Hi Ron, thanks for your thoughts on this. It seems to me that if God provides the 'desire' and the 'actions' in us that please Him , that would suggest nothing is in our control, but the whole 'tone' of the Bible seems to suggest that we have got some kind of control, albeight restricted, but nevertheless we are capable of choosing good actions over bad. E.g Jesus told a story of two men who were asked to do something and one said he would but didn't and the other didn't really want to but did. Can't remember where it is. There are other verses where God is asking us to choose e.g Deut 30:19, Josh 24 :15.
Hi Paul, you quoted 1C 1:25. I rather imagined this to be understood along the lines that Judge Judy Scheindlin (I'm a great fan) likes to boast: 'On my worst day, I'm cleverer than you are on your best day' or words to that effect. In the same way, when I read that God has 'wings' I don't understand that to be literal. You said: "Do you think God knowing the path we MUST take is not grieved that we will experience evil? Knowing it is the only path to righteousness?" - Of course this is true, but what doesn't make sense if you are to go along the lines of Ray Smith's reasoning, is that God 'intended' all the suffering as His big plan and that must mean He intended the Moors Murderers (Myra Hindley and Ian Bradey) to torture, abuse and kill children. I cannot accept that and the very thought repulses me. I can accept that evil will become a reality to beings made in the image of God who have free will, and this is something that God feels pain for and wishes we didn't have to learn the hard way, but allows the evil to be worked through in order that we fully understand it's effects and can 'banish' it forever.
Hi Legoman, you said: 'it was not God's direct purpose' - this is what I have been trying to convey. God knew evil would have to be part of His plan for a limited time and He uses 'evil' to accomplish His judgments etc (He doesn't use things like rape, abuse etc). The evils mankind and angels have 'created' are not directly intended by God, but He knows that every conceivable type of evil will be 'tried' if you like.
A lot of Ray Smith's article combines UR and eternal torment in with the 'evil' stuff and this mixes things up somewhat. I have no problem with the idea of UR and hope it is true but I'm not fully convinced as yet. I already know for sure there is no literal hell and hell's flames. These are not issues for me. The big issue at the minute is understanding where you guys come from with this 'evil' stuff. I'm not sure why only Universalists have come to this conclusion, although I'm sure not all of you believe this. I'll contine my replies to you all in my next post. Running out of space......