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The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog

de James W. Sire

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2,375154,666 (4.13)8
When The Universe Next Door was first introduced nearly thirty years ago, it set the standard for a clear, readable introduction to worldviews. In concise, easily understood prose, James W. Sire explained the basics of theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism, existentialism, Eastern monism, and the new consciousness. The second edition was updated and expanded to include sections on Marxism and secular humanism, as well as a completely reworked chapter on what is now widely known as New Age philosophy rather than new consciousness. And the third edition offered further updating and revisions, including a thoroughly revised chapter on New Age philosophy and, perhaps most importantly, a new chapter on postmodernism. Now the fourth edition refines the definition of worldview itself, incorporating Sire's thinking and teaching during the past decade (His recent work is showcased in a new book, Naming the Elephant). The Universe Next Door has been translated into several languages and has been used as a text at over one hundred colleges and universities in courses ranging from apologetics and world religions to history and English literature. With the publication of the fourth edition, this book will continue to aid students, teachers, and anyone who wants to understand the variety of worldviews that compete with Christianity for the allegiance of our minds and hearts.… (mais)
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Summary: A new edition of this foundational work on comparative worldviews, exploring the contours of various worldviews, including a new chapter on Islam, through the use of eight questions.

This book, in its six editions, has framed my adult working life. I first heard about the idea of worldview in lectures drawn from the author’s work while I was still a student. The first edition of The Universe Next Door was published during my first year working with InterVarsity/USA on their field staff. Now, forty-four years later, I still work with InterVarsity in a national role, and was delighted to receive a copy of the sixth edition of this work. During the intervening years, I came to know the author well enough when we collaborated on some student training and when I hosted him for several lecture opportunities. I learned he was working on the sixth edition the month before his passing. I am so glad to see its completion, with the able help of former InterVarsity Press editor Jim Hoover (who also happens to be a fellow Youngstown native!).

While the basic framework of the book hasn’t changed from forty four years ago, there have been a number of changes that reflect both growth in the author’s concept of worldview, as well as newly emerging trends in thought. For one thing, Sire’s understanding of worldview changed from one of ideas to the recognition of how we live and orient our affections and commitments in light of them. To his seven worldview questions around which each chapter was organized, he added an eighth: What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?

Sire was one of the first to recognize the coalescing ideas of new age thought as early as his first edition when he wrote of the “new consciousness.” Later he changed the name of this chapter to “the New Age” and recognized the rise of those who were “spiritual but not religious.” More recently, he added a chapter on post-modernism. With this edition, given the rise of Islam not only in the Middle East, but in Western countries, Winfried Corduan was invited to add a chapter on the Middle East.

I didn’t read editions two through five. What I can say is that in addition to the changes I’ve already noted each chapter shows signs of updating. For example, the chapter on deism includes a section on “moral therapeutic deism,” first described by sociologist Christian Smith. The new age material has been supplemented by discussions of the work of Ken Wilber and Deepak Chopra. In addition, sidebars added posthumously by Jim Hoover further elucidate the work. In addition, discussion questions have been added to each chapter and a chart is included at the end using the eight world view questions offering a brief side-by-side comparison of each of the worldviews.

The idea of worldview has come in for criticism. One critique is the overly intellectualized approach to worldview. Sire has recognized this, as noted above and newer editions recognize the affective and volitional aspects of worldview. Worldview has also been criticized for its polemical use in arguing for “the Christian worldview,” sometimes very narrowly defined. Sire’s Christian theism has a breadth to it lacking in some treatments, but there is no avoiding the fact that this text argues for the Christian faith over other worldviews. Jim Sire spent a good part of his life lecturing as a Christian apologist, and unapologetically so. He did not think contradictory things could all be true and elsewhere argued that one should only believe what one is convinced is true (Why Believe Anything at All?). What one finds here though is someone who loves ideas, even those he would disagree with, tries to understand others on their own terms, and represent them as they would themselves.

This is a work that respects its readers, candid not only about its intentions but its shortcomings. Sire admits his framework doesn’t easily fit Eastern thought. Worldviews are a means of understanding others, not pigeonholing them and dismissing them with a facile apologetic argument. He acknowledges recent challenges and the things he is still grappling with as well as the things of which he is convinced. This is a book that continued to grow through succeeding editions, reflecting an author who also was always learning, always growing. His last email to me was about questions related to new content in this book.

Would that all of us could be like him in this regard! I’m glad InterVarsity Press and Jim Hoover completed and published this work. It is not only a model of engagement but also a tribute to a gifted writer and apologist who did so much to develop the idea of worldview and gave so much encouragement to people who wondered if it was possible to think as well as live Christianly.

____________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. ( )
  BobonBooks | Dec 28, 2020 |
Excelente ( )
  felipebarnabe | Mar 19, 2020 |
non-fiction
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
While this book was required reading in at least one class, it is a book I didn't mind re-reading. It's very clear and easy to understand, yet, it does not oversimplify the heavy issues of worldviews. Every Christian ought to not simply read this book, but also study it. This needs to go hand in hand with the Bible as an introduction to worldviews, and apologetics. ( )
  Keith.Benjamin | Apr 30, 2014 |
James Sire caught me with my proverbial pants down (so to say) with his Universe Next Door. Ostensibly, it goes through the six to ten (depending on how you count and group them) major philosophical schools and examines each one for strengths and flaws. He indeed covers the whole spectrum, from theism to nihilism to naturalism to existentialism to postmodernism. And his dutiful explanations of each school are decent; I’ll give him that. But sadly, it’s the last chapter that wallops you on the side of the head. After a competent exploration of the world of philosophy, he dumps all but one into a bucket labelled “Not Worth Your Time.” The conclusion he brings the book to is to that to live a “well-examined” life, one must be a Christian theist. That left a sour taste in my mouth. That is not to say that Christian theism isn’t a worthy worldview for some people. But simply dismissing billions of people as not living a good life is both insulting and deflating. If you must read this one, stop just before the end—trust me, you’ll feel a lot better about it. ( )
2 vote NielsenGW | Apr 19, 2014 |
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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. —Jim Sire
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I first met Jim Sire more than fifty years ago. (preface to the sixth edition)
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When The Universe Next Door was first introduced nearly thirty years ago, it set the standard for a clear, readable introduction to worldviews. In concise, easily understood prose, James W. Sire explained the basics of theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism, existentialism, Eastern monism, and the new consciousness. The second edition was updated and expanded to include sections on Marxism and secular humanism, as well as a completely reworked chapter on what is now widely known as New Age philosophy rather than new consciousness. And the third edition offered further updating and revisions, including a thoroughly revised chapter on New Age philosophy and, perhaps most importantly, a new chapter on postmodernism. Now the fourth edition refines the definition of worldview itself, incorporating Sire's thinking and teaching during the past decade (His recent work is showcased in a new book, Naming the Elephant). The Universe Next Door has been translated into several languages and has been used as a text at over one hundred colleges and universities in courses ranging from apologetics and world religions to history and English literature. With the publication of the fourth edition, this book will continue to aid students, teachers, and anyone who wants to understand the variety of worldviews that compete with Christianity for the allegiance of our minds and hearts.

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