Jottings on science, religion, technology, pop culture and faith from the Antipodes.

Faith & Religion

Emergent systems & the church

I was reading the article “Complexity Theory as Model and Metaphor for the Church” by David A. Wollert yesterday and the following paragraph stood out.

Unlike passive components, such as water molecules, human beings presumably can direct their own interactions. Thus the connectivity of “the church” itself is a dynamic process and not a static map. How we interact with one another becomes one of the defining features in an emergent systems view of the church. If we isolate ourselves, then the church will tend toward a static or fixed attractor; if we interact with everything around us, then the church will tend to become chaotic and overextended to the point of failure. Maintaining an optimum autopoietic state requires an adaptive form of connectivity, sufficiently self-contained to maintain stability and individuality, yet suffuciently responsive to the world to benefit from the synergy of working together. In the jargon of complexity theory, the church must exist at “the edge of chaos.”

I like the idea of existing at “the edge of chaos” – resonates for me with thoughts Steve had at KB04 about standing on the foreshore before the chaotic sea.

(I’m also preparing some lecture notes on the Trinity so thoughts about integration, codependency, identity, structured dynamism & personhood also spring to mind).

For those who are interested the full reference to the paper is:

Wollert, David A. “Complexity Theory as Model and Metaphor for the Church,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 56:1 55-59, M 2004.

1 Comment

  1. Stu

    yes! ever since i read “chaos” by james gleick i’ve often applied the phrase “chaos tends to order and order tends to chaos” to many different situations. it’s one of those things that makes me so hesitant with five point calvinism : so ordered and lifeless that chaos is inevitable.
    although chaos is frowned upon by the bulk of christian thinking since it is what God tamed in Genesis (tohuvu wohuvu? something like that, it was 8 years ago after all since i nearly wet myeself when Bill Osborne said it seriously in a lecture), i think it’s clear that chaos is an intrinsic part of God’s control. even in life. blueprint schmuprint i say, bring on the uncertainty!