10

My instinct is to say no. In fact I just closed this one here:

Is there any biblical doctrine on how to avoid paranoia as a Christian under an Protestant framework?

To me, the question reads like a version of "What are some verses that support the position that extramarital dancing is not prudent?*" that has been dressed up in a much nicer suit. The language is fancier, but it seems like the same kind of question.

Surely there must be some counsel from God’s word that would help keep a believer calm in the midst’s of such emotional conflict?

It seems to me that there could be a nearly endless set of verses that people will have drawn strength from. A few favorites will float to the top but there will be a long tail of answers as everybody adds their favorite verse that has helped them through a hard time whether directly related to the topic of the question or not.

However, don't let the mod hammer fool you. I closed it unilaterally pending this discussion, but I want the community to weigh in with what they think about this question type. If there is a way to run these questions that is constructive and fits our guidelines for answers that represent specific segments of Christianity and can be referenced and verified as authentic doctrinal positions or interpretations, this would be the place to describe how that can be done, then we can edit them as they come in to match.

If not, I suggest this is more the kind of question that should be answered in the context of your local church.

* This was a real question we recently got on BH. That was all, just that line.

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    If we agree with the title, that “what advice does the Bible give on X topic” questions are constructive? - should we up or downvote the question? – Reinstate Monica Sep 19 '12 at 8:35
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    @Wikis: Honestly I have no idea! The title goes one way, the gist of my post goes the other. I suggest we need some answers on this with reasoning one way or another and that the votes on those be more indicative of community consensus. Votes on this should probably be taken for nothing more than "this is a useful question to raise". – Caleb Sep 19 '12 at 8:38
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    Yeah, I thought the same about the title vs post itself. I happily +1 it therefore, as it is useful to raise. :) – Reinstate Monica Sep 19 '12 at 10:26
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    I missed the dancing question on BH! I would have answered with "And as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David dancing and celebrating, and she despised him in her heart." (1 Chronicles 15:29 ESV) Who wants to be despised by his wife? ;-) But I agree with you're reasoning on the usefulness of those questions. – Jon Ericson Sep 19 '12 at 17:41
  • @Mike wondering about the topicality or constructiveness of questions is not making fun. It's an honest attempt to ask the question "does this question make the internet (or this site) a better place?" Specifically "does this question help, or hurt our ability to attract experts in our field?" Too often I find that the answer to those questions are no. – wax eagle Sep 20 '12 at 18:44
  • @Mike: I'm very confused by your comments surrounding this question. I think you might be forgetting that this is a secular site. If you have a question about sanctification, please label it that way. Our FAQ specifically bars pastoral advice questions. I don't think there is a problem. – Jon Ericson Sep 21 '12 at 20:40
  • @JonEricson - thanks. After first being annoyed by your comment as I perceived it dismissing the issue, after following the link you provided it dawned on me what we are discussing. I am only beginning to grapple with the problem. There is no problem on BH.SE for knowing how to ask a question as the Bible and exegesis kind of forces things on track automatically. Here the problem is more difficult to manage, but the subjects have wider appeal and popularity. Cheers for lending me a hand when I was drowning in an activated amygdala ;) - somehow you tossed me the key. – Mike Sep 22 '12 at 7:25
  • I have totally changed my view. Apologize for pressuring you to consider my half-baked ideas on this subject. One of my problems is I always tend to fight for the under-dogs even if the fight is not really the best to wage. This was never about my question, its is about my struggle with other peoples questions. – Mike Sep 22 '12 at 7:36
  • @Mike: I understand. That's why I'm not fighting you on it, just trying to convey what we've learned along the way. I'm throwing my opinion on the issues out there for community review, not because I'm dictating how things should me. Yes I have a strong opinions and my personal answers and posts will reflect that, but what I enforce as a moderator MUST be backed by the community not just me. – Caleb Sep 22 '12 at 8:41
5

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page. FAQ

This sentence is part of the boiler plate FAQ for every stack exchange site. What we must define is how that relates to our site and our topic. In the case of this specific meta post, does the question form "Are What advice does the Bible give on topic X" fulfill these criteria?

