New to the site, but a member for several months on stackoverflow. As you can easily guess the two are quite different. One where most questions have a universally correct answer where here the answers are only correct to a specific point of view.
The issue I have is there is a hostility toward answers that do not appear to be universally correct. None of the answers here are universally correct; that is not possible for us to know. For example, in answering a question about a specific Catholic doctrine I turned to the Catechism for the answer. When does the bread and wine become Body and Blood? I think I answered it well, but naturally it led to more questions of a very specific nature that the catechism didn't necessarily address. I choose to attempt an answer with "I would say ..." I was promptly warned of the site's hostility toward any interpretation and basically that he would only accept a quote from the pope as an answer.
In another example I attempted to answer a question on Cessationism, a particular view point on miracles, not a denomination or specific group. How do Cessationists expect people to believe without seeing miracles today? Despite the warning in the comment I still thought it worth while to share my knowledge of the concept and logically argue the point asked for from someone who adheres to cessationism, which does not necessarily imply that such a person adheres to something else. So I resorted to Systematic Biblical Theology and pointed to passages that supported my answer. I was quickly downvoted and accused of not even knowing what cessationism is. Why should I try with such stringent rules? I suppose I need a doctorate in every topic I try to answer to meet the requirements.
This kind of expectation in the answers is what is keeping the site down. There are less then ten new questions a day. On SO I can't even refresh the page without loosing the question I was looking at in a sea of new questions. The answers inherently cannot meet the kind of precision as on SO, because the questions are not typically seeking as exact an answer as the Catholic question I answered. But even then I apparently am not allowed to deduce an answer from my own logic supported by facts because that is apparently interpretation and opinion. How does that make the site any better than a google search?
Read this post. Is the scope of SE Christianity too narrow? And the selected answer is spot on. The scope of the site is too broad and is the seed of this ridiculous answer squashing because I am apparently not the pope or doctorate theologian so must therefore provide only facts in my answer and not logical deduction. The point of beta testing is to see how the users use the product then adjust accordingly. It does not mean force the users into the mold first made.
See this post. What makes a good supported answer? The first bullet is pretty good and should generally be how a question is answered because, more often then not, the questioners will want to see biblical support. But then the third bullet says in bold 'no original research.' Why? That seems quite contrary to the purpose of a site like this. As for questions that are specific, like the Catholic one above, it is pretty clear what the answer should look like and where it should come from. So let that ride without interfering; it is self regulating.
I think we can all agree: The site is barely surviving. Something needs to change.
I propose this: Change the scope of the site and definition of a Christian and clearly define what a good answer is. Merely claiming to be Christian cannot be all there is. I could claim I'm a lawyer or doctor, however, most people would agree I am not. Simply claiming something does not make it so, nor does it make you part of that group in the eyes of the group as a whole. For example, there are atheistic Christians who only ascribe to the bible for moral direction, having logically deduced that moral living is good for them and others. So that really has nothing to do with Christianity. There are also cultural Christians who only claim Christianity because of heritage (quite common in USA) and do not really care about Christianity of any flavor. So, again, they are surely not Christians. Now this post Christianity.SE vs. Survivor makes it seem like it is in contrast with what I am saying but it is not. It is mostly concerned with questions that might read like "Are Mormons Christian?" Surely that kind of question is not constructive. The first answer by Caleb is very good, which is funny, because he is the guy who keeps downvoting me. Maybe a return to that ideal is needed. The first comment under Caleb's answer by Flimzy mentions the exact issue I am trying to illuminate: the questions are mostly fine; how we decide the constructiveness of our answers is shaky at best.
So what should define a Christian? I would say something like this for this site: "A Christian is a person who first calls himself such. He identifies Christianity with religion and spirituality and believes in at least one god, whether real, metaphorical, allegorical, or otherwise; who god might be and what god might do or has done does not matter for this site. The Christian also believes that the bible, at least in part, no matter how significant, is important to the faith of Christianity. Other texts are not excluded, such as Apocrypha or the Book of Mormon.
I also think there should be a section in the faq that defines a constructive answer for the types of questions there are.
I have seen these kinds of questions (paraphrasing from real questions)
1) Very specific doctrine questions - "In Catholicism, when does the transubstantiation occur?"
2) More generic but denomination specific - "What would a Lutheran say about God having ordained all things?"
3) Also generic but view point specific - "How would a Cessationist argue that miracles are not needed to become a believer?"
4) Implied Biblical Answer wanted - "Does a Christian who sins remain a Christian?"
5) Purely Biblical - "How does the author of Hebrews argue that every sin receives a just retribution?"
6) Historical - "Is it true that before the Quinisext Council it was heresy to draw Jesus on icons in the form of a man?"
Here is what I think should define a constructive answer for these questions
1) You must quote from literature produced by the denomination in question or an authority figure for that denomination (Pope, Arch Bishop, etc.). Wikipedia will not cut it, nor will your opinion. The answer, if it exists, will be just as specific as the question. You may make logical deductions from the literature, but sparingly and only if necessary; do not base the whole question off of logical deduction.
2) Quoting from denomination literature or figurehead is not required but is preferred. There is more freedom on logical deduction but it must be based on quoted fact or common knowledge first. Your own research can make an appropriate answer, but not likely
3) Quoting would be difficult as that would also require a denomination association, which is okay, but that greatly restricts your answer. Logical deduction from the basic points of the view point combined with quotes from the Bible and other texts are perfect for this type of question.
4) Although somewhat vague, this question should still be allowed because it is implied that the questioner wants the generalized consensus of the Christian community. Answering with quotes from the Bible and other texts is best for this. Using any approach to the interpretation of the texts is acceptable so long as it is clearly stated or the text is frank and explains itself.
5) This question is not interested in interpretation or anybody's view point. The questioner wants to better understand the particular religious text from the frame of the text itself. The question is also not interested in what other texts say about the topic.
6) This question is largely fact based and requires quotes. For occasions when there is more than one view point on how the history happened it is best to either declare which view point you are stating or discuss both, noting how they relate and differ.
Some general rules are:
1) If you are asking about or answering from a specific view point then say so at the top of the post.
2) For generic questions like #4 it is best if you state the kind of answer you want. Classify your question based on this list of types of questions [this makes me think that if the community likes this 'types of questions' idea then we could have a dropdown for each question to be classified]. If the question is not classified the answerer should assume that the asker wants the general Christian consensus and/or biblical support for the supposition.
I am excited having found this site and am eager to engage in a long journey of theological education. I would hate to see the site fail when there is such potential. Something needs to be done because the current model is scaring users from asking and answering. What are the suggestions? Is doing something about the answers like I suggest something that might work? Are any of the mods on the same boat as me?
As an aside check out the islam SE. It is rife with apparent opinion and no one there cares. The even have an advice-needed tag! I have asked three questions now and not one has quoted anything yet; just comments. I'm not saying we should do that here but I think some where in between that and what is happening now here is good.