James W. Sire

James W. Sire

James W. Sire

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 more than twenty books, including the seminal apologetics title The Universe Next Door, which was first published in 1976 and has sold over 350,000 copies in five editions and has been translated into eighteen foreign languages.

Born on a ranch on the rim of the Nebraska Sandhills, Sire served as an officer in the Army, a professor of English literature, philosophy, and theology, and a lecturer at over two hundred universities in the U.S., Canada, Eastern and Western Europe, and Asia. He received a PhD in English from the University of Missouri, an MA in English from Washington State University, and a BA in chemistry and English from the University of Nebraska.

Sire's teaching and books often covered the concepts of worldview and Christian apologetics. He focused on the application of worldview thinking to the integration of Christian faith and the academic disciplines, as well as the nature of "signals of transcendence" and their relation to Christian life. His many books include The Universe Next Door, Apologetics Beyond Reason, Beginning with God, Scripture Twisting, Discipleship of the Mind, Chris Chrisman Goes to College, Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All?, Habits of the Mind, Naming the Elephant, Learning to Pray Through the Psalms, Why Good Arguments Often Fail, and A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics.

For further information and a complete biography, see the IVP press release: James W. Sire, “A Keystone in the Intellectual Renewal of Evangelicalism,” Dies

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Tributes from Friends and Colleagues

"Jim Sire was a keystone in the intellectual renewal of evangelicalism in the 1960s and 70s, championing the work of Francis Schaeffer and contributing his own landmark books on world views. He was also first to publish other influential figures such as Os Guinness and philosopher C. Stephen Evans. But his finely tuned radar for quality was not limited to the academy. He had a major influence on the church when he saw the potential in the poetry of Calvin Miller’s The Singer, the power for church renewal in the work of Howard Snyder as well as the evangelistic insight of Rebecca Manley Pippert. Personally, he taught me more about editing and publishing than probably anyone. I will miss his wit, his insight, his integrity, and his love for Jesus."

Andy Le Peau, former associate publisher, InterVarsity Press


“When I think of Jim Sire I think of the Apostle Paul who said ‘We proclaim him (Christ), admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.‚Äč To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.’ Jim had an eager mind and an infectious spirit in his love for God and the truth of the Gospel. I will miss his intellectual integrity, his spiritual longings and his irrepressible presence.”

Bob Fryling, former publisher, InterVarsity Press


"When I started as an IVP intern in the fall of 1994, Jim Sire took me out for lunch on my first day. I think he talked about different kinds of postmodernism. Jim was famously curmudgeonly, yet generous with his time and thoughts. He forged IVP's identity through the books and authors he published, and he shaped the academy and the church through his own writing and speaking. He helped us all think more Christianly, exercising habits of the mind for the sake of the kingdom. It is an honor to have known him."

Al Hsu, senior editor, IVP Books


“When I started my editorial career at IVP 32 years ago, Jim Sire was nearly a daily presence in the office. ‘Nearly’ because he was transitioning from being a full-time editor to spending part of his time speaking on campuses around the country. And this added even more color and energy to an already illustrious career as a professor and editor and writer. From Jim I learned all sorts of things about authors and manuscripts and corporate culture. I doubt Jim ever considered himself a mentor to me. But that’s what he was. And I learned from him more than I can say."

Dan Reid, former editorial director, IVP Academic


“I learned much from Jim and soon the tables turned when I became his primary in-house editor. But nearly everything I knew about editing I had learned from him, so he just had his objective self editing his books. It’s not always easy editing your mentor and friend, but Jim was always gracious. . . . Well done, good and faithful servant. You shall be missed.”

Jim Hoover, former senior editor, InterVarsity Press


"James Sire of IVCF and IVP has influenced a large number of evangelical students and others through his lectures and books. . . . Especially Schaeffer and Sire have demonstrated Christianity’s power to critique culture both prophetically and philosophically while strictly avoiding blanket condemnations of culture and urging readers and hearers to engage with secular and pagan culture." 

Roger E. Olson, in The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology


"For decades, James Sire has been an intellectual and cultural leader in the evangelical community. He has given voice to a wide range of topics important to the body of Christ."

J. P. Moreland, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University


"I have thinned down my books several times in recent years but The Universe Next Door is still on my shelves. I remember Jim Sire as a good-humoured man with a twinkle in his eye; and as a man with an eye for the BIG PICTURE. I thank God for him and for all the saints—those alive now; and those whose mortality has been swallowed up in LIFE."

Howard Peskett, author of Isaiah

"One of the earliest InterVarsity Press books I ever read as an undergraduate was Jim Sire's seminal work The Universe Next Door, a catalog of worldviews that challenged and nourished and changed my understanding of not only the Christian faith but other religions and philosophies. Later, his Why Should Anyone Believe Anything At All? became a book that I routinely put in the hands of friends, family members and acquaintances with whom I had spirited conversations about the veracity of the Christian tradition. But beyond his published works, Jim was a unique and winsome man of God. His presence in our hallways on his frequent visits back to IVP will be sorely missed, as will his witness for Christ in a world of much confusion."

Jeff Crosby, publisher, InterVarsity Press


"I had the privilege of starting at IVP not long after I'd graduated from college—and that made me the sort of person who Jim Sire loved to engage. He had an immense passion for developing and encouraging the minds of young adults—always interested in drawing out a person's own ideas as well as, of course, offering his own! Much later in my career, I also had the privilege of editing a work of spiritual formation by Jim Sire: Learning to Pray the Psalms.  Jim's work as editorial director at IVP has set us on a course of both intellectual and spiritual rigor that continues up to this day. I am grateful for his legacy even now as he is writing the final chapter of The Universe Next Door.

