Does coincidence exist?

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Everyone has experienced it. Extraordinary events or an exceptional coinciding of things. Seemingly undergoing the same thing several times or an unwanted accident that happens as if it were planned. This is called coincidence. But does it actually exist? What is written about it in the Bible?

Coincidence is a remarkable turn of events which seems to have no reason or purpose. It’s a happening to goes together with an incidence or upon which is stumbled. Sometimes as a thing that goes ‘beyond’ humans. It happens sporadically. It is sometimes called an accident. (Religious) theories on fate, predestination or about the doings of God or satan try to make coincidence understandable. But does that explain every case of coincidence?

Word study
Old Testament words translated as ‘coincidence’ are qareh from the root qarah – happen/meet (Dt 23:10) and pega’ from the root paga’ – stumble upon/come across (Eccl 9:11). The Hebrew word pega’ expresses inevitability (ending up into something), while with qareh there are no connected events preceding it which could explain it from happening. A root related to qareh is qara‘ – stumble upon/assail. This seems to point towards two types of coincidence which in the Bible are used (with and without prior history).

In Greek the word meros – an allocated part/destiny is translated as ‘coincidence’ (Mt 24:51). But this points more towards the state of something instead of an event that happens in a dynamic process. So, it seems that the Greeks did not distinguish coincidence.

Coincidence seems to exist
Coincidence occurs in many ways, but only a few people make distinctions between them. Often coincidence is explained as a consequence of human freedom. Because there is so much freedom to act, coincidence is supposed to be an event that now and then can occur. Also, not many people ponder on the existence of coincidence. Only when it has a very negative consequence. But even then, not much consideration is given to it. Especially westerners, since they have a rational attitude; human thought is considered superior to superstition. This is a consequence of the Age of Enlightenment (18th century). Every westerner has become a pseudo-scientists. Everything has an explainable cause and has to be logical. But for some occurrences of coincidences there has not always been found a logical explanation. Especially when these are an act of God.

Previous generations were more aware of the existence of the ‘world of the gods’ which constantly intervened in the world of men. In the West nowadays this contact between the non-physical and the physical world is called mysticism. Still, it seems that these interventions really happen. These simply happen too often. But only a few link coincidence with the existence of the non-physical world. If this world exists then it’s only logical that interventions occur and that some interpret that as coincidence.

It is important to state that coincidence also has to do with perception (interpretation). Humans interpret an event as coincidence, because they do not have (an immediate) logical explanation for it. This, however, doesn’t mean that the event hasn’t got a purpose, no logic or an underlying reason. Is every coincidence an ‘act of God’?

Types of coincidence
Coincidence can be classified by increase in origin:
1. Pure coincidence
2. Unavoidable coincidence
3. Causative coincidence
4. Planned coincidence

Ad.1 Pure coincidence occurs without any cause. This is coincidence that occurs in totally unforeseen, illogical and unplanned circumstances. This type of coincidence would be unexplainable. Not even from the order of the Creation. Actually, only this type of coincidence is correctly named. However, the question is whether this really exists. Whether or not this is an illusion. Can an event in Creation really be coincidence?

Ad.2 This type of coincidence originates from the order of things, like the order of Creation, but has no purposefulness. It appears to happen in a planned way, but is dominated by senselessness and uncertainty. Since several issues are involved with it, of which none are aware of the fact that it will come to a coincidence, there is a certain (tiny) chance that it will occur.

Ad.3 This is the first type of coincidence which has an explanation in the fact that something happened preceding it which caused the coincidence to occur. Often humans are not aware that preceding events have a consequence (a reaction). When that is not realized the moment the assumed ‘coincidence’ occurred, then there is a great chance that the same ‘coincidence’ will re-occur. That reoccurrence will then result in even greater surprise. Causative coincidence has its origin in the order of Creation, thus it has a high certainty on how it will unfold.

Ad.4 This coincidence happens on purpose, but goes ‘beyond’ the order of Creation. Although it can make use of that order. It is still coincidence due to how unforeseen it is since humans do not realize the purposefulness. This type of coincidence is directly linked with an ‘intelligence’ which always has a goal, direction and methodology. Humans give this type of coincidence a high religious content and classify it as pseudo-belief or religion.

Providence
Coincidence is sometimes seen as a consequence of Providence [1]. It is a result of the awareness of some ‘higher power’ more powerful than man. Believers think that this has to do with God’s general favor for Creation and His special favor for the believer. Providence, either termed secular of religious, is supposed to always be present. But can that also be based on the Bible? In the Bible God is described as being always aware, wanting to seek out something and purposely intervening [2]. Sometimes God’s intervention is part of His Plan or it has influence on it. But the acts of God are ‘above’ the order of Creation. However, providence is restricted to the order of Creation, which has the characteristic of self-maintenance and self-preservation [3]. This means that Providence, if it exists, is ‘under’ God. That explains why Providence hardly ever is able to mitigate suffering in Creation.

But in the Bible Providence doesn’t exist. What is termed as God’s providence is actually His daily governance of Creation. Coincidence is related to His governance together with the order of Creation. These two together can be called ‘God’s providence’ in Creation. But again, the acts of God go beyond providence and sometimes even conflicts with it. When God’s providence exists and He sometimes intervenes, does that encompass all types of coincidence? Is it always to be seen as originating from Him?

