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The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog 4th Edition Paperback – May 1, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A most magnificently useful book." --E. M. Blaiklock<br /><br />"If you are looking for an introductory exposition of prominent worldviews, I know of no better book." --Nicholas Wolterstorff<br /><br />"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

From the Author

IVP: Describe the difference between your two worldview books, Naming the Elephant and The Universe Next Door.

James Sire: The Universe Next Door is a basic catalog of worldviews--that is, of the primary ways people have viewed reality. In part the book is a work of popular intellectual history. It begins with Christian theism, the worldview dominant in the seventeenth century and very much alive today, and shows how subsequent worldviews (deism, naturalism, nihilism, existentialism) developed from theism, and then how Eastern pantheism, New Age thought and postmodernism have emerged to further complicate the pluralistic character of our Western culture. The book is also a work to help individuals understand their own worldview and why they think it is true. The Universe Next Door is not itself an apologetic for the Christian faith, but it provides much of the material from which an apologetic can be constructed by those who think through its implications. A short answer to the question of why I wrote this book in the first place is in its epigraph: "For any of us to be fully conscious intellectually we should not only be able to detect the worldviews of others but be aware of our own--why it is ours and why in light of so many options we think it is true."

Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept asks, What exactly is a worldview? It takes the largely intellectual concept I first formulated in The Universe Next Door in 1976 and asks whether it is still adequate. As a result of this analysis, I offer a revised definition that preserves the importance of the intellect but identifies the essence of a worldview as a matter of the heart--the central control room of the human being--rather than solely as a matter of the mind. The final chapter suggests ways in which worldview analysis can benefit us and our culture.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press; 4 edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830827803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830827800
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #410,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mr. Jason D. Ward on April 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
There are a number of reviewers who are under the impression that the only way to write a world-view catalog is from an objective position which has no bias at all.
This is unfortunate, because the book tries to show us how everyone has a presuppositional bias: there is no objective middle ground from which to weigh up the others.

This was required reading as a theology student, and I found it useful. His 7 questions are powerful and useful in deconstructing longer texts, but other sets of questions are more useful and easily deployed in analyzing world-views on a regular basis, such
1) what is my relationship to creation in this view
2) what is my relationship to other people in this view
3) what is my relationship to God in this view.

Another useful one is
1) What is the problem
2) What can save us/them from the problem
3) What does the world look like once it is saved?

Personally, I found it helpful to realize that not everyone thinks like me, and to use this book as a very useful quick guide to the way others may think. Of course he generalizes. Of course he is simplistic. But he is also helpful.

I recommend.
To those who criticize this book as validating Christians in their blinkered view, I suggest finding a different book to validate them in theirs. But isn't that rather Sire's point about us all having a world-view based on a series of assumptions which may or may not stack up?
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From the reviews I've read, some readers want this book to be something it's not. I'm much more excited about what it uniquely is: a brief overview of various philosophies (usually embodied in religions) about what's going on.

James Sire was head of InterVarsity Press, which was/ is? related to Britain's SCM Press, and which is related to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical student organization which exists on many college campuses. Right out of the box Sire tips his hand, revealing his own views (as opposed to those books where the author covertly tries to influence the reader). On the other hand, those looking for an apologetics book in support of the Christian world view will be disappointed (there are plenty of other books that take that tack and fill that niche for the enquiring reader).

What it is: an admirable if brief overview of comparative religions, which is to say how various people at various times have posed and answered (or theorized) about what seem to be perennial human questions. At the beginning of his book Mind and Nature, Gregory Bateson tells how his father would read the Bible at breakfast every morning so his kids wouldn't grow up to be "empty-headed atheists". Sire's book, on the other hand, will help readers not to be "empty-headed believers".

Sire took his title from a line from E.E. Cummings: "There's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go. I took my title from a Cat Stevens song. The searchin' 'sixties are over, someone may object, but what goes around comes around, and in our present age of non-meaning (nihilism), many seem again on the road to find out.
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Some reviewers expect a book like this to be all things to all people. This is not a scholarly reference; it is instead an introduction to and catalog of many of the common worldviews in the West today, written from a Christian perspective. It gives the basic ideas of each and shows how they are related -- one flows from another. As such, he does indeed give short shift to many thoughts and ideas -- even theism. But if you are upset about his treatment, go read some books that specialize in that worldview. It's a wine tasting, not a full meal; so don't complain that your stomach is not filled.

Instead, the book gives a coherent, easy to ready, midlevel survey. It is an ideal way to introduce a teen or young adult into the world of philosophy, history of western thought, religion, etc. It can capture the interest and heart of a young person and spur them to dive deeper. Before long they will be reading my own heros, Alvin Plantinga and Robert M. Adams.

Philosophy, history, theology, and sociology are all very big and very satisfying study areas. You can't expect a neophyte to understand it all at once. This book allows young people to tap into the wonder and thirst for more. It's especially appropriate for Christians, but many non-Christians can read it and benefit.
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I had given away my copy of this earlier edition, so when I saw it was available, I snapped it up. This is an eye-opening book about not only every worldview from Christianity through Eastern monism and all the way to atheism. A great feature is that it helps the reader see the inevitable practical result of each worldview in terms of a continuum from optimism to despair.
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Sire provides a concise summary of the various world religions/worldviews. In keeping with the style of people like Francis Schaeffer, Sire is genuinely interested in wrestling with what others believe and why.
However, if you are looking for a more unbiased evaluation of other religions, I would suggest searching elsewhere. While I would like to believe that Sire is well-meaning, he does come across as a bit dismissive and constructed caricatures of everything that is not part of the "biblical Christian" worldview. I did personally find his summary of deism to be satisfactory, but his criticism against something like Hinduism can be all to expected, coming from a more evangelical perspective. Sire tends to be more generalized and over-simplified when it comes to the more foreign of the worldview. For example, Sire classifies "nihilism" as a worldview and accuses many of adhering to absurdity. I'm certainly no universalist, but after reading this, I was significantly let down. I did wish for a better, more charitable summary of other worldviews and philosophies.
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