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Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey by [Seidensticker, Bob]
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Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Description

About the Author

After graduating from MIT in 1980, Bob Seidensticker designed digital hardware, about which he wrote his first book, The Well-Tempered Digital Design (Addison-Wesley, 1986). He has programmed in a dozen computer languages and in environments ranging from punch cards, to one of the first windowing environments, to MS-DOS, to Windows (starting with version 1.0). He is a co-contributor to 14 software patents and has worked at a number of technology companies from a 10-person startup to Microsoft and IBM.

Since leaving Microsoft, he has focused on writing. Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change (Berrett-Koehler, 2006) explored technology change—how we see it and how it really works. Cross Examined is his first novel.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 820 KB
  • Print Length: 279 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006TK39TO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #795,293 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've long been a reader of Bob Seidensticker's blog Cross Examined, and bought this book after reading some excerpts on it. I have to give it five stars because I feel that four - which Amazon tells me means "I like it" didn't seem enough. Five stars means I love it, and I did love reading this book!
Mind you, it's not without its flaws. Halfway through the book I was planning to give it three stars. But I was pleasantly surprised when...

Spoiler alert!

...Paul's conversion to atheism was not the end of the story, and it continued to a rousing and exciting climax.
I've always foundBob Seidensticker to be an excellent nonfiction writer, but that doesn't always translate into good skill in writing fiction. And indeed there are some flaws in the writing, which I am sure will Bob will improve on as he continues writing novels. Especially in the first half, I found the characters rather strained and sometimes poorly drawn, sounding as if they had words put in their mouths. This improved as the book continued, however, and it seems to me that the characterisation in the second half of the book is definitely improved.
Despite these flaws, I have to give this book five stars as it is such an enjoyable read. I was really rooting for Paul as the debate grew nearer, and it made for a very exciting story. I was also pleased to see other interesting story elements as well - the Japanese Buddhist monastery, Athena's feminism, the reactions of the townspeople and the different types of bigotry displayed.
Apart from being a very good story, this is also a good vehicle for showing up the problems with apologetics arguments. Although one might say that the behaviour of some of the characters wasn't very typical, it's the author's story - and besides which, just because Samuel, for example, didn't act in the way many other pastors would have acted that doesn't mean that he didn't act as he, the character in the story, would have acted.
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Format: Paperback
I was sent a free copy of this book to review.

This book is written as an undermining of Christian intellectual arguments. It is a novel, but in the dialogue between key characters, arguments are presented and then attacked (though the word attack suggests aggression, which there isn't really much of in the book!)

Bob Seidensticker has certainly gone to a lot of effort to present a clear defense of atheism, and in many ways he does this well. For those interested or involved in apologetics, there might not be may surprises, but the atheist character in the novel, `Jim', is eloquent and clear without the aggression of, say, Dawkins. Pascal's Wager (the, `you may as well believe in God because if you don't and you're wrong, you go to hell, and if you do and you're wrong, you just end up living a nice life and then die without knowing you were wrong') is all very well, for example, but once more than one religion exists, it rather crumbles...

However, I think I have a problem with this book. That is, Christianity is not just attacked intellectually (which I don't mind - Christians need to be well equipped in apologetics). Rather, Christianity is undermined through the presentation of the key characters in the book. There are basically three characters in the book: Samuel, a church leader; Paul, his `apprentice' - an ex-orphanage rescue project; Jim, an agoraphobic atheist. The atheist is someone who you want to feel sorry for, because he has been wronged by the church, his life history is painful and Christianity has driven him, in many ways, to the brink.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars 27 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story as vehicle for propaganda 19 Mar. 2013
By Mike Blyth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a pretty good story. It's also propaganda, but there is nothing wrong with that, especially if one knows from the start that this is what it's going to be. The meat is in the atheist-theist argumentation, but the plot does manage to hold its own and is interesting.

It's not the case that the book is set up as a fair, two-way dialog or debate, despite what several other reviewers have said. Nor do I think that most Christians will find it very appealing unless they are already searching for alternatives (or have never thought much about the issue). Rather, the book is more of a morality play with the protagonist an honest seeker who courageously moves from theism to atheism under the tutelage of a wise, atheist father figure, and the villain a grasping, despicable preacher who uses religion more than he lives by it--all stereotyped. Hence we can hardly say that the stage is set for a fair dialog.

