Original Research

Engaging complexity

Gys M. Loubser
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 35, No 1 | a1316 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v35i1.1316 | © 2014 Gys M. Loubser | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 November 2013 | Published: 18 August 2014

About the author(s)

Gys M. Loubser, Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, South Africa


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 assurea non-reductionist approach. However, if complexity is engaged transversally, it becomes possible to transcend reductionist approaches. Moreover, systematic and practical the ologians 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 andontology in studies in complexity and offer an example of a theological argument that drawson 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 incomplexity, the epistemological roots of these studies need to be considered seeing thatresearchers in complexity draw on different epistemologies. Drawing on transversality wouldenhance such considerations. Furthermore, Edgar Morin’s and Paul Cilliers’ approach tocomplexity will inform practical and theoretical considerations in church polity and unity.


Morin, Van Huyssteen, Cliiers, complexity, transversality


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