Transforming Worldviews

An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change

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"[A] remarkable book. . . . Anyone who knew [Paul Hiebert] and his work well [is]overjoyed to have his marvelous insights, scholarship, and creativity brought together in this single volume."--Gary Corwin, Evangelical Missions Quarterly

What does conversion to Christ entail? A change in behavior? A change in beliefs? These were the leading indicators for missionaries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, respectively, that conversion had occurred. But each of these on its own is insufficient for a gospel understanding of conversion. And even when both are in evidence, it is possible that the result is merely syncretistic Christo-paganism. Renowned missions anthropologist Paul Hiebert argues that for biblical mission in the twenty-first century, we must add a third element: a change in worldview, which underlies both behavior and belief.

This major book represents the capstone of a distinguished career. Hiebert offers a comprehensive study of worldview and its implications from an anthropological perspective. After reviewing the philosophical foundations of the concept, he describes characteristics of worldviews and various methods for analyzing them. He then provides a detailed analysis of several worldviews that missionaries must engage today, from the worldview of small-scale societies, to peasant worldviews, to modernity, postmodernity, post-postmodernity, and the emerging glocal context of twenty-first century ministry. Hiebert addresses the impact of each on Christianity and mission and then outlines a biblical worldview for comparison. Finally, he argues for gospel ministry that seeks to transform the worldviews of its recipients and offers suggestions for how to do so.


Endorsements

"This book is vintage Hiebert, pulling together in a single volume his seminal thinking on the cultural dynamics of Christian conversion. Drawing on a lifetime of learning, thinking, and writing on the subject, this work augurs to be the standard text on worldview for years to come. The book brims with insights into the cultural and theological 'what' and 'how' of being 'no longer conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds.' Written with the clarity and originality of thought that put Hiebert's writings at the forefront of twentieth-century missiological thought and practice, this volume is an apt tribute to the life and work of its extraordinary author, who went to his eternal home on March 11, 2007."--Jonathan J. Bonk, executive director, Overseas Ministries Study Center; editor, International Bulletin of Missionary Research

"There was once a commercial from Wall Street that said, 'Whenever (such-and-such-a-broker) speaks, everyone listens.' Well, whenever Paul Hiebert writes, I read and learn. This posthumously published work is no exception. Paul's wide-ranging scholarship, profound faith in Jesus Christ, deep insight, creative thinking, and wholehearted commitment to world evangelization are all evident here. Paul was a mentor, teacher, and guide to all of us involved in thinking about the mission of the church. This book is a wonderful example of his stimulating thought. Everyone interested in communicating the gospel among today's multiplicity of cultures will want to listen to what Paul Hiebert says in this book."--Charles Van Engen, Arthur F. Glasser Professor of Biblical Theology of Mission, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary; founder and president of Latin American Christian Ministries

"In this remarkable study, one of the leading missionary anthropologists of the past half century provides the most comprehensive and thorough treatment currently available of worldview and its relation to Christian faith. The culmination of a lifetime of intercultural ministry and reflection, Transforming Worldviews is a magisterial work that will shape discussions in missiology and theology for years to come. Indispensable for anyone interested in issues of faith and culture."--Harold Netland, professor of philosophy of religion and intercultural studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Transforming Worldviews is Hiebert at his best! For the first time, all of his major missiological insights--from set theory in church growth to the flaw of the excluded middle to critical contextualization--are integrated into a single volume. Transforming Worldviews, in which Hiebert wrestles with one of the most difficult concepts for us to understand and explain, is a fitting exclamation point to a career in which some of the most important evangelical missiological thinking of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries was done."--A. Scott Moreau, professor of intercultural studies, Wheaton College; editor, Evangelical Missions Quarterly

"If you could pick one missiologist to sort out the tangled nest that surrounds the word/concept of 'worldview,' it would be Paul Hiebert. In Transforming Worldviews, Hiebert does not disappoint. Once again he surveys the landscape majestically, explains clearly, and proposes wisely and faithfully."--Terry C. Muck, professor of world religion and mission, E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism, Asbury Theological Seminary