Is God almighty?
Most believers think that God is almighty, since many Bible translations give that impression. The Hebrew word Sjaddaj is based upon the root sjadad (destroy) and is related to the root sjoed which has the same meaning. So, the generally accepted translation of this word Sjaddaj as ‘almighty’ is thus questionable. But if God was really almighty, how can it be explained that He often stays passive? Of course, this can be reasoned away by stating that this is a choice of God which man can’t understand. Still, this creates serious problems if believers explain God’s passiveness by assuming that unfavorable events always happen due to the intervention by satan. This is based on the fact that in the Bible it is repeatedly stated that there is war going on between God and satan and his accomplices [4]. If opposition against God is possible, a given in the Bible, than He can’t be almighty in the pure sense. If God has the potential to be almighty then coincidence cannot exist if He would exercise that potential continually. As stated previously in this article, the existence of coincidence proves that God in most cases doesn’t exercise his potential to be almighty [5].

The power of satan
If satan and his accomplices have the ‘power’ to perceive their own goals and can put plans for it into actions, then there has to be a link with coincidence. However, it has to be clearly stated that according to the Bible God has limited their ‘power’. Creation and all that is in it are being constantly ‘maintained’ by God [6].

Just as God potentially exercises His power, likewise satan exercises his [7] potentially. When the circumstance or reason for that potential is taken away, then satan is hindered in exercising his power. When God’s power is put against the power of satan then that can invalidate satan’s power. Is it then possible that coincidence exists outside of the power dominions of God and satan?

Human recalcitrance
Creation exits to facilitate (believing) humans [8]. Does that mean that these believers will not experience coincidence? Sure, since also believers lack all kinds of things, since they are humans bound to the physical Creation. However, one reason why believers experience coincidence is their resistance against God. Sometimes they are not aware of that. For example, due to lack of knowledge, understanding or insight in the will of God. This happens not always on purpose, but can originate from things that still need to be dealt with or come from sinful behavioral patrons followed by previous generations. When it is on purpose however, then this could become recalcitrance (fixed opposition against God). This can be limited to one or some sinful behaviors, but often this is based on a deeper, more broader and serious cause.

Does that mean that coincidence only happens because humans are not fully committed to living according the will of God? Or does coincidence happen less frequently when a believer becomes more pious or perfect? If that was so, then they would already live in a garden of Eden on earth. Then everything would succeed. In the Bible it says that quite the opposite is fact. Precisely the pious and perfect believers are put in the frontline in the war of satan against God. The book Job shows an example of that. Still, God teaches them about it and always claims the right to seek out humans. Even in the new Creation. Since also then the ‘distance’ between God and man remains. Thus, from the viewpoint of man, coincidence will remain always.

Identifying coincidence
All spiritual influence is, like the influence of creatures, limited. Creation is not a machine and that says something about God, since Creation reflects His Character and will. Even more so, Creation and the creatures in it are meant to serve Him and being submitted to Him. Creation doesn’t exist just being Creation. To think that is idleness [9]. But according to these statements coincidence thus has to always have a purpose. Because when coincidence is purposeless, then that would be in conflict with the purpose of God with Creation [10]. Those humans who think that do not understand coincidence and therefore call events ‘coincidence’. But that doesn’t mean that it really exists.

Coincidence exists only in the imagination of humans. To a certain extent there is governance of God in Creation, but there likewise exists also ‘governance’ of satan. Humans can, to a certain extent, go against both forms of governance, but that will however lead nowhere. All of this can have (seemingly) coincidence as a consequence. In other words, coincidence is sometimes caused by God, sometimes by satan, sometimes through the Creation order and sometimes it is caused by human obstinacy. In other words, coincidence always has an explanation whereby it actually isn’t coincidence.

The level of response on coincidence determines what happens after a coincidence occurred; if it is useful to God, satan, Creation or further human obstinacy. In any case, coincidence often is useless to humans. Believers will interpret it in many cases as the governance of God: wanting to work it out for the good. If however, coincidence is perceived as being unfavorable then it is interpreted as coming from satan. Unbelievers mostly do make such differentiations. For them coincidence is a stumbling block: it becomes part of some superstition and without realizing it that therefore becomes beneficial for satan. Therefore coincidence is his play toy.

Humans experience coincidence as awkward and therefore they spent not much attention to it or quickly regard it as unimportant. It seems however that coincidence exists to show people their limits and their dependence on a greater (spiritual) scheme. This points towards another use of coincidence: teaching humans humbleness. Most of them (still) haven’t understood that.

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[1] In the secular sense this is a light version of destiny. The presumed natural sustenance of beneficial circumstances or the phasing out of what is deemed crooked.
[2] This has lead to the wrong presumption of God being All-knowing.
[3] That explains why Creation cannot be trusted to do its workings and order, since such reliance would be unfavorable for the believers.
[4] World religions (including Christianity) state wrongly that satan is in the service of God as (the good) angel of death.
[5] This explains the existence of unrighteousness, suffering, crime and the trespassing of God’s will.
[6] Maintenance is however a neutral and objective given due to the righteousness of God which is separate from His special love, blessing and loyalty to the Covenant.
[7] Satan is a creature, bound by the order of Creation which is being enforced and maintained by God.
[8] Those that are in the will of God and (always) act upon that in life.
[9] This is the secular view on Creation.
[10] Pure coincidence is meaningless.