The arguments themselves are, of course, slanted toward the atheist viewpoint as well. The interplay would have been more convincing if the theistic side was presented more strongly, but then it may not be possible to develop the nuances of a fair debate while still keeping the story alive.

All that is not to say that it's not a good book. It is good. Just don't think it's an attempt to explore a complex struggle between faith and doubt.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual chess with no clear winner - 28 April 2013
By ckuniholm - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The narrative of Cross Examined offers conventions of plot: a half-hearted love story, uncertain identity, mounting tension between rival mentors, a young man facing traumatic past and uncertain future.

Yet the plot, and the characters themselves, are little more than a framework for the interplay of ideas. Between two formal debates that frame the action, young protagonist Paul shuttles between pastor and recluse, rebutting arguments from one, gathering ammunition from the other, an almost featureless pawn in the battle of belief.

The story suffers, but the ideas suffer as well. Arguments both for and against belief are flattened, misrepresented, treated as little more than markers in a competitive game that resembles poker more than chess: "I'll meet your ontological arguments and raise you one Pascal's wager."

The novel introduces arguments for and against the existence of God, the truth of scripture, the possibility of miracle, but in a way that seems heavily weighted toward the author's own assumptions. Those who represent Christian belief (a bombastic, dishonest minister, a paternalistic priest, a flat, authoritarian father) appear slightly dim-witted, while atheist Jim is the voice of reason.

Jim tells Paul: "faith is immune to facts. . . And that's the biggest clue that Christianity is false: it's built on faith. Believing something because it's reasonable and rational requires no faith at all." In the intellectual chess game Seidensticker has constructed, facts and logic are the highest values, sweeping all opposition from their path.

At the same time, there's an odd undercurrent to the novel's slight narrative.

Jim lives in such a place of distrust he is unable to leave his home. He's been trapped in one place since he left the church and abandoned his faith over two decades earlier. As he invites Paul deeper into his logical agnosticism, he also invites Paul into a place of isolation and paralysis.

In the end, Paul seems required to choose between reasoned loneliness or irrational acceptance of a more productive and emotionally healthy community. Is that Seidensticker's point? Or is Paul so programmed to be a pawn that the loss of one mentor sends him reeling back toward the other? It's hard to tell - and by that point in the story - equally hard to care.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reason and Faith - Christianity 13 Dec. 2011
By Benjamin J. Barrett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Since the beginning of Christianity, people have debated whether god exists.

Written in the form of a novel, "Cross Examined" takes us through many of the arguments that people have used as proof that god does or does not exist. In the end, "faith" is a critical part of religion.

I liked the story, and even more, liked the way Seidensticker moves through the arguments so they can be enjoyed in the same leisure way as a novel.

Disclaimer: I have known the author for a number of years and read different drafts of the novel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cross Examined 28 Jun. 2013
By Sheep23 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Cross Examined: An unconventional spiritual journey by Bob Seidensticker

Cross Examined takes a closer look at the relationship between faith and arguments against Christianity through the lens of a story. The novel centers around Paul, a man who was taken off the streets into the ministry with Samuel, the senior pastor of The First Church of God in San Francisco. All the while this is happening, Paul's fiancee is trapped in the ruins of the earthquake that has just taken place (set in 1906). The charismatic pastor, Samuel, is known for both his prophetic utterances but also his debating of serious issues every year at his own apologetics conference. The tale unfolds as Samuel sends Paul out to minister to a man named Jim, who had been holed up in his house for almost twenty years, bearing the pain of a lost love. Little does he know, Paul is stepping into the house of a man armed with the intellectual rigor to argue against Christianity but also one who knows Samuel.

I appreciated the way that Jim interacted with Paul in the book to refine his arguments for Christianity or find some better ones. At one part in the story, Jim engages the question of how the oral message of the gospels was transmitted by saying, "When I corrected your story just now, I was reading from a book - that's our authority. There was no book when the Jesus story was oral tradition. When two people's memories, whose was right"? (68-69). Paul has to hone his arguments in here at this point to really point out how oral tradition works, because Jim is quick to point out the holes in his argument. I like the back and forth of the argumentation in the story that pushes the believer to strengthen the argument for belief so it is logical and watertight. The difference between Samuel and Paul in the book is a chasm of one trying to find solid answers for the things of faith and the other reciting the old answers to the same questions. It takes some mental and moral imagination to be willing to examine the evidence and evaluate truth claims for any argument.

