Worldview Transformation in Conversion

Categories: Book Reviews


From Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change by Paul Hiebert

This book is not necessarily an easy read. But chapter 11 (pages 307-333), which bears the same name as the book's title, is worth reading by anyone interested in evangelism in non-Christian religious worldview contexts.

Page 69: It is important to study worldviews to transform them. Too often conversion takes place at the surface levels of behavior and beliefs; but if worldviews are not transformed, the gospel is interpreted in terms of pagan worldviews, and the result isChristo-paganism. (I think this is a helpful descriptor.)

Page 309: If we use ratio (“fuzzy”) sets to think about conversion, the picture looks different. Conversion from Hinduism to Christianity becomes a process in which the change may take place suddenly or gradually. … The steps may be defined either in terms of growing knowledge and acceptance of Christian beliefs (orthodoxy) or changes in life (orthopraxy).

A fuzzy set approach to conversion raises difficult theological questions. It is true that many people seem to move through a series or stages in their conversion to Christ, and that conversion must be seen, at least to some extent, as a process. But is there no moment of salvation? Can a person serve Hindu gods and Christ at the same time? We who look from the outside may not see a point of conversion, but what about God, who looks at the heart? May it be that what appears fuzzy to us, because we cannot see into the heart, is clear to God? In missions should we work more on drawing people to Christ and focus less on seeing salvation as a single decision and discipling as a less critical process that will somehow take care of itself?

Page 310: We need to return to a biblical view of transformation, which is both a point and a process: this transformation has simple beginnings (a person can turn wherever he or she is) but radical, lifelong consequences.

Page 311: These problems disappear, in part, if we turn to a Hebraic approach to category information. Conversion then is a point—a turning around. … But conversion is also a process—a series of decisions that grow out of this initial turning.

Page 315: If behavioral change was the focus of early Protestantism, and changed beliefs the focus of the twentieth century, transforming worldviews must be central to church and mission in the twenty-first century.

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