Exploring The Universe Next Door

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Universe Next Door coverStephen Crane, known for The Red Badge of Courage, wrote in a poem: "If I should cast off this tattered coat, And go free into the night sky; If I should find nothing there But a vast, Echoless, ignorant--What then?" In other words, if there is no meaning or purpose behind the universe, what do we do about it? These are worldview questions; they seek to understand reality and our place in it.

In my previous post about 520: World History and Worldview Studies, I wrote about two of the books in the Bible portion. In this post I'll briefly look at one other book included in 520--The Universe Next Door.

First published in 1976, The Universe Next Door is now in its fifth edition, which was released in 2009. It's one of the finest Christian introductions to worldview studies available, covering naturalism, existentialism, pantheism, postmodernism, and more. Sire uses the Crane quote above to introduce the topic of nihilism--a worldview that sees no meaning to the universe and, as a result, ends in despair.

In his survey of worldviews, Sire asks eight important questions about each viewpoint he addresses:

1. What is prime reality--the really real?
2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
3. What is a human being?
4. What happens to a person at death?
5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?
6. How do we know what is right and wrong?
7. What is the meaning of human history?
8. What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?

Using these eight questions, Sire carefully explores nine worldviews. Although he approaches the subject as a Christian author, Sire does a fine job of fairly presenting each worldview, seeking to understand how each viewpoint makes sense of reality.

In addition to scheduling The Universe Next Door so that the worldviews it addresses are discussed as they arise in history, we've also included extensive supplemental notes on the book in 520: World History and Worldview Studies.

Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." The Universe Next Door calls readers to the examined life, which includes understanding the various worldviews that are before us.

Robert Velarde

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