestations of his spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things. And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceeding great joy. And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.
And now these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them, and therefore, he said unto them, Ye have spoken the words that I desired, and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. And now, because of the covenant which ye have made, ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you. For ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name, therefore ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
This too seems like an event for this group of people taught by King Benjamin.  Behold "this day" he hath spiritually begotten you.

Fast forward a few more years.  By then I had kids and had witnessed their physical birth and understand some of why the scriptures use the term "rebirth" when talking about being born again or born of God.  It was now clear that none of this happens without a mother and a father.  Gestation was a process, and so was growing up and maturing, and birth was an important milestone. The baby goes from one environment to another and doctors and parents mark the time and the day.  And thereafter with each revolution of the earth around the sun pretty much all cultures of the world remember the time with a birthday.

One risk I noticed over the years was viewing the topic too rigidly.  Peoples experiences will look different and it would be more than unfortunate for anyone to discount or not value an experience because it didn't look like someone expected, or thought it should. But that's an aside.

I remember thinking it was either blind or strangely uninformed for religious leaders to ignore or completely teach against some elements of being born again. Or call it imperceptible. Or that such experiences in scripture are too rare to really consider them possible for you.  How uninspiring.  How mind numbing.  The processes and milestones no doubt look different for each person since we're all unique but for religious teachers to ignore them seemed misleading.  But then I remembered the religious position of the individual who asked Jesus at night about being born again, and Jesus's response.  Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews had to ask Jesus about it because he didn't know.

So with passage of years my understanding grew, and I settled into the view that the topic was both a process and included eventful moments or milestones.  Seemed like a natural progression in understanding as I got married and had kids and watched how God had organized our world and human lives to testify of spiritual things.   

But then recently this topic came to my mind again unexpectedly.  I had a birthday last week and I reflected on the all that had happened since my physical birth.  I also reflected on the symbols and meaningful moments in my life as I chatted with a good friend.  Then my understanding on this topic grew again.

This is from NC Mosiah 3 paragraphs 2 and 3. It's a continuation of one the paragraphs quoted above from King Benjamin.  This is after his people report experiencing a mighty change of heart:  
Therefore I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. 
Therefore I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to Heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things in Heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.
Now I see that the topic of being born again is not complete as an event or a process. There's more.  It's more like an eternal round. Now I see being born again is also a lifestyle.  It's a way of living.  It's how you treat people and how you speak.

As King Benjamin taught, we are to be obedient to God, steadfast and immovable, abounding in good works, and sealed by God that we may have everlasting salvation and eternal life through our Lord.  That’s a way of living.  Even once sealed, could one suddenly stop obeying God, turn from being steadfast, stop good works and still be born again?

Being born again gained new clarity as I think about it being born into a new way of life.  An eternal way of living since God's course is one eternal round. 

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