Engaging complexity

Loubser, Gys. M. (2014-08)

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

The original publication is available at http://www.ve.org.za/index.php/VE/article/view/1316

Please cite as follows:

Loubser, G.M. 2014. Engaging complexity. Verbum et Ecclesia, 35(1): doi.org/10.4102/ ve.v35i1.1316

Article

In this article, I discuss studies in complexity and its epistemological implications for systematic and practical theology. I argue that engagement with complexity does not necessarily assure a non-reductionist approach. However, if complexity is engaged transversally, it becomes possible to transcend reductionist approaches. Moreover, systematic and practical theologians can draw on complexity in developing new ways of understanding and, therefore, new ways of describing the focus, epistemic scope and heuristic structures of systematic and practical theology. Firstly, Edgar Morin draws a distinction between restricted and general complexity based on the epistemology drawn upon in studies in complexity. Moving away from foundationalist approaches to epistemology, Morin argues for a paradigm of systems. Secondly, I discuss Kees van Kooten Niekerk’s distinction between epistemology, methodology and ontology in studies in complexity and offer an example of a theological argument that draws on complexity. Thirdly, I argue for the importance of transversality in engaging complexity by drawing on the work of Wentzel van Huyssteen and Paul Cilliers. In conclusion, I argue that theologians have to be conscious of the epistemic foundations of each study in complexity, and these studies illuminate the heart of Reformed theology. Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Therefore, this article has both intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary implications. When theologians engage studies in complexity, the epistemological roots of these studies need to be considered seeing that researchers in complexity draw on different epistemologies. Drawing on transversality would enhance such considerations. Furthermore, Edgar Morin’s and Paul Cilliers’ approach to complexity will inform practical and theoretical considerations in church polity and unity.

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