  • Practical: This probably mostly depends on the subject matter being discussed. Sometimes it will be practical and sometimes it will not be.

  • Answerable: If the Bible specifically addresses the topic then yes they are likely answerable. Whether they can be done so in a way that is satisfactory to the author of the question is up to the individual.

  • Problem You Actually Face: This is where things get hairy. Often times we are not as outsiders able to judge this with any reliable criteria. However, obscure questions are more likely to run afoul of this.

So far we're ok with this type of question. But let's get to the heart of the matter: What the Bible says on a subject often doesn't actually matter to the question. When we are asking for Biblical advice on a subject what we're really asking for is interpretation or doctrine. A significant portion of the time what we read in scripture is informed by our doctrinal or interpretive framework. Getting advice and interpretation from a different framework might be useful to advance our knowledge or understanding of a passage, but it's probably not going to answer our question in a satisfactory way.

Unfortunately we have been unable to convince people to specify a doctrinal frame for their questions (and often when they do it's a tack on instead of the frame on which the hang their question). Thus it's very difficult to handle "What does the Bible say" questions in any satisfactory manner.

This is further complicated by the fact that we have a perfectly good stack exchange site that specializes in how to read and interpret scriptural passages. It would be useful to both them and us for good, answerable Bible reading questions, that do not specify a tradition to get migrated to Biblical Hermeneutics. (These are actually off topic per the current version of our FAQ though that is seldom enforced)

4

They may not be constructive, but they can be relevant, and the kind of question that experts might roll their eyes at, but that people with questions about Christianity honestly wonder.

In the FAQ, under what types of questions are allowed, it says:

Christianity - Stack Exchange is for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more.

I always interpreted "those interested in learning more" to mean "non-Christians" or "non-experts". That portion would indicate that it's o.k. to ask non-expert questions like the one above. But then you get to the questions that are nit allowed, which includes:

  • what the Bible says about a subject (unless you specify a doctrine/tradition)

So our FAQ already answers this. I remember the pains that many of you went through to hash out guidelines to improve the content of the site (I was only marginally involved in those conversations), and this came from those long discussions in Chat and posts here on Meta. While a small part of me wants to say we should allow such questions, a bigger part of me remembers how bad it was back then, and says "stick to the guidelines you/we worked so hard to come up with. They seem to be working.

The reason for that guideline is sound.

It's there because different denominations/traditions interpret things differently.

I think the existing guideline should stand. Such questions can exist if the OP "specifies a doctrine/tradition".

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    The scope of things that people "honestly wonder" about is staggeringly huge. However much we may get a steady stream of questions from that quarter, I don't feel like it is a scope we can use to define ourselves. – Caleb Sep 20 '12 at 8:56
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    Remember that the charge of this site (like all SE sites), is to be an "expert" Q&A site. – wax eagle Sep 20 '12 at 18:45
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    @Caleb - I agree, which is why, even though I started out explaining why part of me is in favor of accepting such questions, I ended by stating that the existing guideline is based on sound reasoning, and such questions should be off-topic, as the guideline states. – David Stratton Sep 21 '12 at 22:40
1

Ok, I have changed my whole mindset on this question so have deleted all my half-baked previous thoughts. (Warning I may be only 3/4 baked now but still want to engage the topic) Keep in mind I have only begun to think about it.

First, after considering the difficulties of how to manage a site about Christianity in what is essentially a non Christian parent site, the difficulty is enormous and the moderator's role extremely important. The whole site can rise into high value, or descend into absolute rubbish (like yahoo answers) very quickly.

For my own experience I have to admit as someone who basically does not have many questions, trying to formulate one is actually harder than answering the most difficult questions. I have over the last couple of days learned and reading this post helped.

I have since revised the question about paranoa, which is hopefully more constructively phrased. If it is, then at least I have benefited from this discussion.

