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James W. Sire (1933–2018)

Author of The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog

30+ Works 6,595 Members 41 Reviews

About the Author

James W. Sire (1933-2018) was a widely respected apologist, author and lecturer who served for more than thirty years as senior editor at InterVarsity Press. He is the author of over twenty books, including the seminal apologetics title The Universe Next Door, plus Apologetics Beyond Reason and show more Discipleship of the Mind. show less


Works by James W. Sire

The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (1976) — Author — 2,849 copies
How to Read Slowly (1978) 597 copies
Discipleship of the Mind (1990) 298 copies
Praying the Psalms of Jesus (2007) 60 copies

Associated Works

Telling the Truth (2000) — Contributor — 453 copies
Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World (1995) — Contributor — 187 copies


Common Knowledge



2023 - ‘70’s Immersion Reading Challenge

How to Read Slowly: Reading for Comprehension by James W. Sire (1978; 1989 ed.) 191 pages.

This book, a Christian-based book on how to read slowly and comprehend what you read, is in my repertoire of books to read this year because I plan on reading a few difficult pieces later in the year to expand my mind and, mainly, to exercise my brain. I may need help comprehending what I’m reading. In fact, I know I will. My notes here are pretty extensive and straight from the book.

I found the chapter on Nonfictions phenomenal. It’s exactly what I have been looking for. The chapter on Poetry was pretty in-depth as well. I may revisit it at a later date. But, I am still left feeling like an interactive class in the study of poetry is still needed. The rest of the chapters? Meh!

This really says it all:

“ When writers write they do so from the perspective of their own worldview. What they presuppose about themselves, God, the good life and the validity of human knowledge governs both what they say, and how they say it. That is why reading with world views in mind (your own and that of the author) will help you understand, not only what is written in the lines, but what is written between the lines – that is, what is pre-supposed before a pen ever reaches the page.” (p. 15)

NONFICTIONS (p. 49-51)

Basic Questions:

1. What kind of writing (genre)?
2. Main idea they are trying to get across (thesis)?
3. Evidence or arguments?
4. What objections are considered and how does the author respond to these objections?
Read between the lines and try to see why the author feels the argument is valid and its conclusion true.

For understanding:

1. To read “world-viewishly” (an open mind realizing others do have different opinions and beliefs), do not speed read. Slow down.
2. Underline passages and terms and allusions which the “author” seems to be most interested in. The points they are trying to make.
3. Know the vocabulary. Know the person, place or event talked about. Consult a dictionary, go to the library or Google a person, map or event. Know ‘something’ of the subject.
4. Underline major organizational words, such as: first, second, etc. This will help you understand the structure of the argument. Write numbers in margin alongside important turns in the argument so you can grasp the organizational flow.
5. After reading first chapter, locate and underline the thesis and write ‘thesis’ in the margin.
6. Scan through the table of contents to get feel for author’s arguments.
7. Identify writer’s relation to the subject matter.
8. Consider the evidence the author draws on. What authorities does he/she cite? Which does he/she criticize? Why? What objections does he consider? Or does he/she refute them? How?

Christian questions to ask of the author (p. 51-52):

1. What they consider to be prime reality? (Do they believe in God? What relationship does God have to the cosmos, to human events, to people, even to the author?)
2. What is the nature of the external universe? (What causes events or changes in the world?)
3. What is the nature of humanity? (How are human beings related to God?)
4. What is the basis for morality? (The root to all author’s values.)
5. What is the meaning of history? (Is history the ‘plan’ of God? Or is it the meaning any one person, or all people, can give it.

These Christian questions will help you determine the author’s view of life, in general, and will explain why and where his/her views on their chosen subject are coming from. It is important to realize that not all Christian views are concrete, and that, at times, our own belief could be faulty, especially if we have misinterpreted the word of God. If it can be proven in the Bible, then be willing to accept the change. We are all human with limited capacity, and, therefore, all at fault somewhere in our thinking. But, above all, stay active in the Word so you aren't so easily deceived by others worldviews.

Help from the Bible (p. 147):

1. How does the Bible view the ultimate nature of reality? Exodus 3:13-14; Isaiah 40:21-31; 45:18-19.
2. What does the Bible consider to be the nature of the external universe? Genesis 1-2
3. Who does the Bible say people really are? Genesis 1-3; Psalms 8; Palms 139; Romans 1-9.
4. What happens to a person at death? John 14:1-3; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelations 20:11-16.
5. What is the biblical basis for morality? Genesis 2:15-16; Isaiah 45:18-19.
6. How is it possible to know anything at all? Genesis 1:26-27; Isaiah 45:18-19; Psalms 19; John 1:1-4, 14, 18.
7. What is the meaning of history?Isaiah 40-48; Acts 6:8-7:60; Romans 9-11.

POETRY (p. 55-89)

I’ve never been much a fan of poetry. I’m not a dreamy person gifted with any sort of imagination. I see things simply black and white. I have read poems over the years, but with crossed eyes. I’m not adverse to learning something new. Maybe one day, I’ll give it a better shot.

The author writes that poetry is personal and takes you into the life of the poet, or the poet’s imagined characters. It rewards us by helping us experience vicariously not only the way other people think but also the way they feel as they think.

Poetry employs language in an imaginative or literary way. Each word, each image, each sentence, each line and stanza is often supposed to mean more than one thing, a double-meaning, depending, maybe, on the person reading and what they are personally going through in life. Poets deliberately put hidden meanings “in the lines”. A good reader of poetry isn’t just full of crap…thinks a bad reader of poetry (me). The context of the poem will help the reader determine the meaning and tone after reading the entire poem.

