James Sire grew up on a ranch near tiny Butte, Nebraska, located on the outer edge of the Sandhills region—a unique hybrid of sand dunes and grasslands occupying nearly one quarter of the state's territory. There he encountered "signals of transcendence" in the region's natural wonders, and came to faith through the ordinary ministrations of his family and local church. From this humble background, Sire went on to pursue a doctorate in English and achieve global renown in the realm of apologetics—as a lecturer, author of such classics in worldview exploration as The Universe Next Door, and longtime editor at InterVarsity Press. Now retired, Sire has recently authored Rim of the Sandhills, an e-book memoir. Steve Wilkens, professor of philosophy and ethics at Azusa Pacific University, spoke with Sire about his childhood in Nebraska, his approach to apologetics, and the challenges that confront the Christian intellectual.
The title of your memoir, Rim of the Sandhills, signals that your upbringing in Nebraska left a lasting mark on you. You have spent most of your adult life in urban areas and have traveled the globe extensively. Why do you look back to the sandhills as such a formative place?
One's childhood and upbringing have a great deal to do with where you are, who you are surrounded by, and the character of the community you are in. Nebraska, especially on the rim of the sandhills, is very much a western community. It has all those values of independence, individualism, and hard work. All of those have been on the edges of my own character development. My Christian faith came out of early contact there, not because I saw Jesus coming over the hill, but because I saw what I thought ...1