So, recently I had a conversation with two Roman Catholic friends, a man and a woman. Both are well educated in the Catholic tradition. Both are conservative, pro-life, and completely committed to following the teaching of the Roman magisterium. Particularly, I overheard four comments that led to our conversation: 1. When posed a question about whether people are good or not, the man said that he believes people are good and that people tend towards good. 2. He said that Hitler was a good person. 3. He told me that God could not have poured out his wrath on Jesus when he was on the cross because that would mean that God hates sinners. He said that Catholics do not use the word wrath when talking about God. 4. He said that heaven for him would be drinking scotch, smoking a cigar, and talking about theology. So, I decided based on those 4 comments to strike up a conversation with my friend. I told him I overheard the first two comments, and I thought it could lead to an interesting theological conversation since we do not see eye to eye on the goodness of man. His defense for statement #2 was two-fold. He said the goodness of humanity is the official teaching of the Catholic Church. He said logically this has to be true based on the fact that Hitler is created in the image of God. I said I disagreed based on Luke 18:19 and Psalm 53:3. He accused me of taking these passages out of context, and said that the logic of his argument still holds. He still pressed me on the point that if man is created in God's image, then man must be good. I was stumped by this argument, and I still am. He seemed to make a distinction between a man's righteousness and his goodness. Is this a valid distinction? Then the woman entered in and gave her opinion. She said that everything that is created strives to be the best thing that it can be. And she mentioned that plants are created by God and they are good and beautiful and strive to be the best thing they can be. The man then commended her use of Aristotle in rebutting my view. At this point I was a little confused. I know that imbibing the doctrine of the goodness of man leads to a higher view of philosophy. I also learned from the man that Aquinas had a high view of Aristotle. I would love to know if there is anything out there that would help me understand the ways in which ancient philosophy affects RC teaching. This is a blind spot for me, and I was not ready to answer the Aristotelian arguments. The conversation then took another turn. The conversation turned to the ability of non-believers to please God. I quoted Hebrews 11:9, which he said was "a little extreme." When I revealed this was a direct quote from scripture he said I was taking it out of context. Then he wanted to know if I believed that man chooses God or if God chooses man. I said that God chooses man for salvation. He responded that my view was the gnostic heresy. I was unsure how to give a sufficient rebuttal for this. The last part of our conversation I asked him what he thought about Pelagius and Augustine. He said he had never heard of Pelagius, but he had heard of St. Augustine. I explained the history of the controversy, and he said that he is not Pelagian because he believes that God helps him to overcome his sinful temptations and to do his will by God's grace, but he still maintained that all people are able to either choose or not to choose to obey the law of God. At this point the conversation ended. I would love to pick up the conversation again, but I'd like to hammer some things out before doing so: 1. How should I answer the goodness (being created in the image of God) vs. righteousness (doing what God commands) distinction? Or is this just a game of semantics not to waste my time on? 2. How should I answer the accusation of gnosticism? I think I need to offer an explanation of what gnosticism historically is. Any resources you recommend that I read? 3. Is the position advanced by my two friends Pelagianism or Semi-pelagianism? I know the RCC still condemns pelagianism as a heresy, but I am a little confused about where the line between pelagianism and semi-pelagianism is. 4. From this point where should I go? Should I try to keep the conversation centered on scripture? Are there any other really applicable verses that I should bring up? Or should I turn the conversation in the direction of church history and talk more about Pelagius and Augustine and the Councils of Ephesus and Carthage? Or a little of both?