I found the following to be profound and true:

Whenever one feels deeply, whenever mere words seem inadequate to capture the quality of a moment or an idea, we turn to poetry, either by writing it, or searching for the right poem to read and meditate on.” (p. 58)

In 2012, we lost my sister’s 12-year-old daughter, Devinne, through a boating accident on Cow Bayou. My sister’s friend had come by Mom’s to pick the kids up for a boat ride in his pontoon boat while she worked. Her two brothers sat up front and she sat in the back. It was a clear and beautiful day as they sped down the main channel. But, the pontoon caught air and the front of the boat flew up, throwing everyone from the boat, except poor little Devinne. It threw her straight down to the motor where it chewed her up. The driver was not wearing the safety key around his wrist. Everyone else on the boat survived. Her brothers said the driver was holding her in his arms, in shock, when another boat came by to help. They said her guts were coming out of her stomach. What a traumatic vision for the boys to behold for the rest of their lives.

Our hearts were all so heavy when this poem of hope, the only poem that has ever touched my heart and soul and really spoke to me personally, somehow crossed my path on the internet during this time:

Sunflowers: Mirrors of Glory
by L. Gayle Orf (year unknown)

Always remember the sunflower
Whose face looks toward the sun.
She drinks His beauty in her face
And like Him she becomes.

Her glory is like His glory-
It’s strong and true and good.
You know she is a source of joy;
Her seed gives life and food.

This special flower has much to give
Though fragrance she has none.
She teaches us to look above
At God’s own perfect Son.

The basics of breaking a poem down:

1. First, shoot for the core idea. At least figure out what it’s even about?
2. Paraphrase the content.
3. Who is speaking the lines?
4. To whom are they spoken?
5. What is the subject?
6. What, basically is being said about the subject?
7. Rational structure - notice the order in which the ideas are expressed.
8. Image structure - very similar to rational structure.
9. Metrical structure - notice the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in the poem…called rhythm. This must be developed. (Difficult to explain. See pages 74-79.)
10. Sound structure - Not every poem have lines that rhyme. But, if it does, that pattern of rhyme is important. Could be every two lines rhyme, or maybe the first and third lines rhyme and the second and fourth lines rhyme, or maybe every other line may rhyme.
11. Syntactical structure - Every sentence has a specific arrangement of words. (Too difficult to explain here. See pages 82-83)

Worldviews for poets can also be detected by asking and looking for the same Christian-based questions listed above as for the nonfiction author. It may take reading the author’s whole collections of poems. But, eventually, it can surely be discovered.

FICTION (p. 91-124)

It’s storytelling, bringing you into a Second World…if the author is any good.

This chapter focuses its attention on the classics, mainly ancient classics. Fictions are composed of plot, character and theme. They are strictly from the writer’s point-of-view and tone. And, personally, I really don’t care to put a lot of time into dissecting fictional works to death. I really just want to be able to enjoy reading a good story with a good plot, strong character development and a darn good ending.


To understand the ancient classics, or any difficult to read classics really, knowing the context of where the writer comes from and the history and era in which he lived will help your understanding immensely. This book covers:

Biographical context
Literary context
Historical context
Ideological context
Reader’s context
… (more)
MissysBookshelf | 3 other reviews | Aug 27, 2023 |
James W. Sire offers a great resource on how to analyze different genres of literature plus a worldview reading plan at the end of this short book. In the first chapter, he introduces the reader to how to study various types of writing from a biblical worldview. Chapter two demonstrates how to piece apart an essay with application to all nonfiction. The third chapter covers poetry, and the fourth is fiction. In these three chapters, Sire provides a list of questions for readers to use to look closely at a text, paragraph by paragraph, line by line, and word by word.

Next, in chapter 5, he brings the reader out to the broad view of context for a written piece, exploring how it fits with other literature, history, various ideologies, and the reader's own context. The author closes in chapter 6 with a discussion on how the reader can develop his own reading plan of good books and periodicals. The appendix contains a suggested reading plan and how to pick one's own quality reading materials.

The author tends to use some technical jargon from the world of literature studies. As a former English major, I found it rather enjoyable. Sire speaks to the reader in the first person and shares some of his personal experiences with great written works. So, the book is somewhat like being in a literature class. That said, I believe anyone who has a true desire to learn to read the classics or to be a more careful reader of any written work would benefit from this book.
… (more)
Newton_Books | 3 other reviews | Sep 12, 2022 |
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.… (more)
OLibrary | 17 other reviews | Mar 23, 2022 |
Christians who are serious about their faith want to love God with all that they are -- heart and mind and strength. Books abound on the devotional life, on commitment, on evangelism and practical Christian living, but few take up what it means to love God with our minds. How do we learn to honor God in the ways we think? James Sire blazes a trail for Christians concerned about the discipleship of our minds. After looking at the attitudes toward God and ourselves necessary for the journey, he introduces us to the basics of the Christian world view. Separate chapters discuss the foundations of knowledge and the relationship between knowing and doing. With an eye to the practical, Sire offers specific suggestions on getting to know what is good and getting to know the world. He also provides valuable insights on how Christians might approach various academic disciplines as disciples of Christ. Here is a book for all who desire to love God with their minds.… (more)
OLibrary | 1 other review | Mar 23, 2022 |



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Associated Authors

Jim Hoover Foreword
Ralph van der Aa Translator


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