Cindy Bunch, associate publisher, editorial director, InterVarsity Press


"I owe my start in writing to Jim Sire. Who else would have recognised a book in my crazy and unfashionable ideas on the 1960s that under his encouragement and brilliant tutelage became The Dust of Death? Soon he was my friend and tutor as well as editor. Jim was passionate about ideas, wide ranging in his thinking, irrepressibly curious in his interests, puckish in his humour, constant in his friendship, deeply devoted to Marje and his family, and always loyal to Jesus and the faith. Like Francis Schaeffer, Jim was small in stature, but a giant of the heart and mind and the editorial pen, and I was so happy to see him become a best-selling author who far outstripped my own efforts. What a brother, what a thinker, and what a friend. Jim will be much missed."

Os Guinness, author of Fool's Talk and Impossible People


"Jim Sire represented the best of InterVarsity’s contribution to the university world. Through the books he edited and wrote, he trained millions of Christians to think gracefully and clearly about culture and faith. Through his campus lectures, he offered thousands of students reasons to believe in Jesus. Through his insightful questions, he mentored hundreds of women and men to be faithful witnesses in the academy, the church, and the world. With a glint in his eye and an impish smile on his face, Jim was a winsome disciple, loving evangelist, and beloved colleague."

Gregory L. Jao, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship


"Jim Sire's wide-ranging intelligence, fused with his attentive spirit, makes him a welcome guide."

Eugene H. Peterson, translator of The Message, on Learning to Pray Through the Psalms


"Sire, the master apologist who has given us so many great works. . . . has produced a masterpiece to engage, provoke and inspire."

Mary Poplin, author of Is Reality Secular? and Finding Calcutta, on Apologetics Beyond Reason


“Sire was an acquaintance who encouraged us in our book selling, and allowed me to work on one of the bibliographies in the back of one of his books. It was a great honor to know him. He was a great man.”

Byron Borger, owner, Hearts & Minds Books


"James W. Sire has done it again. This is, literally, a masterful work. To borrow from him, Peter Kreeft and Ron Tacelli, 'There are the books of Jim Sire. Therefore God exists. You either see and hear this in his volumes or you don't.'"

David Naugle, author of Philosophy: A Student's Guide, on Apologetics Beyond Reason


"Any Christian seeking to carry out the Great Commission would profit from reading Sire's thoughts."

—from Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, June 2007, on Little Primer on Humble Apologetics


"A long time ago, I drove Jim to an airport in the middle of America. It was near to his homeland, and I was a sojourner, but even as we talked about the Great Plains, and his cattle ranch years, we also talked about the importance of ideas, the university, about the work he was doing, that I was doing—and a friendship was born. Over the years we spent more time together, being in the same rooms sometimes, often writing notes back and forth in the mail, always more him encouraging me to keep thinking and writing. And then one day, maybe 20 years into that friendship, I sent him a manuscript, in full. A month later he told me the good news that IVP would publish it, and through the next months it moved from him out into the world as The Fabric of Faithfulness. By God’s grace it has had a wonderful reading, now with two editions and many printings. I know that it would not have happened if Jim had not urged it into being, wanting my 'thinking and writing' to become a book. A lover of ideas, yes, but we were together enough through those years that I came to see that his interests in worldviews, the universes next door to all of us, came from his love for people. He wanted to understand the neighbors of his life and world, and that longing of his became a great gift to us. Requiescat in pace, Jim, my long friend. . . or as a famous cowboy once sang, 'Happy trails, until we meet again.'"

Steve Garber, author of Fabric of Faithfulness and Visions of Vocation


“Jim Sire drew his first diagram of worldviews in the early 1960s while teaching college students to distinguish Milton's theism from Hardy's naturalism and Wordsworth's quasi-pantheism. Tom Trevethan and Steve Board (both on IV campus staff in Illinois) invited Sire to give a lecture on the topic at the two-week Christian Study Project at InterVarsity's training facility, Cedar Campus, on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The next year Steve asked him to expand it to six lectures. Then he suggested that Sire write a book, which became The Universe Next Door. Given his experience with Papers on Literature [his first book], Sire did not expect the book to sell well and never expected it to be adopted as a text (which it was immediately). Because he didn't expect classroom use, he intentionally avoided an academic tone and wrote it at an accessible level, which possibly is the reason it was so well received at hundreds of universities and colleges around the country.“

Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll, in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, pg. 72


"Jim and Marj Sire were God's gift to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship when IVP could finally afford an editor who wasn't also involved in several jobs.  Abandoning Jim's future as a college professor, the Sires left their beloved Nebraska to come to suburban Chicago to our fledgling publishing house. Jim immediately became acquainted with authors, staff members, and manuscripts, helping establish guidelines in author relationships, naturally accepting the authority of the Bible as a key issue in the editing process if necessary.  When discussions became ponderous, Jim's teasing remarks injected fresh air into the dialog.

Jim has updated The Universe Next Door several times, and very early in its life people in other languages found it worth translating.  Furthermore, Jim's lifelong habit of reading widely enabled him to talk interestingly on a wide range of subjects.  Give him an idea, and he may well write a book on the subject.  He wrote ten during his time at IVP and twelve after his retirement!

Jim was a caring and good friend, a valuable member of IVP's leadership team for several decades. I am grateful that Jesus, Jim's Creator and Lord, equipped him for the unique role he played in our generation.  Thanks be to God."

James Nyquist, director of InterVarsity Press, 1965-1984


Banner image photo taken from a video interview hosted by Josh Dear.