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Okay, I may ask questions at time which are odd or a little out there. I do this because these are real questions that some people have about Christianity - even if they are not my own questions / beliefs. If you look at the Islam.SE, you'll see people answering questions which are just as odd in regards to their religion. Questions where if they were about Christianity and on this SE, they would be attacked.

My point is, sometimes it appears that the purpose of Christianity.SE is to validate one's personal beliefs and not truly focus on questions about Christianity.

  • Is this site only for "mainstream" as Affable Geek points out?
  • Are we defining what Christianity is and what topics can be discussed in Christianity?
  • Should we shut the door on questions that may have alternative views of Christianity?

I understand that some of it has been discussed here but I think we've lost focus of that discussion. Specifically this: "Many people are likely to come to a site like this with difficult questions they are struggling to answer or resolve in their personal faith."


Another quote from that question:

The Site

For this site to work, it needs a definition that includes groups who call themselves Christian even if we personally believe that their members have misappropriated the label. One reason for this is that we need to be able to ask and answer questions about doctrines that we don't agree with, practices we abhor and groups we would never join. We're not here to judge them, only to understand them and to share our expertise with others.

For the purpose of this site, then, the topic of Christianity includes any question that pertains to any faith that is puts the person of Jesus Christ front-and-centre. This will include a wide range of beliefs and practices to which many of us do not subscribe - but that shouldn't stop us asking questions about them nor providing answers where we are experts in a particular topic. For the purpose of this site, a question is on-topic if it pertains to a Christ-centred world-view, even if the Jesus at the heart of that world-view is a stranger to our own personal view of faith and the gospel.

This means that our personal definition of Christian may be much narrower than the one that defines this site. That is fine and proper, too.

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    +1 I think this is a great question to ask, and a good discussion to have. – Affable Geek Sep 7 '12 at 17:39
  • Re topics discussed: I've benefited tremendously from this site, often from "borderline closable" questions -- like book requests: otherwise, I don't think I'd have started reading Tozer or Lloyd Jones. – unregistered-matthew7.7 Sep 17 '12 at 14:02
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    Also, for controversial questions, I don't think "some branch of Christianity finds this offensive" should be reason to close; but rather "some branch of Christianity can legitimately ask this" should be reason to keep the question open. For example, question like "Of the 'prophecies' made by Watchtower/JW, how many have failed / were later adjusted?" and "What Bible verses do Catholics use to justify praying to Mary? And how is this not idolatry, given the Prophets/Jesus only prayed to God?" should be perfectly valid. – unregistered-matthew7.7 Sep 17 '12 at 14:07
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Great question.

You've asked quite a number of good and well accepted questions on the site, but also a few that are not well received. Here you will find my take on why some of the ones that have gotten beat up on in votes are different than the others. They may be the questions you feel like raising, but they specifically target a genre of content that this site is not well suited for. Here are some of the problematic categories I think you've hit:

  1. Questions that seek the "truth" of a matter.

    By definition, we have a diverse and even conflicting set of perspectives to represent under one roof. Any attempt in a question to arrive at a truth claim on a theological issue is bound to end in failure here. There is simply no way to a arrive at a right answer on a specific theological issue here.

    Anybody coming to the site looking for an end to their spiritual journeys is in the wrong place. The less we try to cater to them and the more we shift the focus to the kind of questions that we CAN handle well, the better off everybody will be.

    Instead, while we cannot put theological questions to rest, we can show how Christianity addresses theological questions. We can represent it's theological position(s), show what doctrines bear on which issues, show how it arrived at it's positions and even show the differences in perspectives.

  2. Speculative or progressive theological questions.

    This is not a good venue for open ended discussion question. It is not a think tank to come up with solutions to the religious problems in the world. It is not an ecumenical council attempting to forge new levels of interaction between traditions inside Christianity. Several of your questions have had this flavor.

    What can only address what is, not what should be. "What should be" is something that must be left to the realm of Churches, which this site is not. Those are things that believers need to hash out among themselves, that their leaders need to oversee and that they need to be accountable for.

    All we can do here address what has been and currently is on record, not hash out what is on the table. You once made this comment on an answer:

    This is what I'm attempting to establish and hopefully realign.

    This site is not a good venue to "realign" Christianity or establish anything new in the way of doctrines. There are plenty of answers to be given about what it is to keep us busy without getting us mixed up in trying to shape it into something else.

  3. Apologetics questions.

    This genre can actually be hit or miss, and a lot of it is going to depend on the specifics of both the issue and the way it is asked. I think your most recent question is a good example of a miss on this issue. I realize it is valid to ask a question that you don't actually have yourself. However, in trying to force the point, your question runs rough shod over other aspects of a good question.

