Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Coincidence and Godincidence

A coincidence is something that happens to occasion remark, but which is, by definition, meaningless. That is, part of the metaphysical presupposition behind using the word 'coincidence' is that there is no meaning present. There is simply a factual occurrence which happens to provoke comment and interest in those perceiving it.

A Godincidence, by contrast, is something that happens to occasion remark but which is considered meaningful by the people involved. In other words, it is taken up into a larger story, that of their own life or the life of their community. One might also talk about providence.

This is not about proving one thing or another. This is about the assumptions embedded within the vocabulary.

Asserting that something is a coincidence - often accompanied with amplifiers like 'mere' or 'just a' - is the assertion of a specific metaphysical commitment, one which, in truth, rules out every possible sense of meaning (an unacknowledged consequence).

Part of the problem that Christianity faces is that this specific metaphysical commitment has not simply passed unnoticed, but that it has passed into the bloodstream of the church.

It needs to be extirpated. We might begin, as Christians, by disavowing the routine use of the word 'coincidence' and only using it when we are consciously asserting that there is no meaning to be found in an event.

I suspect that we would need to exercise a great deal of caution in such a case.


  1. It's true that the normal definition of a coincidence is an event which lacks a definite causal connection with one or more other events, and whilst you surmise this to be therefore meaningless in its purpose consider Kammerer's view on Seriality as proposed by Jung ( a bloke I think you like) in his work: Synchronicity.
    This suggests that coinicidences can be caused by a series of events so complex that we are unlikely without serious research or deep insight to understand how such 'coincidences' came to be. Therefore, it can lead people to create their own belief systems in determinate fate, supernatural events, occult and/or mystical forces at work. Whatever the case I'm not sure therefore I agree with the view that as a Christian you can question the meaningful relationship between events apprently unrelated because they may have a deeper (or higher depending on your perspective) causal connection which by virtue of their status (the world created by god) is outside of our mental contruct and as such exceedingly difficult to understand through a logico-mystical study.
    Therefore, a casual use of the word 'coincidence' can be used as it accepts that we are not always able to understand but we accept its occurence as potentially mystical.

  2. Sitting here eating my cheese sandwich it occurs to me that this dualistic view of the world always throws up more problems than it solves. Good/evil, black/white, coincidence/godincidence, I prefer the buddhist 'oneness' of things, ...I also prefer an 'amazing' or 'wonderful' coincidence to a 'mere' coincidence.

  3. Isn’t there a problem of who’s defining it?

    One can consider everything a coincidence, and in fact one can consider everything a godincidence, just like everyone can consider everything a miracle – like your hearing aid that you knew you were going to get that you considered a miracle.

    2 weeks ago I moved an entertainment system into the house that had been sitting in my garage for a year and half. My wife simply hadn’t decided how she wanted to decorate around it, and finally she just said, “Lets move it in.” After getting it in and populating it with all the necessary nick-nacks and such, I said, “Well, we don’t have a TV for it.” So there it sat for 2 weeks without a TV.

    This last weekend I was moving my mom to a new place; as it turns out, she had this nice new [extra] 42” TV that she wasn’t going to have room for (of course I knew nothing of this), and she said, “Which one of you boys wants this?” Of course I jumped at it – and now, somewhat coincidentally, I have a TV with almost perfect timing.

    An even bigger coincidence was, my mom was moving because she lost her job and couldn’t afford the place she was living in – I was sort of winning out from her misfortune. So she decided that she was going to move into a cheaper place. The day she moved in she got a call from a guy who knew she just got canned and wanted her to be her new executive assistant. Of course she took it, and now she’s making 20K more a year then before.

    An even bigger coincidence is, she got the lead for the job from the minister at her church who just so happen to run into this guy at a Rotary Club meeting, and he just so happen to mention he was looking for someone for said position and said, “Oh call Jeannette (my mom).” To which the man responds, “She’d be perfect, but she’s working for X.” the minister comes back, “No, she just lost her job a couple weeks ago.” Which just so happened to be the same weekend I moved the entertainment system in.

    I don’t know what to call all that – come to think of it, I guess I never really thought about it either way until I caught this post, which is yet another coincidence, not to mention it’s from “a man of God”, and not to mention that all this was made possible (my TV and my moms job) because another “man of God” ran into someone.

    Just dumb luck I guess.

  4. Andrew and I are in complete agreement-- which if memory serves is a singular accomplishment.

    On the other hand, if I pray to St. Anthony and, subsequently, find what I had been unable to find, I can assert that it is due to St. Anthony's intercession without -- necessarily -- asserting it to be miraculous.

    Perhaps the problem lies not only in the overabundant use of the word "coincidence", but also in the utter trivialization of the sense of the miraculous?

  5. You mention caution.

    Why is Christianity doing nothing about the events portrayed here:


    By not addressing the issues the 'floating agnostics' will in the end be against you

  6. Looking at this purely in terms of adopting a dialogue (in this case a Christian one, or whatever) it’s completely inconsistent to say that some things are god-incidences, yet others are coincidences. The split being made is between the perceived trivial vs. the perceived meaningful. The problem is that every event is connected to every other in such a way that you have an endless web of contingencies. i.e. one could say that receiving a given phone call which was important in some way (and came at just the right opportune time) was a god-incidence – while completely ignoring the fact that perhaps the real god-incidence was the fact that you (for whatever reason) decided to hold a crap for 5 minutes longer, there-by making it possible for you to get that phone call. In which case one can thank God for the robust schvink you have; which was (incidentally) made possible by your shyness in using public restrooms, thereby putting you in situations where you were holding it all the time and creating that robustness. Which of course you can attribute to that kid in the 5th grade who kicked the door open on you while you were layin’ cable, there-by exposing you to the rest of the group in the can at the time, there-by causing you so much embarrassment that you were never able to use a public restroom again.

    Didn’t they make a movie about this? I think it was M. night shyamalan’s “Signs”, which pointed to seemingly trivial everyday events leading to the perceived and final god-incidence. But in order to get it, one has to see EVERY event as a God-incidence. I don’t think you can have it both ways…. Otherwise you’re merely making rhetorical statements to refer to that which is meaningful to you for whatever reason, and that which isn’t. However in that case, you’re really trivializing what we’d really want “God-incidence” to mean…. Are we not?

  7. Andrew is right on the money here, and his 'anal-ogy' made me laugh too. All events are inextricably linked, how could it be otherwise? And if like mine, your universe contains god, then he (if indeed it is a 'he') has to be present in all 'incidences'. We, as observers can't go around conveniently cherry picking ones that are good or worthy and ascribing his influence to them. If we then can accept that there is no such thing as a coincidence then we can also begin to see remarkable things in the most prosaic events.


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