The story winds its way through some backstory into how Jim and Samuel knew each other from before and their apparent fallout. I find myself really enjoying the book and saddened as well. I enjoyed the book because this kind of thing really happens, the part in which one man struggles with their faith through engaging a person of a different persuasion and another is not willing to be humbled by his own faith. Secondly, another major point in the book was that often the most ardent followers of the Christian faith don't examine their faith as stringently as they should and leave those with doubts on the sidelines. Yet, the very essence of faith is that you examine that same faith with all the rigor of a scientist, not bowing to arguments because they have been made before, but finding good scholarship that answers the question.

Lastly, I would say that although the engagement between Paul and Jim, and finally Samuel and Paul was rather one-sided. There was not much discussion about the merits of atheism or agnosticism. Furthermore, there was not much discussion about the rather prideful assertion that atheists point out deficiencies in the Christian faith with no moral ground to do so. Secondly, even in the discussion on orality, one can find very good resources that bolster the gospels and their trustworthiness by scholars of repute. Just because people's memories were different, doesn't necessarily lead us to believer that one was right and one was wrong. Different perspectives are elicited because people are looking through different angles.

I think this is a good story that focuses on the plight of faith and its critics. If you are willing to investigate the claims of your faith, and see how this makes a difference in conversations with others, this book will give you an example of how these issues play out.

Thanks to Bob Seidensticker for the free copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cross Examined is an interesting read... 24 May 2013
By jspiers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It is a compelling and simple work of historical fiction, loosely based on the events of the 1906 earthquake and rumors of prophecies of the event (A reporter in Los Angeles printed a prophecy of destruction given at the Azusa Street revival on the day of the earthquake with Frank Bartleman releasing a tract trumpeting the earthquake as the judgement of God soon after, and Adventist prophetess Ellen G. White retroactively claimed a vision of the same). Mr. Seidensticker's first foray into novel writing uses the lives of a few affected by and taking advantage of this momentous event as a vehicle for a very competent discussion of both the personal journey of reflection upon divine power and theodicy always created by such events, as well as a thorough examination of many common tropes invoked by Christian apologists and their answers from an atheistic or agnostic sources.

In many ways, this book fills a niche that has needed to be filled for some time. While at places almost trite in its trotting out of arguments used by both sides of the Christian/Atheist debate, it manages to build a comprehend-able and coherent story line of spiritual quest, despair, and discovery that will feel eerily familiar to many children of evangelical boomers who have found themselves disillusioned with Christianity-as-they-know-it and dissatisfied with the answers provided by their confident and self-righteous leaders and elders. Cross Examined uses a comfortingly familiar fiction - similar in style to many works by writers of Christian drama and romance - to seriously question the assumptions and/or pat answers that many of us heard across pulpits or at conferences in our formative years. In doing so, it provides an understandable, concise, and shareable answer to the question of "how did you stray so far so quickly," a question that, I can state from experience, is a hard one to answer.

This is, perhaps, the book's greatest strength. At times, the only way to explain the journey so many of us have taken seems to be to take someone down a path already traveled by oneself - a patent impossibility. This book covers a lot of territory in that journey, couched in historical fiction, and allows the opportunity to either offer the book itself as an answer, or perhaps more importantly to open discussion on one's own journey. In that regard, the book can also be used as a simple way to bring ideas related to apologetics and debate into churches or study groups that are willing and open to having their views challenged in a productive way.

The book promised a "surprise ending," which I will not give away. Suffice it to say that the ending at first felt a bit like a let-down, and quickly became the high point of the book for me, in that it provided the most room for thought and the greatest opportunity to map the ideas of the book onto the life and angst of emerging Christians in our time. Don't skip to the end, though... it doesn't make sense without the rest of the book, and at any rate you would miss out on a entertaining and thought-provoking read.
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