Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change

Paul G. Hiebert Baker Academic, Grand Rapids May 1, 2008
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Hiebert examines numerous worldviews from anthropological, sociological, missiological, philosophical, theological, biblical, and futurist perspectives. This makes for a unique and thoroughly engaging analysis. Hiebert does not limit his analysis to Western worldviews; he also looks at global worldviews that span anthropological types and historical eras.

Hiebert describes and examines group-oriented versus individual-oriented societies (p. 21), differing views of time (pp. 53–54), and types of logic (pp. 39–44). Types of worldviews include small-scale oral societal worldviews, peasant societal worldviews, modern worldviews, worldviews of late modernity, and global worldviews. These differing local and global worldviews are increasingly hybridized, resulting in what he calls “mazeways” (p. 245), in which people have to mediate between worldviews.

Each worldview includes rituals, myths, folkways, cultural patterns, dominating themes, and counter themes. Of particular interest is how most cultures operate by “event time” and “relational time” as opposed to “clock time”—the latter being characteristic of Western societies that are naturalistic, fragmented, impersonal, technical, and individualistic.

Hiebert says that worldviews give cultures a “more or less coherent way of looking at the world,” and that they are “models of reality . . . and models of action” (p. 28). Also they “give us emotional security . . . validate our deepest cultural norms . . . [help] to integrate our culture . . . monitor cultural change and . . . provide culture assurance that is truly as we see it” (pp. 29–30). All worldviews are comprised of cognitive, affective, and evaluative assumptions.

Hiebert also states that worldviews “are what people in a community take as given realities, the maps they have of reality that they use for living’’ (p. 15). Insightfully he also states, “Worldviews both enable us to see reality and blind us from seeing it fully” (p. 23). This is key because “the problem with worldviews is that they are largely unnamed, unexamined, and unassailable. It is particularly difficult to examine our own worldview because it is hard to think about what we are thinking about” (p. 320). For these and other reasons, Christians, especially those in ministry, need to listen to other worldviews, to “listen carefully to non-Western Christians who tell us how they see us” (p. 321).

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

July 1, 2010
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Jul-Sep 2010 vol. 167 no. 3 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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