Moltmann and Gestalt

I have been known to describe emerging church things as “Gestalt-y” which, I know, is a word I’ve entirely fabricated.  And though I am partial to that word and idea even still, I do think Moltmann does a much better job of describing what I am trying to communicate when I use it in this excerpt below from Sun of Righteousness, Arise!:


Different biosystems or organisms do not merely cooperate with each other; they also integrate themselves in each other and form more complex forms of life. Without these processes life would not evolve. In the wake of these integrations new forms of organization develop.

It is generally said that ‘the whole is more than the sum of its parts’. That is true. The whole is also more than the cooperation of separate parts with each other. The whole is a new principle for organizing the functions of the parts in relation to each other and on behalf of the whole. New organizational forms of this kind evidently arise from the aggregate conditions of the parts like a leap into a new quality. Because the whole displays a new quality, it is not just ‘more than’ the sum of the parts; it is also different.


There are those who say (quite often, at least to me) that the “emerging church” is simply a rediscovery of something old–liturgy, or Wesleyan something or other, or Lutheran this or that. And in part, that is likely true. But I think what Moltmann says so clearly here is why I tend to reject that argument overall.  It is not simply a matter of rediscovery. It is a matter of putting these old and new things together in a way that “leap into a new quality” altogether. It is different, even if parts of it may feel the same to you. Inside it, philosophically and I would even argue metaphysically, it’s not just Lutheranism going on (as great as that might be). It possesses a unique quality that is just now emerging.


  1. Danielle,
    Your blogpost about what is emerging reminded me of a book by John Leith, Introduction to the Reformed Tradition, “The Christian Community is a living community, and its life has to be traditioned in a living way. This is to say the tradition is always alive, open to its own time and the future, never fixed.” Seemed like it resonates

  2. I haven’t read that book, Kendal, but it sounds like it would definitely resonate with the way Moltmann views the church. Thanks for letting me know about it!

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