"So besides all the above, I see evil as necessary for free will. Evil may have many other functions, like promoting evolution by selection of the fittest warriors. But if there is true predestination, then there is difficulty explaining much of the history of the world as consistent with a benoviolent God."
I'm glad that you continue to reply to my posts. You seem to be the only one left!
In any case, what you explained is lower on the chain of events that occur in the case of free will. Nothing I have said has reduced the power of choice. Rather, what I said is the basis of choice.
Look at this way, think of free will as a chain of decisions and events with the chain ending in what is called "the final you". The first link in the chain is "the beginning you". Everything that occurs between "the beginning you" and "the final you" is what you said: "If we make the right choices along the way... we may not end up rich, but we will end up healthy and happy. And it will not even be clear that we made the right choices. It seems you only find out if your choices are off path".
My central point, which seems to depart from what you are saying, is that "the beginning you" is "the final you". There is no change between these two points. But, the key here - and the reason why my position is a free will position - is that we don't know who "the beginning you" is, and therefore we have to decide who "the beginning you" is by our decisions in the here and now. It is somewhat ironic, but the very act of deciding (which tells us who "the final you" will be) is also the process of telling us who "the beginning you" is.
If there were never a decision to make, we would never know who "the beginning you" is. Likewise, if there were never a decision to make, we would never know who "the final you" is. We would simply be a being without decisions, and that would be an oxymoron since there is no such creature as one that doesn't make decisions.
The problem of predestination, as you alluded, is that God allows people to make their own decisions presumably because they have a choice to do so. If there are no real choices, that is, we are whatever "the beginning you" is, then God is culpable for evil since he knew ahead of time the evil that we would do (e.g., Hitler), and therefore those acts become his acts of aggression, making God an accomplice for evil. If God is the Creator and even punisher of every evil individual, then he is even more culpable as making the evil person and then punishing them for no real fault of their own. They were made that way (i.e., evil), and what do you expect them to do given the predetermined way of things?
Well, God is not culpable in either case. In the first case, God knows "the beginning you", but it is our free will to decide "the beginning you". We have a choice to make "the beginning you" anything we wish. If, in the end, we wish our beginning to be 'good', then all we have to do is be 'good' in our decisions. If we don't care about God, then we will not be concerned about what our beginning state is, so the decisions might show a person who doesn't care and chooses evil intentionally. The free will here is that the person allowed themselves to become evil (which revealed "the beginning you" as evil). Yes, God knew that this person would make the choice for the dark side, but God didn't choose it for them, they choose it. Had they chosen to listen to God, then they would have chosen 'good', and therefore "the final you" would be in a state of good.
The second case is a similar argument with the added point that God does not create "the beginning you" in the sense that our pre-existing state (or soul, if you will), is a direct result of beginning state and final state of the whole Universe (by Universe here I mean absolutely everything material and non-material that exists). Our pre-existence (or soul) is an outcome of what needs to exist in order for God's will to be done in the Universe. God creates our existence in that he imbues us with life and the ability to make free will choices, but ultimately it is 'us' that decide our fate in this good and evil struggle. A certain portion of 'souls' are unredeemable in this depiction, not because they must choose evil, rather, because they refuse to choose good, and by this they define their existence as such decision acts.
All the events that take place that someone could use as an excuse (e.g., I was born in a bad neighborhood, etc), is not an excuse for thier decisions since they had free agency. They had the ability to decide above and beyond the circumstances of their plight, and rather choose evil. However, I think a certain consideration is given for those in particular circumstances (i.e., to whom much is given much will be expected), but the doctrine of free agency requires that individuals take responsibility for their decisions and the person they have decided to be.
Hence, God is not culpable as an omniscient Creator/Behind-the-Scenes-Influencer, but he is not fooled either.