James W. Sire, the longtime editorial director at InterVarsity Press (IVP) and a champion of evangelical authors, died Tuesday, Feb. 6, the publisher announced Wednesday, calling him a “renaissance man of publishing.” He was 84.
During his 31 years with IVP, Sire also wrote more than 20 books including The Universe Next Door, in 1976, which has sold 350,000 copies and been translated into 18 foreign languages. Jeff Crosby, publisher for IVP, recalled reading the book when he was in college, saying it “challenged and nourished and changed my understanding of not only the Christian faith but other religions and philosophies.” The fifth edition garnered a Book of the Year award from Christianity Today as did Sire’s Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All? and Habits of the Mind.
Sire — who became IVP’s first full-time editor in 1968 — also acquired and developed works by influential evangelical authors such as Francis Schaeffer, Os Guinness, Calvin Miller, Rebecca Manley Pippert, J. I. Packer, John White, and J. P. Moreland, said Andy Le Peau, a former IVP associate publisher. “Jim Sire was a keystone in the intellectual renewal of evangelicalism in the 1960s and 70s.”
Born in 1933 at a ranch near the Nebraska Sandhills, Sire served as an officer in the Army, a professor of English literature, philosophy, and theology, and a lecturer at over 200 universities around the world. He retired from IVP in 1999 but was welcomed back often for visits.
Bob Fryling, a former publisher of IVP, recalled Sire’s “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.”
Sire himself may have had the last word on his life’s efforts in his memoir, Rim of the Sandhills, which was released in 2012. Thursday, Christianity Today noted in Sire’s obituary that, in a CT interview about the book, “There is no time in which we don’t fail and in which we don’t struggle, though what we fail and struggle on changes over the years. Failure offers the opportunity to learn to trust in God, and notice that when you do so, you get good results. Then you can trust God more for help on matters that are more problematic than those you have just gone through.”
He is survived by his wife Marjorie, who also worked at IVP, and his four children. IVP has published a tribute page in his honor listing all his books and quoting many of his colleagues and authors.