Paul Hiebert Passes

UPDATE: An email was sent to me informing me of Paul Hiebert’s death on March 11. Thanks Linda. He was a great man and will be missed. I dont think I ever met him personally, despite studying at Fuller SWM.

“The Rev. Dr. Paul G. Hiebert, missiologist and missionary to India, has died of cancer on March 11, 2007 at the age of 74.”

ORIGINAL POST “Paul Hiebert Not Well” (Feb 20)

Profile-2-1Mennonite missiologist Paul Hiebert seems to be finishing out his race in a hospice near Baltimore. According to an email, he is not in pain and does not pray for longer life. I read Hiebert’s “Cultural Anthropology” as part of my missiology training at Western Seminary. His thoughts on centered sets and bounded sets made a lot of sense and that meme has since reverberated through the emerging church over the past 2 decades. We are learning to see the church as people on a journey towards Christ as the center. There are also “fuzzy” sets and recently a few of us have been discussing “distributed” sets.

I have also quoted Hieberts ideas on a doxological or tropological theology that “is done in the context of worship, and stresses the mystical, sacramental and iconic nature of truth. The key question it addresses is, “How can we comprehend complex, transcendent truths about God and reality that lie beyond words, logic and human reason?” It uses nondiscursive signs and tropes such as icons, metaphors, types and parables to communicate transcendent truth.” (Paul Hiebert, Spritual Warfare and Worldview, p. 167, Global Missiology for the 21st Century, ed. William Taylor)

I have always wondered to what extent, if any, Paul Hiebert was influenced by the anthropology of Claude Levi-Straus, and if there was a direct connection down to Ferdinand de Saussure, the father of structuralism. Maybe if someone in the Baltimore area wants to visit Paul then they could ask him for me. Thank God for the contribution of Paul Hiebert. God make his days full of joy and peace and the satisfaction of a life well lived.

Related: Hiebert honored.

Last book was called “Incarnational Ministry” which I haven’t read but i hope to read it soon.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Randy says:

    What is the difference between a Christian anthropologist and a mennonite anthropologist? Is it the study of antrhopology within Methodism vs study of anthropology within Christianity global?

  • andrew jones says:

    hi randy. i am using the title “mennonite” because this is how he was introduced – 3rd generation mennonite bretheren missionary – when he was honored by the MB Herald
    link is here
    as to what contribution he brings from his background, maybe a mennonite would answer that better.

  • mark says:

    Thanks for the heads up..We are losing many of the great missiologists of the 20th century and now a great man who influenced many of them..
    perhaps the generation who will continue the work will be deeply involved in the emerging church as so many of us are so deeply indebted to these who have gone before..

  • Randy says:

    My wife’s grandfather was a mennonite deacon, I didn’t get to know him too much as he was losing his mind towards the end of his life when I met him. I really wish I would have had the opportunity to talk more with him. He left me his library when he passed on (mostly G. Campbell Morgan and Wuest) his notes in the books made me think he was quite a thinker!

  • Tiffany says:

    The e-mail came through me – Paul is my uncle. My father had a chance to speak with him on the phone today and pray with him and said it was one of the most memorable conversations of his life. He is surrounded by family and is at peace.

  • fresno dave says:

    i took an amazing course from PH in the 90s in New Haven…he took so much personal time w/us students..ate with us etc.
    I was so impacted by his models, particularly set theory, that not a week goes by in teaching, preaching writing that i don’t draw from his well.
    On the Levi-Straus connection, i will check my notes.
    Lord, bless this saint today, thank You for his amazing legacy..

  • Matt Dabbs says:

    Sorry to hear that. Thank you for posting that.

  • J.N. Manokaran says:

    Paul Hiebert was a great missiologist, great encourager. I was amazed with his knowledge of the Indian language – Telegu. His classes were always enlightening and provokes hard thinking.
    He loved the Lord, had passion for missions and always had great visions of transformation.
    A great loss to the Church, Mission education and spokesperson for least evangelized people groups. His writings would continue to inspire us.
    J.N. Manokaran, India

  • Cartee Bales says:

    I took several classes from Dr. Hiebert at Trinity from 2002-2005. Not only did I learn a ton from him, I learned about what it looks like to live as a Christian, one whose life is lived in submission to Christ.
    I remember Urbana 2003. Dr. Hiebert was with a group of Doctoral students. As I was walking by his table, he rose, smiled and said “Well, good morning, brother,” and gave me a hug.
    He was not only a gift to the church, but an amazing man. He will be greatly missed, though he is in the arms of his beloved Savior.

  • Tenny Farnen says:

    In response to your original post in Feb., written in March 1, 2007 but was not able to post this comment. –
    It’s interesting to read your write up about Paul Hiebert. I just called him and let him know about your website. First of all, although physically he’s not doing well, but spiritually, he’s very much ready to meet our Heavenly Father and his wife. He says he won’t say goodbye to us but instead “See you later!” Yes, he’s in Baltimore surrounded by his loving family. His students around the world continue to call him and brings comfort to him. His life indeed is a model and an inspiration to all of us and he did live and is living his life well. Since I called him up everyday, in the midst of finishing my dissertation with him, I did asked him this afternoon about some of the questions you raised up in the article. With regards to your query whether he is influenced by the anthropology of Claude Levi-Straus, the answer is no. He said that he is more influenced by the classic anthropologists like Hoebel, Spencer, Cliff Browne, and read a lot of Malinowski’s writings. Moreover, he says he has no direct connection with Ferdinand de Saussure. In Hiebert’s book, Missiological Implications of Epistemological Shifts: Affirming Truth in a Modern/Post Modern World (1999, Morehouse Pub. Co), he rejects de Saussure’s structuralism which to Hiebert does create real problem that leads to relativism. Instead, in the same book, he argued for Charles Peirce. I do hope this answer your question and was able to communicate his thoughts correctly to you. I think he will have two books that will be coming out of the press soon. One of the book will be on worldview transformation.

  • andrew jones says:

    wow. thanks so much for that info and your comment that was written before Paul’s passing. very helpful . . and i look forward to his final books.

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