"What a holy passage it is to walk once more with our brother Paul Hiebert by means of these pages, to hear his wisdom distilled, his last word and testament to those who are trying to love God's world in our time. Theory and practice, cultural patterns and missiological issues--there is plenty to provoke our thinking for a long time to come."--Miriam Adeney, associate professor of global and urban ministries, School of Theology, Seattle Pacific University

"The late Paul Hiebert's work on worldviews is mission anthropology at its best. This book is his final testimony to the centrality of worldview transformation at the heart of biblical conversion. It is an instant classic--clear, readable, useful, and compelling."--Dana L. Robert, Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Christian Mission, Boston University School of Theology

"True to his unique contribution to missiology, in this final contribution Paul Hiebert has opened our understanding of worldview at a depth yet unexplored. Transforming Worldviews begins with a thorough examination of the concepts of worldview, moves on to cultural and philosophical analysis, follows with sound biblical reflection, and ends with a call to transformation. This promises to be a classic in the study of missions. It is Hiebert at his best!"--Doug McConnell, dean, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Transforming Worldviews is, in many respects, the capstone of Paul Hiebert's work. This book provides valuable insights for all people who engage in God's mission in the varied contexts of the world in this century. It is Hiebert at his best. A superb contribution to missiology. A lasting legacy!"--Tite Tiénou, dean and professor of theology of mission, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School


The Author

  1. Paul G. Hiebert

    Paul G. Hiebert

    The late Paul G. Hiebert (1932-2007) was distinguished professor of mission and anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and previously taught at Fuller Theological Seminary. He also served as a pastor and missionary to India. He received his PhD...

    Continue reading about Paul G. Hiebert

Reviews

Christianity Today 2009 Book Award Winner

"This is a penetrating and masterful study. Hiebert's in-depth and methodical evaluation of major Western and non-Western worldviews and their profound implications for the church and its mission is invaluable and timely. His pivotal argument that there is a biblical worldview to which each community of faith must conform will spark debate, but the material is deftly handled and leaves a rich deposit."--Christianity Today

"The late Paul Hiebert helped to transform missiology with insights drawn from anthropology, a contribution from which the church continues to benefit. . . . [This volume] is worth mining, not only by missiologists and missionaries, on the one hand, and adepts of the worldview conversation, on the other, but by any Christian who wants to think more deeply about what conversion to Christ entails."--John Wilson, Christianity Today

"[A] remarkable book and [an] equally remarkable author. Anyone who knew [Paul Hiebert] and his work well are overjoyed to have his marvelous insights, scholarship, and creativity brought together in this single volume. . . . The content of the book flows like a great river. . . . The series of chapters on . . . worldviews and their interaction is alone worth the price of the book. . . . A special bonus interspersed throughout the book and in three appendices is the presence of numerous figures and comparative lists. These are almost always very helpful ways to envision the points he is making."--Gary Corwin, Evangelical Missions Quarterly

"[A] noteworthy book."--International Review of Biblical Studies

"Transforming Worldviews is Hiebert at his best. . . . Those familiar with Hiebert's writing over the past thirty years will recognize familiar themes. . . . The beauty of this book is that he puts it all together in a coherent fashion and clearly draws out the missiological implications. This is pure missiological gold. . . . His treatment of modernity and postmodernity is one of the best summaries ever written. It is brilliant in its depth of insight and clarity of description. . . . Thank you, Paul Hiebert, for this great gift to missiological reflection and practice."--Darrell Whiteman, Missiology

"Paul Hiebert presents a definitive, one could say 'exhaustive,' study on worldview: its concepts, characteristics, contexts, and some methods for analyzing them. . . . Hiebert's book is definitely for the college upper level student, but it would also be suitable to use in a graduate seminar on worldview. It includes an extensive bibliography."--Karl J. Franklin, Christian Scholar's Review

"[A] groundbreaking study. . . . This book is certain to be in demand for many years to come as an indispensable tool for missiological study and field research, not least in South Asia with its ample scope for worldview studies."--Roger E. Hedlund, Dharma Deepika

