Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. By James W. Sire. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004. 163 pp. Paper. $14.00.
Most people spend little time pondering their worldview. Yet, it is a concept that governs much of the way we live. Sire writes, “At the base of all our thought—all our ruminations about God, ourselves and the world around us—is a worldview” (p. 18). It is the very foundation of how we think, which for Christians should be an extremely important concept.
Sire begins his first chapter by telling a story of a little boy who asked “Dad, what holds up the world?” to which his father responded “a camel.” This immediately set off a string of questions: Who holds him up? A kangaroo. And him? An elephant. And him? Another elephant. And so on and so forth. Sire notes, “This story illustrates two primary characteristics of a worldview. First is the fact that our primary foundational commitments are just that—commitments, that is, presuppositions…Second…his answers represent a foundational principle in the two worldviews most common…naturalism and theism” (p. 18).
In chap. 2 Sire expounds on the history of worldview as a concept, from Immanuel Kant to Francis Schaeffer. In chap. 3 he explains how much of philosophy has viewed ontology (the study of being) and epistemology (the study of knowing) backwards. He writes, “Ontology precedes epistemology and hermeneutics—and whatever else there may be” (p. 73). In chap. 4 Sire makes a simple yet brilliant observation. One either looks at the world as a theist or a naturalist: “The conflict boils down to this: either human beings are made in the image of a God with at least some human characteristics (Calvin), or God is made in the image of human beings (Freud)” (p. 82).
Sire concludes his work by defining worldview as a concept in chaps. 5-7. Although his presentation of worldviews is generally clear, his presentation of his faith in Christ lacks this same clarity: “We began regularly attending an evangelical church, and before the summer was over, I had walked the aisle at the pastor’s invitation and given over my life to Christ. My belief in God immediately became more personal, and I began to read the Bible, pray, and pay close attention in Sunday school, church and Youth for Christ meetings” (p. 139).
Overall, this book is worth reading for someone who would like to dig a little deeper into the concept of worldviews.
Michael D. Makidon
Director of Publications
Grace Evangelical Society