Forgotten Arguments for Christianity: Undesigned Coincidences
by J.W. Wartick
The argument from undesigned coincidences is one of the forgotten arguments for Christianity. It has seen a very recent resurgence through the work of some Christian apologists, such as the philosopher Timothy McGrew. The core of the argument is an investigation of the Bible. When one examines the Scriptures, one finds a number of historical, factual claims which either overlap and confirm others made independently or fill in gaps that authors familiar with current events at the time of the writings would have assumed their readers knew about. These coincidences are therefore undesigned–they are unintentional–but they show that the authors who wrote the books which contain them were telling historical truths.
The Argument Outlined
The argument from undesigned coincinces is not an argument which can be contemplated and accepted or dismissed within minutes or even a few hours of study. The argument must be analyzed by investigating individual instances of the undesigned coincidences for oneself and feeling the weight of the evidence begin to burden the mind.
The argument is an inductive argument. Basically, it argues for the conclusion that the Bible is historically accurate. However, it can be used to argue more specifically towards the conclusion that the miraculous accounts in the Bible did in fact happen.
John James Blunt, an early (1794-1855) proponent of the argument from undesigned coincidences, uses the argument as a challenge:
In our argument we defy people to sit down together, or transmit their writings one to another, and produce the like [undesigned coincidences]. Truths known independently to each of them, must at the bottom of documents having such discrepancies and such agreements as these in question. (J.J. Blunt, kindle location 89, cited below)
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It would be hard to make the argument more succinct than this. The argument is built from an ever-growing number of independently observed statements throughout the Bible which coincidentally prove, confirm, or fill in historical gaps of other passages. Therefore, it can feature a huge number of steps, each one an additional piece of evidence. Because of this, it is most easily stated as a challenge. Once you have considered the massive weight of the evidence from untold numbers of undesigned coincidences, can you really maintain your skepticism of the historicity of the Bible?
The argument is used not just to establish the credibility of the Gospels but can be used for a number of other claims about the historicity of Christianity: “The argument deduced from coincidence without design has further claims, because… it establishes the authors of several books of Scripture as independent witnesses to the facts they relate; and this, whether they consulted each other’s writings or not; for the coincidences, if good for anything, are such as could not result from combination, mutual understanding, or arrangement…
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