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Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change

by Paul G. Hiebert

Anyone who knew this man and his work well are overjoyed to have his marvelous insights, scholarship, and creativity brought together in this single volume.

Baker Academic, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516, 2008, 367 pages, $24.99.

Reviewed by Gary Corwin, EMQ associate editor and staff missiologist with the international office of Serving in Mission (SIM).

According to Jonathan Bonk, “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.” Harold Netland follows this with: “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.”

These comments on Transforming Worldview by just two of the late Paul Hiebert’s myriad of missiological admirers represent an accurate, if overly brief, summary of both this remarkable book and its equally remarkable author. Anyone who knew this man and his work well are overjoyed to have his marvelous insights, scholarship, and creativity brought together in this single volume. As always, it is also presented in the context of his ever-present and intense faith in Jesus Christ, as well as his great heart for the task of world mission.

The content of the book flows like a great river. It begins with a thorough examination of the foundational concepts about worldview (i.e., the springs) and moves on to the historical development of many tributary aspects of worldview analysis and study. These are followed by broad cultural examples that constitute feeder rivers—some of the basic categories of worldview types and the interaction between them—Small-Scale Oral Societies; Peasant Worldviews; and the Modern, Post-Modern, and Glocal Worldviews. For anyone struggling to understand the nuances of difference and similarity between the last several, the series of chapters on these worldviews and their interaction is alone worth the price of the book. Finally, Hiebert guides the river to the ocean of world impact, concluding with thoughtful attention to getting and maintaining a biblical worldview. He finishes with a powerful call to worldview transformation.

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, and have been a most welcome Hiebert trademark in both his teaching and writing throughout his long career. In conclusion, let me cite the overall evaluation of this book by two more missiological admirers—Terry C. Muck and Tite Tiénou, respectively—who pretty much say it all: “If you could pick one missiologist to sort out the tangled mare’s 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.”

Transforming Worldviews is, in many respects, the capstone of Paul Hiebert’s work. This book provides valuable insights to 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!”

Check these titles:

Hiebert, Paul G. 1994. Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.

___________. 1997. Cultural Anthropology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.

Hiebert, Paul G., R. Daniel Shaw, and Tite Tiénou. 2000. Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.

Copyright © 2009 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.

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