In Defense of Coincidence (& Happy)

The word "coincidence" needs defending in some circles. There are those of us who find the idea of chance offensive to the idea of a sovereign God, and so avoid the use of that word altogether. Not to mention the word "chance" itself. We did not, after all, chance to meet; the God of Heaven, with his ministers and agents, brought us here together today. Nor was it a coincidence that we both were here at the same time; this meeting, my friend, was providential (or Providential).

I have a problem with how some Christians have discarded coincidence altogether, for reasons I will outline. I am also uncomfortable with using Providence (providence?) or providential in its place.

As honorable a heritage as the use of the word Providence might have, Providence is not Yahweh, nor Jesus our Lord, nor even God (you know, God). Providence is simply...divinity. The Force. Now, an individual speaker might mean Yahweh when he says Providence, but he's not saying that. Every time I hear a brother use the word Providence I am reminded of how many Puritans became Congregationalists, and how many Congregationalists became Unitarians. Pentecostals are better off than Presbyterians in this matter, when they say that the Holy Spirit wanted the two of us to meet today. We could argue about their Trinitarian theology, but at least they're talking about the Triune God.

All that to say, Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who is Providence? If you really don't want to use the word coincidence, say God or Jesus, won't you? It was God's will that we meet here today.  I mean, it hardly needs saying, but it's good to say.

And speaking of it hardly needs saying, the second reason I'm not a big fan of using Providence is that it serves as an exclusionary badge. The person who uses that word in place of coincidence is not saying he's a Christian. He's saying he's a Christian with the correct theology; that he's a Calvinist. Hey, are you one of us? One of the ones who says "that was providential"? What?! Have you no respect for God's sovereignty?

So what's so good about coincidence? Coincidence should be a neutral word, while Providence is potentially negative. Coincidence is not chance. And I think chance is the idea Christians are avoiding. A coincidence ought to be a falling together, a simultaneous happening, a correspondence in nature, character, or function. To coincide is to occupy the same place in space or time, or even to be in accord or agreement. It is a coming together.

What about that removes the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from the equation? If you really are afraid that one use of the word coincidence will ruin your testimony of trust and faith in God's sovereignty, just follow it up with a little of that speech we can so often find intimidating, mentioning Jehovah and Jesus and Holy Ghost. Unless we don't want to suggest that the personal God would take a personal interest in our affairs.

Do many use "coincidence" to mean "chance simultaneity"? Sure. But you and I know there's more going on here than that.

Not only do I want to rescue coincidence from the clutches of providence, I would like to suggest to you a happy word: happy.

Use it more!

Happy come from hap, or happen. This word, unlike coincidence, actually has roots in the idea of fortune or luck. Nonetheless, it is a word so full of joy and favor that I think a Christian's use of it ends up being very Christian. This is felicitous, fitting, meet and right. This is a perfect happening. What a happy coincidence that we met! What a happy event!

I'm happy to see you.

In a happy nutshell, therefore, my commendations to you. Limit use of the word providence. Redeem "coincidence". Adopt "happy". You might be surprised at how much using the word happy to describe events spreads joy. 

This was a happy meeting.