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The God of Coincidences

Mary Elizabeth Thompson

On a church marquee near the local mall, I read the following: 'A coincidence is a miracle that God does anonymously.' I wondered what Moses might think about that statement. The Old Testament miracles Moses experienced ' the parting of a sea(1), poisonous snakebites cured by gazing upon a serpent of bronze(2), fiery hail raining from the sky(3) ' were of an entirely different class than that of a coincidence such as unexpectedly being introduced to someone who turns out to be a doctor who specializes in the condition with which you've recently been diagnosed. Has God been reduced to performing lucky coincidences rather than miracles?

Perhaps it depends on your definitions of miracles and of coincidences. My dictionary defines a miracle as, 'an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.' For coincidence, 'a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance.'(4) Who can say that God didn't cause you to meet a doctor who could help you? But on the other hand, because such a coincidence isn't an extraordinary event that surpasses all known human or natural causes, there is no reason to posit the influence of a supernatural deity in order to explain its happening.

In his book Intelligent Design, William Dembski argues that the premodern world ' that is, the world prior to Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo ' 'had one thing going for it'namely, a worldview rich enough to accommodate divine agency.'(5) In Dembski's opinion, the modern world doesn't recognize God at work because we can explain him away with modern science.

What this argument ignores, however, is that recognizing God's miracles wouldn't be a problem for the modern world if God still performed miracles like those witnessed by Moses or the other patriarchs of the Old Testament. There have been no modern verified cases of a mysterious hand writing on the wall(6), burning-but-unconsumed bushes(7), edicts divinely etched into stone(8), talking donkeys(9) or all the members of our enemies' armies being cursed by tumors.(10) But nowadays God does get credit for touchdowns made at football games or somebody recovering from an illness.

It has been asked how God could show himself in this modern world where everything is explained by scientific natural causes. In other words, how else but in coincidences or natural phenomena is God to show himself?

Easily. He could show himself in the same way to the modern world that he is depicted to have done to the ancient world. He could perform an actual miracle, something that couldn't be explained away by scientific natural causes. An omnipotent God could manipulate the position of the stars so that the night sky would be lit with the name of his son Jesus.(11) He could have every bird with a voice sing a known hymn in unison, like 'How Great Thou Art.' He could make Koala Bears begin expounding on the Trinity.

Surely those feats aren't beyond the power of an omnipotent God.

Do those examples sound silly? Of course. Why do they sound silly? Because they are known to be naturally impossible, that is, we think they are impossible because they do not occur in nature. But that is exactly what is needed to demonstrate and prove that any given phenomena is in fact a miracle, actually caused by God, and not simply a coincidence, able to be explained away. The miracle must be unnatural, last long enough to be witnessed by huge numbers of people, attract media attention, and be examined by scientists to rule out any possibility of natural causes leaving only a supernatural explanation.

I think that preaching Koala bears would more than fulfill those requirements. We've already been told a story of a talking donkey, so gifting animals with speech is something God is depicted as capable of doing, and it would certainly be a miracle if it could be confirmed true. Let's see some preaching Koala bears on the PTL club.

Notes:

  1. Exodus 14:21.
  2. Numbers 21:8.
  3. Exodus 9:23-24.
  4. Both definitions are taken from the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd edition.
  5. Dembski, William, Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology (Downer's Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1999), 45.
  6. Daniel 5:5.
  7. Exodus 3:2.
  8. Exodus 31:18.
  9. Numbers 22:28.
  10. 1 Samuel 5:6.
  11. Carrier, Richard, "Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story," http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/1.html

Published:
  2002-05-31

Categories:
  Bible: Old Testament

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