Christian: A couple of passages for your thoughtful consideration:
“Answering at that time, Jesus said, I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and of earth, because You hid these things from the sophisticated and cunning and revealed them to babes. Yes, Father, for so it was pleasing before You. All things were yielded up to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and the one to whom the Son purposes to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:25-27).
“So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens” (Romans 9:18).
Atheist: Hmmm. Interesting. This view should make you the ultimate fatalist. If nothing happens except by God’s Will, then you should accept everything with equal stoicism.
Christian: Equal stoicism, eh? Not quite. With greater thoughtfulness this time further consider Romans 9:2, Romans 10:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and Titus 3:3-7. Christians are to give thanks and praise to God for hiding and revealing (Matthew 11:25-27). I’ll try to explain this by using my biological brother and father as an example.
Relative to God’s decree I thank Him and rejoice in His decretive will of hiding the glory of the gospel from them (Matthew 11:25). Why? Because I know that it was the kindness and love of God in Christ that made me to differ from them (Titus 3:3-7). Presently I know that the Son has revealed the Father to me, but not to them (Matthew 11:27). I thank God for His justice and holiness in unconditionally and actively hardening them. But that doesn’t keep me from mourning their rebellion against the Lord’s preceptive will (command) to repent of resting in their own works and to rest solely in His work as the sole grounds of acceptance with God (cf. Matthew 11:28-30). That the gospel is presently hid from them by God’s decree does not keep me from hoping and praying that they will in time be found among those babes whom the Father has chosen to reveal the glory of Christ to (Matthew 11:25).
Atheist: Say on.
Christian: I don’t mourn over the fact that God has mercy on whom He wills and whom He wills He hardens (Romans 9:18). I don’t mourn over the fact that God has hardened my father and brother because the Sovereign Redeemer and King of the Universe is righteous in all that He does. The inevitable result of God’s unconditional and active hardening is their present state of unbelief and rebellion — THESE are the things that I mourn over. Christians are to thank God in ALL things; not just some things (1 Thessalonians 5:18). They thank God for causing evil because they realize that it is a righteous demonstration of His power and wrath (cf. Romans 9:22). They don’t rejoice over evil as evil, since evil is against God’s preceptive will (command). But they do rejoice over God’s unconditional and active causation of evil because it not only reveals to them His power, wrath, and hatred of sin and unbelief, it further and more fully reveals to them His saving love towards them. Unlike the vessels of wrath, the vessels of mercy truly know that the precious blood of the Lamb is what saves them from the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16, 7:10, 14, 17). The Lamb did not die for the vessels of wrath in any sense, and they do not benefit in any sense from His death (now you’d think that was obvious, being fitted out for destruction but it is customary for certain self-righteous and blood-despising Calvinists to complicate things).