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The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 5th Edition 05th Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0830838509
ISBN-10: 0830838503
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Editorial Reviews


"Read as a whole it traces a convincing history of the evolution of worldviews (particularly in the West), as well as providing a robust defence of the enduring validity of the Christian faith . . . an excellent introduction." (Dr. Alan Kerry, Faith & Thought, October 2010)

"For more than thirty years, The Universe Next Door has set the standard for a clear, readable introduction to worldviews. Sire offers additional student-friendly features to his concise, easily understood introductions to theism, deism, naturalism, Marxism, nihilism, existentialism, Eastern monism, New Age philosophy and postmodernism." (Rev. Paul J. Cain, Liturgy, Hymnody, and Pulpit Quarterly Book Review, August 2010)

"For anyone concerned to understand the culture in which we are called to work and witness, which ought to be all of us, this is still an indispensable resource." (David McKay, The Covenanter Witness, June 2010)

"Revised and updated to include a new chapter on Islam by a contributing author, and incorporates developments about the worldview notion from Sire's Naming the Elephant." (Reference & Research Book News, February 2010)

"The most readable presentation of alternative systems that I have ever seen." (Russ Bush)

"To think intelligently today is to think worldviewishly, to come to terms with the mosaic of meaning systems which make up modern thinking. This book is a clear introduction and invaluable guide." (Os Guinness)

"If you are looking for an introductory exposition of prominent worldviews, I know of no better book." (Nicholas Wolterstorff)


"A most magnificently useful book." (E. M. Blaiklock)

About the Author

James W. Sire (PhD, University of Missouri), formerly a senior editor at InterVarsity Press, is an active speaker and writer. He has taught English, philosophy, theology, and short courses at many universities and seminaries. He continues to be a frequent guest lecturer in the United States and Europe. His InterVarsity Press books and Bible studies include The Universe Next Door (a worldviews textbook), Scripture Twisting, Discipleship of the Mind, Chris Chrisman Goes to College, Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All?, Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling, Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept, Learning to Pray Through the Psalms, Why Good Arguments Often Fail and A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 293 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; 05 edition (November 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830838503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830838509
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born on a ranch on the rim of the Nebraska Sandhills, James W. Sire has been an officer in the Army, a college professor of English literature, philosophy and theology, the chief editor of InterVarsity Press (a Christian publisher of books for thoughtful readers), a lecturer at over two hundred universities in the U.S., Canada, Eastern and Western Europe and Asia, and the author of twenty books on literature, philosophy and the Christian faith. His book The Universe Next Door, published in 1976 and now in its fifth edition, has sold over 350,000 copies and has been translated into 18 foreign languages. He holds a B.A. in chemistry and English from the University of Nebraska, an M.A. in English from Washington State College (now University) and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri. His memoir is The Rim of the Sandhills (eBook on Kindle and Nook). His most recent book is Echoes of a Voice (Cascade, 2014), an in-depth analysis of signals of transcendence, those sudden, unbidden, unexpected, strange experiences that point to the Presence of a realm beyond the material.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
In The Universe Next Door, author James Sire discusses the eight main worldviews that are held by different individuals in the twentieth century and then provides seven basic yet probative questions to help the reader recognize the primary presuppositions that underlie each main belief system. Further discussion is provided to help the reader analyze the cohesiveness and validity of each worldview presented. The history of each worldview is discussed in great detail so that the reader can see the progression of each view, why it arose and what events led to its overall acceptance or denial among the masses. Mr. Sire then compares and contrasts each worldview with others mentioned in the book, evaluating each worldview in turn. The emphasis is on awareness and understanding, encouraging the reader to become more consciously aware of what they believe, why they believe what they do, and how this belief colors the way they view life. The book concludes with a detailed chapter, entitled, "The Examined Life" that summarizes the basic points made throughout the book and then provides tools intended to help the leader choose the most logical, cohesive and consistent worldview.

Overall, the Universe Next Door is a very thorough, and yet manageable, discussion of the eight (or six, depending on how once classifies the material) main belief systems that exist in today's culture. Presented in a somewhat relaxed manner, the language used by Mr. Sire ensures understandability and readability, successfully moving difficult philosophical topics out of the university classroom and placing them in the hands of the layman. Because each worldview is discussed in relation to the six main questions presented at the beginning of the book, analysis of all views is both easy and consistent.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Life Long Reader on April 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
Now in its fifth edition, James W. Sire has written the go-to introduction to nine major worldviews. Sire has written this book with the desire for people (especially Christians) to grasp the importance of understanding what a worldview is, what are the other worldviews other then their own and what their own worldview is. Sire defines a worldview as a

"Commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or unconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being." (p. 20)

The book takes a very inform approach to presenting and evaluating the nine worldviews. Sire examines the worldviews by asking eight basic questions that all worldviews must answer:

1. What is prime reality? - This question gets to the foundation of what a worldview understands to be the foundation of reality. For Sire this is the first and foundational question that must be answered before the other seven.
2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? - This looks at whether we see the world around us as created or autonomous, material or immaterial, etc.
3. What is a human being? - For instance, are people made in the image of God or just a machine/
4. What happens to a person at death? - This looks at options like extinction, reincarnation or transfer to a higher state of existence.
5. Why is it possible to know anything at all? - Answers include being created in the image of God or just the result of an evolutionary process.
6. How do we know what is right and wrong?
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44 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Moyers on December 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Dr. Sire begins his book by making the claim that his book is not a work of philosophy. I can only assume that he makes this statement as a preemptive response to philosophical objections to the book. The core argument that Sire rests his conclusions on are emotional ones, not logical ones. Sire gives a poor introduction to many worldviews, and dismisses a majority of them on the basis that they result in Nihilism if one is intellectually honest with themselves.

Before deconstructing these philosophies, Sire lays out eight questions which a worldview must answer. Little reason is given for these questions in this book, but he apparently gives ample justification for these questions in his book "Naming the Elephant," which I have not yet had the pleasure of reading. Sire then discusses Christian Theism, and concludes that it provides happy answers to each of the questions. He does not go into the internal problems with this worldview--as he does with each of the others that he discusses. It might be rightly argued that there *are* answers to the internal problems in Christianity as a worldview, but that there is not ample space in the book to discuss them (E.G. "How are omniscience and free will reconciled?" or "How are God's Omnipotence and Omnibenevolence compatible with the existence of evil?"). However, the exact same argument can be made for the other worldviews discussed!

Sire discusses Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Existentialism, Eastern Pantheistic Monism, New Age Philosophy, Postmodernism, and Islam, and concludes that each (minus Islam, perhaps) is internally inconsistent and leads logically to rejection of all truth and morality. To do so, Sire must (at least in some cases) present very narrow versions and blatant misrepresentations of these worldviews!
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