    • It shows research effort, but the research is all contrary. On most SE sites you would be required to show what you have already tried to do to solve a problem and how far those things have gotten you towards a solution. In your case, the prior research is all leading deliberately away from a solution. The tone that set was obviously not appreciated. I actually deal with people in real life every week with very similar questions that are quite legitimate. But they ask them in two ways. One is trolling, and all they are doing is looking for chinks in the armor. When presented with solid answers, they will shift their ground looking for more counter evidence. That is how your question comes off. The other kind really wants to learn the answers, and when pointed in the right direction will actually pursue them. In doing enough research to write a question that well, one must surely have come across some real information about what Christianity actually believes and why. To leave those fragments out of the question makes it sound like a troll.
    • It is too broad. There are bookshelves full of stuff on the historical evidence, bookshelves full of stuff on the legitimacy of the Gospel accounts, bookshelves of stuff documenting Christianities interaction with Gnosticism, and bookshelves full of stuff on it's relation to Islam. Trying to force a question into a specific genre doesn't give you licence to ask a question that is too broad and would be closed on that ground under normal circumstances.

    We've seen other questions in this genre that have different but related issues. "How do I convince my Atheist friends?" for example. By the same token many questions in this genre are fine. As long as they are actually looking for Christianities answer to a specific issue, even divergent traditions often agree on the proper responses to certain common apologetics issues. The key is usually to keep the scope narrow and to want to learn Christianity's answers, not point out a problem.

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    Nice research, thanks for taking the time to type this. – user1054 Sep 7 '12 at 21:48
  • Good answer and indispensable one too. – JoaoRodrigues Sep 9 '12 at 6:38
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I think the purpose to Christianity.SE is to engage all Christian beliefs and practices as well as heresies thereof.

That's extremely broad while being extremely narrow. I mean to say, it's as big as Christianity and as narrow as a heresy, but you may say it's as narrow as Christianity and as broad as the heresies. We'll both be talking about the same stuff and be equally topical.

So, go right ahead and bring up gnostic texts, there has to be a reason for their existence and a reason against their proliferation. Some of your questions are hard, much harder than the questions I get from 7th and 8th graders (which is my purpose here) and for the most part, if I have to go look up an answer, to answer at least 2/3rds of the question, I leave it alone because it's obviously not my domain.

I don't go out of my way to look up the javadoc to answer StackOverflow questions, I stick to PHP and Delphi and raw opinion where applicable. So, if you don't get an answer to a hard question, it doesn't mean it's a bad question. I've had two questions since the launch of the site that were eventually answered by catholic Priests, which was awesome surprising and gratifying, but it took time.

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My thoughts on this are well-known. To me, it does a disservice to the rest of the internet if "our" definition of Christianity takes no account of what the "average" person expects - or even what most scholars expect - when discussing Christianity.

If a liberal were "anyone who claims to be one," then we'd have to address Barry Goldwater's views when discussing "liberal" as well.

If we want to attract experts, we need to not abandon what they think. No scholar would call David Koresh a Christian. No scholar would consider Gnostics Christian. No scholar would consider atheists Christians. Scholars, in fact, would not want to be associated with someone incapable of even defining what Christian means.

I don't want to censor - but I don't want to confuse either. I would argue that "mainstream" Christianity is what most people are talking about when they want to know something more about Christianity. To force them into a meaningless definition is rude to the average citizen of the Internet.

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    So then we should tag the questions as "mainstream" if we want a "mainstream" answer? Who should judge what is "mainstream" and what isn't? We're talking about polar opposites now, but there are many "grey" areas. It is clear to you what you consider "mainstream" however, others may not define it the same way. – user1054 Sep 7 '12 at 18:44
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    it's funny that you say, "defining what Christian means" since there isn't an agreed upon definition. – user1054 Sep 7 '12 at 19:44
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I see this as a valuable site.  To me it is a non-Christian secular site to have questions about Christianity posed and answered.  Due to the subject many Christians join.  

The more intelligent the questions and answers become, the better off this site will become.  This requires administrative rules that may not be justified from a Biblical standpoint, as like I said this is a secular site.

As the site is managed by sinners such as ourselves it will not be done with perfect fairness but we should be generous concerning the faults of others and appreciate those  who spend the thankless efforts maintaining the site.

On technical terms, I would prefer a different mechanism for closing questions.  I have almost never voted to close a question and had almost none of my questions closed but, I think those who vote closure, should be forced to respond to something like 'yes/no 'ok to re-open' after any revision occurs to the closed question.  Closing a question has an automatic method, but re-opening seems too difficult to motivate the person in attempting. I am only proposing an ideal process, it might not be worth the effort to implement something like that.

One thing I find optimistic about this site (in contrast to the sister site BH which I think has a lot going for it on different grounds) is that it has a high rate of accepted answers.  Something must be working for this to happen.

I think Affable is right about being Academically honest about what is Christianity.  I think bizarre and unusual questions should be allowed on this site (I would prefer they are not closed) but the answers should be able to identify them as such, otherwise, this site could turn into a weird philosophical place chasing everyone away because it does not coincide with the meanings of words used by everyday people.

For example if I were to say I have joined a new sect of Christianity called mikeism and one weird doctrine we believe is that we should have fornication with young women in order to get close with them and share the gospel, well, it would be suitable for someone to comment that actually I am not mainstream Christian in my sect, even if I put Jesus as the centre in some weird way. I should be allowed to answer according to me weird idea, but not take the mainstream Christian flag as I do it without being called out for it.

  • Mike... I think you put too much thought into mikeism <jk> – user1054 Sep 13 '12 at 12:41

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