CGG’s Born Again Doctrinal Change


CGG’s John Ritenbaugh has instituted a variety of doctrinal changes within his group.  While groups like LCG teach that Christians are begotten by the Holy Spirit and born-again at the resurrection, CGG is now teaching a concept more similar to that of certain (but not all) Protestants:

How does one explain “this or that” regarding this “born again” question? It is very helpful to know that being “born again” is an entirely spiritual operation…

It should be easy to understand why there can be confusion over the words. We can interpret it only by what they can legitimately be translated into. They can be translated as “begotten again, “born again,” “born anew,” or “born from above.” And this may seem a little bit wild, but it is true. It can even be understood as “from a beginning” or “at a beginning.”

Now on the basis of how God deals with us in the rest of the New Testament, and after John 2 and 3, it must be understood as “born again,” and not “begotten again.” God never even one time speaks of us as being in a womb as an embryo or a fetus…Nicodemus’ error was sincere, and Herbert Armstrong’s error was sincere. (Source: Ritenbaugh J. Born Again Sermon, Part 2, June 20, 2009)

So while John Ritenbaugh admits that the terms translated as “born again” can be translated as “begotten again”, he has decided against the idea of teaching that God spiritually begets His offspring in this life who are then born again at the resurrection.

CGG has made doctrinal changes, as well as inaccurate changes (in my opinion) to prophetic understandings as well.  All should compare what their church teaches with the Bible.

According to Hislop’s The Two Babylons, being born again on earth is a long-standing pagan belief.  Hislop quotes Asiatic Researchers (Vol. vii, p. 271, London, 1806) that the Hindoo Brahmins boast that they are “twice born” men. Thus, the “born again now” idea apparently originally existed outside of Christianity.

Perhaps I should add that even in the second century (the century just after the Book of Revelation was written), there was at least one Christian writer who wrote that we are not to be “born again” until the resurrection. Notice what Theophilus of Antioch wrote,

But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection” (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

In the third century, Hippolytus (the greatest of the early theologians according to Roman Catholic scholars) understood that we are begotten by the Holy Spirit at baptism. Notice what he wrote:

This is the Spirit that was given to the apostles in the form of fiery tongues. This is the Spirit that David sought when he said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Of this Spirit Gabriel also spoke to the Virgin, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” By this Spirit Peter spake that blessed word, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” By this Spirit the rock of the Church was stablished. This is the Spirit, the Comforter, that is sent because of thee, that He may show thee to be the Son of God.

Come then, be begotten again, O man, into the adoption of God…For he who comes down in faith to the layer of regeneration, and renounces the devil, and joins himself to Christ; who denies the enemy, and makes the confession that Christ is God; who puts off the bondage, and puts on the adoption,–he comes up from the baptism brilliant as the sun, flashing forth the beams of righteousness, and, which is indeed the chief thing, he returns a son of God and joint-heir with Christ (Hippolytus. The Discourse on the Holy Theophany, Chapters 9,10. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Also, even in the fourth century, it was understood that Christians are first begotten, that Jesus was the first born of the dead, and that we become born again later. For even though he had other heretical ideas, Athanasius apparently understood this as he wrote,

For God not only created them to be men, but called them to be sons, as having begotten them. For the term ‘begat’ is here as elsewhere expressive of a Son, as He says by the Prophet, ‘I begat sons and exalted them;’ and generally, when Scripture wishes to signify a son, it does so, not by the term ‘created,’ but undoubtedly by that of ‘begat.’ And this John seems to say, ‘He gave to them power to become children of God, even to them that believe on His Name; which were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ And here too the cautious distinction is well kept up, for first he says ‘become,’ because they are not called sons by nature but by adoption; then he says ‘were begotten,’ because they too had received at any rate the name of son…He became man, that, as the Apostle has said, He who is the ‘Beginning’ and ‘First-born from the dead, in all things might have the preeminence…He said to be ‘First-born from the dead,’ not that He died before us, for we had died first; but because having undergone death for us and abolished it, He was the first to rise, as man, for our sakes raising His own Body. Henceforth He having risen, we too from Him and because of Him rise in due course from the dead…He is called ‘First-born among many brethren’ because of the relationship of the flesh, and ‘First-born from the dead,’ because the resurrection of the dead is from Him and after Him…And as He is First-born among brethren and rose from the dead ‘the first fruits of them that slept;’ so, since it became Him ‘in all things to have the preeminence (Athanasius. Discourse II Against the Arians, Chapters 59,60,61,63,64. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 4. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1892. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Thus the idea of being begotten when converted and being born again at the resurrection was an original teaching among professing Christians.

In addition, even today, the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches:

Frank Schaeffer…calls the standard evangelical doctrine a “false bill of goods.” “The simplistic ‘born-again’ formula for instant painless ‘salvation’ is not only a misunderstanding, I believe it is a heresy. It contradicts the teaching of Christ in regard to the narrow, hard, ascetic, difficult way of salvation.” (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, p. 268).

I consider CGG’s change also to be another one of its heresies.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Born Again: A Question of Semantics? Many Protestants use the term born-again. Do they know where the concept came from or does it matter? Are you born or begotten upon proper baptism?
What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection? Is there more than one future resurrection? Did early Christians teach a physical resurrection? Did early Christians teach three resurrections?
Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God? What does the Bible teach? Is deification only a weird or cultic idea?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
Church of the Great God This group, led by John Ritenbaugh, says the bride must first be made ready (hence gospel proclamation is not its high priority). Might this lead to a selfish bride? This group also seriously seems to misunderstand end-time prophecy.

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