Conversion in Cultural Perspective

Conversion is a much discussed topic these days, whether in the context of the much abused concept of proselytism or in terms of a theology and anthropology of missions.

Paul Hiebert, who was a professor of missions and anthropology at Fuller on Pasadena, Ca. and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deedfield, Ill. wrote in 1978 a seminal article on the theme of ‘Conversion, Culture and Cognitive Categories’.

The author starts with a simple but very loaded question: how much does somebody need to know about the gospel in order to be legitimately considered a converted Christian?

Hiebert borrow from mathematics and epistemology the notion of sets, more precisely that of ‘bound’ and ‘centred’ sets as a way of exploring the way in which we (mis)understand missiona in general and conversion in particular.

I will publish in the following days sections of this important text, in the hope that it will stimulate some discussions around these important concepts. Not a really ‘cool’ topic for a hot summer, but you never know.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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