Here are some tips I'd offer for newcomers:
Remember first that Christianity.StackExchange.Com isn't about Truth.
What I think is Truth may not be the same as what someone else thinks is Truth. To avoid endless debate that ultimately leads nowhere constructive, we simply assume that we'll never determine Truth here. I'll just accept that my fellow participants are just uneducated Heathens, and be done with it. (I'm just kidding about the uneducated heathens part, by the way...)
Next, remember that all Stack Exchange sites value questions and answers that are objectively verifiable. Opinion answers are discouraged.
With those two thoughts in mind:
Tip 1 - Change your question from "How do we know X is true" to "Why does group Y think X is true".
Compare the following sets of questions:
- How do we know that the earth is only about 6,000-10,000 years old?
- How do Young Earth Creationists come up with an age of the earth of between 6,000-10,000 years.
The first version has two problems. it assumes the age of the earth is known, when in fact, you will get endless debate on the topic, and never get a YEC'er to agree with an OEC'er or an atheist that thinks the whole thing is made up.
Both questions essentially ask "where does the 6,000-10,000 year age of the earth come from". The difference is that the first isn't directly, objectively answerable because so many groups disagree. The second is focused, because it is asking specifically why the group that believes X believes X.
Tip 2: Change "Is x true" to "What is the basis for believing that x is true?"
- Is salvation by faith alone, or are good works required?
- What is the basis for the belief that salvation is by faith alone, apart from works?
- What is the basis for the belief that good works are necessary for salvation?
Again, the first one is not definitively answerable. People can point to valid-sounding interpretations of Scripture to support either view. Obviously, they can't both be true. Works are either required for salvation or they are not. One or the other is true. But you won't find the answer here.
You may find an argument that is convincing enough to lead you to Truth, but you may equally find an argument that leads you into error. It's one of the reasons I am so quick to clarify that this site isn't the place to go looking for Truth. Not only will such questions lead to pointless debate, the scary thing for me is that someone will be steered wrong, with eternal consequences.
Tip 3: Try to ask for a specific view if you're asking something that you know is a matter of debate.
- What do young-earth creationists teach about the geologic column?
- What is the official Catholic Church position on the creation/evolution debate?
- What is the Southern Baptist teaching on the creation/evolution debate.
Do not ask
As stated above, on this subject there is no one commonly accepted belief. However, the Catholic Church holds an official belief - it's documented and verifiable. We can find a link to support our answer. As does the Southern Baptist Convention.
The next two tips will go together because I'm going to use one set of questions to illustrate both.
Tip 4: If your question could be taken as offensive, inflammatory, rude, or as a thinly veiled attempt to make a denomination/group/belief seem stupid, rephrase it so that it won't be taken that way.
Tip 5: Sometimes, you have to use comments within the question to be ***really clear* that you're not asking "is X true", you're asking "why does group Y believe X is true".**
- Science has proved that the earth is 4.7 billion years old, and that the universe is 18-20 billion years old. Why do some Christians
insist that it's only a few thousand years old when all the evidence
- Most scientist believe that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and that the universe is 18-20 years old, yet Young-Earth Creationists
believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old. What are the
Young-Earth Creationist arguments against the dating methods that
indicate an old earth?
- Note that I am not asking if the YEC or
Old Earth view is true, I'm specifically asking what the YEC argument
is. Whether that argument is true or false is not the subject of this
question. Please stick specifically to the question I'm asking, and
keep the debate about the validity of the view to the chat room.
If you're really having a hard time figuring out how to ask the question in a way that will allow it to remain open, use the flag to ask a moderator for help, or ask in chat. Chat may be better because there are only so many moderators, and the chat includes moderators and regular members like me that simply want to help.