What is synchronicity?
Question: "What is synchronicity?"
Answer: Synchronicity is the idea that events can be related in meaning or in purpose, without being linked by cause-and-effect. This usage of the word synchronicity is usually traced to the work of analytic psychologist Carl Jung. Any instance of a perceived connection between two events, where there is no clear common cause, can be considered an example of synchronicity. There is no debate over whether or not human beings experience synchronicity; such moments are a common part of life. The controversy over the idea arises when determining what such events actually mean, if they mean anything at all.
Here are some examples of events that might cause us to experience synchronicity:
– Unexpectedly thinking about an old friend, then randomly encountering him later that day.
– Calling a person on the phone, only to find he is calling you at the exact same time.
– Thinking of a particular song moments before it begins to play on the radio.
– Dreaming about playing a musical instrument, then seeing that same instrument on sale at a store.
– Unintentionally finding a Bible verse that seems directly related to a current spiritual struggle.
As with any attempt to discern meaning, it is possible to take an unnecessarily extreme approach to synchronicity. The extreme positions detailed below are evidence of dogmatism, not reason, and certainly not good sense.
According to the die-hard spiritual skeptic, there can be no connection between events unless the events have a common cause. Such a skeptic rejects any possible truth behind feelings of synchronicity. The skeptic’s automatic response to meaningful coincidences is an appeal to apophenia, the natural—and very real—human tendency to form patterns out of essentially random arrangements. Taking this extreme runs the risk of making a person spiritually deaf.
According to the die-hard spiritualist, every event is linked in some way. Such a person assumes a synchronous explanation for all seemingly related events and defends every coincidence as a “sign,” an “omen,” or some other message from the universe that requires action and attention. Taking this extreme runs the risk of making a person superstitious.
The Christian worldview provides a more appropriate approach to synchronicity. This starts with recognizing, per biblical Christianity, that it is entirely possible for coincidences to actually be meaningful. The Christian worldview teaches that God is the Creator of the universe and that He interacts with that creation, providing a common (ultimate) cause for all possible events. That is to say, God is capable of causing whatever we experience, so it’s possible that, when we experience synchronicity, God really is trying to tell us something.
On the other hand, Christianity also recognizes that some coincidences are exactly that—coincidences. While God is sovereign over every part of His creation, not everything that happens is meant as a grandiose message from heaven. Christ Himself used the phrase by chance when telling the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:31, ESV). Modern skeptics often use chance to mean “without cause,” but this is not what Jesus was referring to. Rather, as did other ancient philosophers, Jesus used the term chance to refer to a moment when two separate lines of cause-and-effect interact.
In other words, from a Christian standpoint, all things happen for a reason. But that reason is not necessarily an overt message from God. This is one reason why God calls on us to compare everything to the written Word (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12)—so we can rely on something more substantial than feelings or assumptions when we interpret our experiences. Synchronicity is a common feeling for everyone, but, as with any other feeling, we must apply wisdom before acting on it.
Recommended Resource: Balancing the Christian Life by Charles Ryrie
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