Second, I do still have a somewhat independent view of the subject. I mean independent from how some moderators are trying to drive this big bus on a straight road. I think Caleb is doing the best job of it in general (just my opinion) but as I still do not really understand the FAQ is a way that can be quickly applied, I am starting to develop my own 'cheat sheet' and will probably avoid complex questions until my 'cheat sheet' is more polished.

Here is my current evolving 'unofficial guide' to the FAQ of this site.

chritianiaty.stackexchnage is a site using excellent technology that is administered by the world. Therefore, high level admins, or at least the parent site, will not really understand what is important to Christianity, and even moderators on the site might be clueless as to what matters to the majority of its users. Therefore, the best question and answers are those which atheists can perceive the logic of, looking outside of the actual meaning being discussed. This means although most questions are actually alright, so long as they show some recognition of Christian doctrines or history, answers should at a minimum quote published material that could be verified by an atheist and be presented honestly so that their arguments, made upon those references, are verified academic. If the connection to the references misrepresent the author's which are quoted then it is a fallacy argument that even an atheist can determine and moderate. I would call this not academic. We should really present our questions and answers under the eye of an atheists, since we are borrowing their technology for purposes they are not able to perceive, or admit as valid.

The subject I am still unsure of, centers around things that one can't find a published quotation to refer to in an answer. Sometimes the only published expert opinion, are Bible references. However, I am starting to be inclined to think that for the protection of the quality of this site, an answer should generally find at least one published opinion from someone, other than the Bible, to keep its academic quality. (This should be a publicly admitted weakness of the site and those who fail to grasp the need, should not be treated as though they have a problem, but should be apologized to over and over again. ) We should all be given a month or so to revisit all our answers to ensure we have quoted a published work besides the Bible, and later delete hundreds of answers on this site. Although I think many good questions are raised on this site, the amount of expert answers is not very high.

I realize I am now taking a more nazi approach, but I am still very liberal on actual questions. Almost all of them are all right, so long as professional answers are provided. However, when a question does not illicit answers with a published quote. By 'quote' I do not means a random quote from a web-page unless a kind of semi-objective wiki, I mean a published 'book' 'physical or electronic' - then the question should also be deleted. I do not see much harm in adding this kind of rule. It will only wipe away all the rubbish on this site. For those answers I have made without quotes, it would take me no time to add good ones.

These are just my current opinions, I am providing them not under the impression that they 'should be followed' but for the purposes of adding some contribution to the subject. I do not mind being an independent, I usually am anyway. As far as trying to formulate good and bad answers under an envelope like What Bible X / Y according to Z, is not really the way to go for me. I do not mean to disrespect the attempt and these attempts are probably the best attempts currently being made. Its just that I think the nature of a good and bad question can't really be captured by a computer program using sentence structure recognition.

  • +1! I don't agree with detail here, but I think it reflects a more complete grasp of both the potential problems and viable solutions than your previous post here. Even if we don't go nazi as moderators deleting answers, as a community member you have a lot of weight in requiring academic/quality answers. I would encourage you to post the relevant bits of your thoughts on our guidelines for answers : What makes a good supported answer? – Caleb Sep 22 '12 at 8:23
  • Even if not everybody lives up to the guidelines, I think the issues you note and the things that answerers should be expected to consist of are good solid thoughts that we should constantly present to folks as they show up here. – Caleb Sep 22 '12 at 8:24
  • As for questions, that's actually something we've been hashing over from the beginning and there is more than one opinion on how important question quality is. I think experience has taught us some lessons (and my opinion has shifted from "anything goes" to a much higher bar to entry requiring some prior research and scoping effort), but it's still an open discussion. That's why I started this particular meta post in the first place. – Caleb Sep 22 '12 at 8:27
  • I agree there isn't a hard formula for what makes a good question. When we tried that, the first thing people did is mash their bad questions into a different format to fit the formula. They were just as bad questions as before but had the right "dress up clothes" on. This comes down to a judgement call. that the community already gets to make. This is why question votes are one thing (popularity) and VTC is another (experienced users voting to close questions even if they are popular). – Caleb Sep 22 '12 at 8:30

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