Q. How do I respond to my evangelical friend when he asks if I am “born again”? Do Catholics even believe in this idea?
A. As in everything, it is important to define what we mean by being “born again”. From a scriptural standpoint, Catholics certainly believe in this idea. In John 3:3-6, Jesus is visited by Nicodemus who asks Him about the Kingdom of God. Jesus says that we will not see the Kingdom without “being born from above.” Seeing that Nicodemus is still puzzled, He goes on to explain that we are reborn from water and the Spirit in order to receive new life – in other words, Baptism. So in that sense, yes – we are born again at Baptism.
However, some of our Protestant friends would associate another phrase with being “born again” and use the two almost interchangeably: being saved. “Are you SAVED?” Again, we must distinguish between what this CAN mean and what it should NOT mean. In one sense, we are saved by our Baptism because we have been set free from sin and the power of Satan. On the other hand, “being saved” is not definitive until we are safely seated with our Lord in heaven – and in between Baptism and heaven, an awful lot can transpire in life that could compromise what we should have received at Baptism. Therefore, Catholics would say we have been set free from original sin, but not “saved” until, well, we are saved from the fires of Hell at the end of life!