Paul G. Hiebert’s Legacy Of Worldview -- By: A. Scott Moreau

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 30:2 (Fall 2009)
Article: Paul G. Hiebert’s Legacy Of Worldview
Author: A. Scott Moreau

Paul G. Hiebert’s Legacy Of Worldview

A. Scott Moreau

A. Scott Moreau is Professor of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

Worldview is one of the most fascinating and frustrating terms used by evangelicals. The first ten Google results for “biblical Christian worldview” are websites that delineate, dissect, and disseminate what it is. A closer look, however, reveals a wide variety of understandings on just what is being presented. We hear about it from our pulpits, read about it in theology and missions books, and find it discussed on blogs. It is just as at home in the evangelical academy (psychology, communication, philosophy, and theology all use it) as it is in mission training programs.

Unfortunately, the closer one looks at what people mean by the term the more confusing the picture of it becomes. Nailing ice cream to a wall is an apt metaphor for pinning down the definition. We all seem to use it, but just what does it really mean? 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, including (in alphabetical order) conversion, epistemology, folk religions, logics, myth, the powers, spiritual warfare, symbolism, and syncretism (1989a; 1989b; 1992; 1997; 2006; 2008), Hiebert has left us a fascinating legacy to explore.

At the same time, one of the difficulties of discussing the legacy of Hiebert’s understanding of worldview, in contrast with his other legacies, is that he did not originate or introduce missiologists to the concept. Missiological publications on worldview, drawing from the originating philosophical and anthropological discourses, appeared at least a decade before Hiebert joined in (Luzbetak 1963; Loewen 1965) and they continue today, independent of his contributions (Kraft 2008). He is thus one voice among others, rather than the pioneering voice.

In light of this, it is not appropriate to evaluate Hiebert’s legacy in relation to worldview in the same way as the legacies for which he was the pioneer. In this brief article, then, we will explore selected contours of Hiebert’s perspective on worldview as seen in Transforming worldviews (2008), his last and most significant work on

the topic, before offering comments on the legacy of his perceptions for evangelical missiologists.

I. Hiebert’s Understanding Of Worldview

Hiebert’s perspective was that worldview is essentially a mental schema through which people look at the world and by means of which they make sense of it. He posited that worldview is “t...

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