I frequently hear people say, “There’s no such thing as coincidence.” Does that mean that God orchestrates every little thing? Doesn’t Luke 13:1 through 5 and John 16:33 indicate that bad things do happen and are not necessarily caused by God micromanaging the world? Did God cause a meteorite to hit a woman’s car in upstate New York? Doesn’t a philosophy of “no coincidences” provide a little bit of an excuse to the sinner? What does it mean to believe there are no coincidences?
This is a good question and I am looking forward to others insight into this. I have said that many times. As a matter of fact, I said it 10 mins. prior to logging on here and seeing your question. I just happened to be praying with a woman, who walked into our place of business. I had never met her before but I did have a dream, one week ago about a very broken women, in need of healing and encouragement walking through the door. This woman that walked into our place of business fit the profile of the woman in my dream. We talked for over an hour which led to a conversation about the authenticity of the bible. She and I both were amazed by what I described to her as a “divine meeting.” I told her this was no coincidence and that I believed God had “orchestrated” this meeting. I told her about RZIM and I invited her to join here for answers to her questions.
When I logged on to Connect and saw your question, it made me wonder if I was wrong in saying that I don’t believe in coincidences.
I have just wrapped up a reading in the book of Acts. Acts 8:26-40 has really stuck with me. How the Holy Spirit instructed Phillip to take the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. There he met the Ethiopian eunuch and so the rest of the story goes. No coincidence there, it was a divine appointment and that is usually what I mean when I say “I don’t believe in coincidences.” Perhaps I use the phrase too broadly? When I say it, I’m thinking everyone understands that I mean it on a personal level and in particular situations where there is an individual seeking guidance.
You make a good point about the meteorite. I don’t know. Does God orchestrate the bad and the good? Or does He just use the bad to weave good? I will let others weigh in on that but I did read an article about the Providence of God that may be useful. https://billygraham.org/story/where-is-god-in-natural-disasters-2/
Anyway, I don’t know if this is helpful to you but I do appreciate your raising this question.
I think that falls under the category of a human idiom, not a biblical truth. Whereas we have a well rounded sense of God’s character and attributes, we are not capable of seeing the complete big picture, so we cannot understand or even judge things in the full and true context. We can only see them from our finite perspective.
Though the bible reveals to us much about what God does and does not do, we have to recognize the difference between the broad strokes and the details and whether a passage is speaking globally/eternally or to a very specific situation. Ultimately, there’s just a lot we don’t know and won’t know in the here and now.
A program I’ve watched about five times now is a NOVA program (from PBS) titled “Earth from Space.” It visualizes the “natural” global systems that run our planet, through the analysis that’s been done from decades of satellite data. It’s utterly fascinating. What I was astounded by is that so many of the things we see as disasters ultimately result in a global correction or replenishment. For example forest fires help replenish important elements like carbon back into our environment. From my first viewing I have been astounded at the intricacy and balance of this amazing creation and how interrelated everything is. It made me rethink why things happen and perhaps we just can’t see enough of the full picture to understand divine purposes. Here is a link if these kinds of programs appeal to you.
I don’t think we can stop wondering how terrible things fit in with God’s full plan for creation and humanity, yet I also doubt we’ll resolve any answers until all is revealed. So we will continue to grapple with the question and hopefully do so within the truth that God is good, and so is the creation that He called good.
Meanwhile divine appointments happen and we need to fine tune our Holy Spirit radar to be sensitive to them. Remember another human idiom is, “he /she was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” which sounds like an opposing concept to “there’s no such thing as coincidences.” Just like a clock being right at least twice a day, each idiom is going to be true some of the time. If a Christian uses their opinion about coincidences to point to a circumstance where they see God’s fingerprints all over it then it might be a blessing to somebody.
I think the key is to always be on the look out for God’s involvement with his creation and his beloved creatures and give Him the glory. But if we’re going to point to all the tragedies and blame God then we may find ourselves standing in the shoes of Job being asked some very uncomfortable questions about “where were we when He laid the foundations of the earth?”
This is an interesting topic. I wonder if when people use the term “coincidence” they are actually intending to say “accidents”. A coincident is merely two things basically occupying a space or situation at the same time. An accident is an unplanned circumstance. It helps me to remember that there is a difference between God causing something and His ability to have foreknowledge about it and work through a situation or event for the benefit of His glory. He never departs from His true, perfect and holy nature, and He will always be the definition of love. All of creation has been broken since the fall, so sin has ruined everything. I think about this every time I draw blood trying to pull nasty spike weeds out of my garden. You know Adam’s first job was tending a garden and it must have been glorious! But then sin entered and all things are altered. Now we have road kill, weeds, murder, greed, pride, and random meteorites, and all these things do not occur in a vacuum, but alter things in a significant domino effect. You might enjoy John Lennox’s book: “Determined to Believe?” He talks about the way God works and maintains His character by allowing us choice while having the full knowledge of our finish. I do believe He orchestrates encounters, has absolute sovereignty over life and death, and is involved in all the details, but He still allows coincidence to further the plans for mankind. And He is not limited by our compliance.
What you seem to be addressing is where people attribute shadowy and spiritual meaningfulness to circumstances or chance; maybe like reading something into it that’s not there. A similar statement people say is that “everything happens for a reason”. And technically, it does…
For this, the detective knows what to look for and he knows how to see evidence beyond what’s obvious. Anyone else might overlook things, calling them “coincidence” but the detective is attuned to find the truth. And so does the scientist, the doctor, the bible scholar and every other expert whose job it is to discern problems that are unseen and the unknown.
Interpreting the unseen and the unknown can goes way beyond natural disciplines. In the realm of faith …we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Heb 11:3 Also, watching for “would-be-coincidences” in connection with prayer for example is both biblical and prudent. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving
But attributing meaning to coincidences, or anything else for that matter doesn’t necessarily mean you’re correct. Everything happens for one reason or another by the nature of cause and effect, but it’s not always obvious what those reasons actually are, or how much any given event is truly significant.
…the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Ecc 9:11
So I see it there are natural ways that coincidences may not be “coincidental”, just like there there are supernatural ways that sometimes are and other times aren’t. Seems like there’s people who overspiritualize it and those who underspiritualize it.