Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
Bsac 162:645 (Jan 2005) p. 116
By The Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary
Matthew S. DeMoss, Editor
Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. By James W. Sire. Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004. 163 pp. $14.00. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. By James W. Sire. 4th ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004. 259 pp. $16.00.
Popular author and former editor of InterVarsity Press, James Sire has returned to sharpen his understanding of worldview, prodded in part by David Naugle’s recent work Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002). Sire’s first edition of The Universe Next Door was published in 1976 and through updated editions has proved immensely popular as a primer regarding Western religious and philosophical perspectives of reality. This fourth edition addresses Naugle and others’ critiques of his work and updates his third edition (1997), particularly in his chapters on the New Age and postmodernism. A weakness of the current edition is that it still does not discuss Islam which, with 1.3 billion followers, is the second largest religion (worldview) on earth. Nor does it discuss shamanism, animism, or spiritism. Sire admits that these “must be done by those with a better understanding than I” (p. 10). Yet what the author does set forth in The Universe Next Door evidences superb content and a literarily engaging text—indeed, he does so well that previous editions have sold over a quarter of a million copies.
Published concurrently with this fourth edition of The Universe Next Door, Sire’s Naming the Elephant explains in more depth his shift in understanding of the concept of worldview. The title derives from an opening illustration in which, to a young son’s question, “What holds up the world?” the father responds, “A camel.” The answer makes sense to the child for a while, but sometime later he returns to ask, “Dad, what holds up the camel?” The father responds, “A kangaroo.” Soon comes another question, “What holds up the kangaroo?” “An elephant!” To the boy’s next predictable question about the elephant, the exasperated father exclaims that the elephant—which holds up the camel, which holds up the kangaroo, which holds up the world—is an “elephant all the way down” (pp. 16-17). The belyingly simple anecdote is mentioned various times in the course of the book as Sire explores the nature of the elephant: What holds up everything else?
While the author will argue that the God of the Bible is “the elephant all the way down,” his central task is to discuss the concept of worldview itself. What is its historical development? Are the...
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