Paul Gordon Hiebert was born in India in 1932 to second generation Mennonite Brethren missionaries, and passed away in 2007 at the age of 74. Arguably the world’s leading missiological anthropologist, Dr. Hiebert combined rigorous anthropological and theological scholarship with a passion for God’s global missionary work and left behind a rich legacy to which the church and academia is deeply indebted.
Though he loved anthropology, Dr. Hiebert struggled to reconcile his successful career as an anthropology professor with his calling as a missionary. His two passions were realized when he joined Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA; 1977-1990) and later Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL; 1990-2007), where he devoted himself to the training of a new generation of missionaries and missiologists.
Dr. Hiebert was a vigorous researcher who authored twelve books and published over 150 articles in various academic journals. His ideas on conversion (contrasting “bounded-set” vs. “centered-set” thinking), critical contextualization, split-level Christianity (the flaw of the excluded middle), and self-theologizing became core concepts in missiology.
Despite his many accomplishments, what colleagues, students, friends, and family remember most about Dr. Hiebert is the quality of his life, which was permeated by Christ-like character and hope of the resurrection. His legacy will live on through the character qualities, missiological understandings, and mission commitments he helped transmit to thousands of others.
Summarized from Dr. Robert J. Priest, “Paul G. Hiebert: A Life Remembered” Trinity Journal (30:2), 2009, pp. 171-175.