"Among missiologists, Paul Hiebert has long been recognized as a model thinker on worldview. With published reflections on worldview spanning decades and numerous worldview topics, . . . Hiebert has left us a fascinating legacy to explore. . . . Transforming Worldviews [is] his last and most significant work on the topic."--A. Scott Moreau, Trinity Journal

"Few people can be credited with founding or refashioning an entire discipline. Paul Hiebert is one of those few. . . . He published seminal studies that profoundly shaped late-twentieth century mission anthropology. This opus magnum . . . sums up not only his work but the broad sweep of anthropological insights and other points of view that affect how Christians view the world and analyze its cultures and societies for the purpose of proceeding with the theological task and the commission to bring the Gospel to the nations. . . . This volume is, however, much more than a textbook for mission anthropology. It is a confession of faith, prepared by a theologian of deep commitment to the spreading of the gospel. . . . This volume represents a gift and legacy from a dedicated missionary, teacher, and scholar, whose scholarship will enrich the witness of all who read his work."--Robert Kolb, Concordia Journal

"A unique and thoroughly engaging analysis. . . . This book is packed full of novel but sophisticated and penetrating ways of looking at worldviews that are not evident in most books on this subject. Nothing quite like this book exists; it stands in a class all its own and is indispensible for Christians in today's pluralistic world."--Linden D. McLaughlin, Bibliotheca Sacra

"Not only does Transforming Worldviews represent the consummation of Hiebert's fifty-year career in missionary anthropology, it also brings together in one volume his ideas about the significance of worldview for Christian missions. . . . The chapters are clearly written and well-organized, and they follow an obvious progression that reflects the mind of an analytical thinker and astute teacher. . . . This is a monumental volume. . . . [Hiebert] is to be applauded for his pioneering work. . . . Transforming Worldviews is a seminal work that should be read and reread by those interested in the process of Christian conversion, especially in cross-cultural contexts. Suitable for upper-level undergraduate as well as graduate courses, Paul Hiebert's final work will be remembered as his greatest. We are all indebted to this masterly teacher for his lessons from the mission experiences of Western Christianity."--George F. Pickens, Mennonite Quarterly Review

"An excellent philosophical and sociological examination of culture that is written with the intent of showing the science (and art) involved in fundamentally reworking the outlook of a people group's collective worldview. In light of Hiebert's authority and credentials as a top scholar in the field of anthropology, the book possesses a unique perspective along with an expertise that is not commonly demonstrated in sociological/anthropological works that have evangelicals as the target audience. . . . Ultimately, the greatest value of this book is one of the things about which [Hiebert] is most adamant--the need to know how to follow up with new converts. . . . This book would serve as a great preliminary study for anyone who is interested in the paradigms that guide transforming cultures."--Keith Boozer, Southwestern Journal of Theology

"This posthumously published volume represents the capstone of [Hiebert's] life's work, and constitutes a worthy contribution to the expanding scholarly literature on biblical missiology. Perhaps the most useful dimension of Hiebert's discussion is the way he distinguishes between behavior and beliefs, and the worldview that underlies both of these. . . . The unique contribution of Hiebert's analysis lies, however, in the contribution of the science of anthropology to our reflection on the nature and function of a worldview. . . . Transforming Worldviews challenges us . . . to think about how the gospel works in changing people from the inside out, from the center of personal identity to the arenas of cultural life, as they express culturally their personal and communal answers to life's fundamental questions. As such, it makes a valuable contribution to an important discussion!"--Nelson D. Kloosterman, Mid-America Journal of Theology

"Transforming Worldviews is [Hiebert's] final work and reflects a lifetime of engagement with missionary anthropology and missiology. . . . Hiebert is at his best when discussing the process of conversion and discussing how that process relates to a 'biblical worldview.'. . . Transforming Worldviews will be most useful when sections of it are woven into missiology courses pitched toward upper-level undergraduates and seminary students."--C. Mathews (Matt) Samson, International Bulletin of Missionary Research

"With the publication of this final book of a beloved scholar and mentor, we perhaps have the last of a series of books on mission strategy that integrate anthropologically based, culturally sensitive approaches for the church in its global ministry context. May these lessons not be quickly forgotten."--Paul H. Deneui, Covenant Quarterly