The Bible doctrine of regeneration has suffered at the hands of its enemies as well as its friends. Its enemies marketed the doctrine in the 1970’s after a Southern Baptist layman who was running for the office of President of the United States announced that he was a “born again Christian.” Not long after this, many products on the market were described as “born again.” Love songs spoke of feelings which were akin to “being born again.” Actors and athletes alike were considered to be “born again” in their respective careers when they made a comeback of one type or another.
More tragic than that, perhaps, is the treatment that the Bible doctrine of regeneration has received at the hands of its professed “friends.”Often, it appears that differences in theology or even theological systems hinge on the different ways key words are understood. Regeneration is an example of such terms used in many different ways. Some groups want it to serve as an umbrella arching over the whole Christian experience. Others limit it to a two-tiered approach: presumptive or promissory regeneration at the water baptism of infants and full regeneration some time later in life. Still others narrow their understanding down to one instantaneous act of new birth which occurs at the moment of faith.
The common understanding of regeneration is being born again. That is, at the moment an individual believes in Jesus Christ, God the Holy Spirit places a human spirit within the individual, which is his or her potential location for storage of doctrine and the ability to have temporal fellowship with God. The Holman Bible Dictionary defines regeneration as the radical spiritual change in which God brings an individual from a condition of spiritual defeat and death to a renewed condition of holiness and life. The biblical doctrine of regeneration emphasizes God’s role in making this spiritual change possible. Another word for regeneration is rebirth, from which we get the phrase born again.