Paul Hiebert (missiologist)

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Paul Gordon Hiebert (13 November 1932 – 11 March 2007) was an American missiologist. He was "arguably the world's leading missiological anthropologist."[1]. Hiebert has authored numerous academic books and articles in the field of missiology and applied anthropology.

Hiebert was born in India to missionary parents, and studied at Tabor College, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, and the University of Minnesota.[1] Subsequently Hiebert went on an overseas mission to India and was Principal of the Mennonite Brethren Centenary Bible College, Shamshabad. After a period of missionary service, he proceeded to Pasadena, California where he taught at Fuller Theological Seminary before becoming Distinguished Professor of Mission and Anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.[citation needed] From 1974 to 1975, Hiebert lectured at Osmania University, Hyderabad, India on a Fulbright Scholarship.[2]

Hiebert developed several theories that widely influenced the study and practice of Christian missions. His model of "critical contextualization"[3] describes a process of understanding and evaluating cultural practices in light of biblical teaching. It is one of the most widely cited models in evangelical doctoral dissertations dealing with contextualization.[4]

The concept of the "excluded middle" argued that most Westerners see the universe as consisting of two tiers - the invisible things of the other world, and the visible things of this world. In this way, they exclude the part in between - namely, the invisible things of this world, and in particular the unseen personal beings, such as angels and demons. Hiebert suggested that non-Westerners are much more likely to accept this "excluded middle".[5][6][7]

Hiebert, who studied mathematics as an undergraduate, employed the idea of set theory to describe bounded sets versus centered or fuzzy sets as different ways of conceiving Christian community and theology.[8]

A Festschrift in his honor, Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity[9] was published in 2006. Hiebert died of cancer in 2007.[10]

Most important publications[edit]

  • Cultural Anthropology. Second Edition ed. Grand Rapids, Ml: Baker Book House, 1983.
  • Anthropological Insights for Missionaries. Baker Academic. 1985.
  • Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994.
  • Missiological Implications of Epistemological Shifts Harrisburg, Pa: Trinity Press International, 1999.
  • Transforming Worldview: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change. Bakers Academic. 2008.
  • The Gospel in Human Context: Anthropological Exploration for Contemporary Missions. Grand Rapids, MI: Bakers Academic. 2009.


  1. ^ a b Priest, Robert J. "Paul Hiebert: A Life Remembered". Books and Culture. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  2. ^ Directory of U.S. Fulbright Scholars 1974-1975, p.76.[1]
  3. ^ Hiebert, Paul G. “Critical Contextualization.” International bulletin of missionary research 11, no. 3 (2016): 104–112.
  4. ^ Darrell L. Whiteman, ""Anthropological Reflections on Contextualizing Theology in a Globalizing World" in Globalizing Theology edited by Craig Ott and Harold A. Netland, 52-69 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), page 55
  5. ^ Hiebert, Paul G. "The Flaw of the Excluded Middle" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 February 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  6. ^ Croucher, Rowland. "Flaw of the Excluded Middle". Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  7. ^ Gilbert, Pierre (Fall 2007). "Further Reflections on Paul Hiebert's "The Flaw of the Excluded Middle"". Direction. 36 (2): 206–218. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  8. ^ See Yoder, Michael L, Michael G Lee, Jonathan Ro, and Robert J Priest. “Understanding Christian Identity in Terms of Bounded and Centered Set Theory in the Writings of Paul G. Hiebert.” Trinity Journal 30, no. 2 (Fall 2009): 177–88.
  9. ^ Edited by Craig Ott and Harold A. Netland. Baker Academic, 2006
  10. ^ Wan, Enoch. "Legacy of Paul G. Hiebert". Global Missiology. Retrieved 7 February 2015.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Peter V. Balzer,
Mennonite Brethren Centenary Bible College,
Shamshabad, India

Succeeded by
Peter M. Hamm,
Preceded by
Fulbright Professor of Anthropology
Osmania University, Hyderabad, India

Succeeded by