Tom,
Your friend obviously believes in what is called prevenient grace. Though the Wesley's were the main promoters of the doctrine, it originated with Arminius and his followers. Prevenient grace was Arminius's means of affirming total depravity on the one hand, yet still maintaining a free, libertarian will on the other. Essentially, Arminius affirmed total depravity as the Bible teaches. He would even affirm that no man can believe savingly upon Christ, unless he is regenerated. However, in order to keep his freewill theism intact, he taught that God provides prevenient grace to all humanity so that they can hear the gospel and decide whether to choose it or reject it. The person is freed from his or her depravity to believe the gospel and come to Christ IF, and ONLY IF the person so choose to do so. Thus, proponents of prevenient grace believe God's regenerating work is not effectual, or that, in and of itself, will not assure salvation in a person. Only people believing savingly upon the gospel can be sure of their salvation, assuming of course that they endure to the end.

The problem with prevenient grace, or as some modern day Reformed Arminians call it, pre-regenerating grace, is that I find this no where taught in the Bible. I especially do not find this notion that a person can be regenerated, but walk away from that regenerating work. What I do find in scripture is that God's regeneration is always effective, that it will finish the purposes of bring a person to Christ. All given to the son by the Father will come and be raised up on the last day (John 6:37-45); He who begins a good work will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6), etc.

I was in correspondence with a Professor of NT at the Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, who has written a rather good work defending Reformed Arminianism. (I am currently writing a review of it for my website). I asked him to defend prevenient grace or pre-regenerating grace exegetically from the Bible, and he was hard pressed to do so. In fact, he even stated that much of his theology is founded upon presuppositions; presuppositions that he of course believe are scriptural. One thing I asked him during our corresponding stint was, when does God initiate prevenient grace? Did he do it at Pentecost to everyone in the whole world? Or, does he do it individually, or to a entire community of people at once? And, if God has provided prevenient grace for all mankind, and there are those who die, never hearing the gospel because they were geographically challenged in relation to the nearest missionaries, what was the point in God giving them prevenient grace? Those are some questions that he could not answer, and I would add, did not think it mattered to the consistency of his theology, though I believe it does. Again, when I review the Word of God, I see God initiating regeneration, because people are said to be born again, or have their eyes opened, etc, and they believe the truth unto salvation. Seeing that the biblical record consistently reveals to us that regeneration always accomplishes saving faith, it is unbiblical in my mind, to suggest that men can be regenerated, then choose to deny that divine work.

Fred


"Ah, sitting - the great leveler of men. From the mightest of pharaohs to the lowest of peasants, who doesn't enjoy a good sit?" M. Burns