7

Finally have taken it upon myself to be what I hated on Programmers.SE and started Voting to Close questions that applying a bit of what we've learned over the past year makes an answerable question.

But I noticed a lot of gray areas since apparently humans and not robots are answering these questions and so I thought we could list them here and vote on and discuss their grayness.

So please contribute to this list and answer with wiki's so we can all take credit for our collective wisdom.

If you disagree with something, please don't just vote it down, offer an objection to it so that it may be voted up.

Please identify which classification of questions your referring to, link a few questions and/or tags that correspond to the questions and finish by saying whether or not you think they are specific enough to require a doctrinal scope.

  • 1
    You know - I saw you VTC'd alot of your own questions - I found myself wanting to sliightly edit them, but finding them to be wholly legitimate. Hopefully I can pull you back from the dark side! – Affable Geek Aug 2 '13 at 3:13
  • @aff figured I'd better take care of that plank first. I'm not too enthusiastic about making the site perfect. I put in a feature request to only let robots ask questions once on meta.stackoverflow after 2/3rds of my questions on programmers.se were closed (nobody thought that was very clever) – Peter Turner Aug 2 '13 at 3:20
3

Historical Christianity

These questions usually fall under and are usually answerable from a historical context, but the answers are given to interpretation equally as much as questions are. Christian history is Christian tradition and should be as on topic as the Bible, but it's always interpreted through the lens of a faith tradition and ought to be tagged or at least scoped as such.

Verdict

Not inherently off topic, still requires scoping

  • 1
    The best answers however would have both, say a papal homily and a quote from Luther. It seems you are trying to force truth into a denominational buckets. – pterandon Aug 2 '13 at 15:02
  • @pterandon Matthew 6:24 I'll leave you to determine which is which! – Peter Turner Aug 2 '13 at 15:13
  • How do that fancy tagging thing in your post? I don't see the button. – Double U Aug 2 '13 at 21:10
  • @Anonymous '[' 'T' 'A' 'G' ':' Biblical-Basis ']' (you can see it if you edit the post if that doesn't make sense, I don't know where that feature is documented! – Peter Turner Aug 5 '13 at 12:34
3

Has anyone ever thought about X?

I recently answered Has any prominent theologian ever explained why Jesus let a thief be in charge of the money? despite some misgivings about the scope of "any prominent theologian". In this case I think it fell on the right side of the line, because it so happens that the X here is very specific, even though the historical scope is two thousand years long. In general, I suspect that these kinds of questions will be too broad to be properly answerable.

Verdict

Questions like this need to be narrowed somehow - by having a very specific X, or restricting the scope of "anyone", or "ever", or both.

  • 4
    These are in, my mind, the worst kinds of questions. They are asked by people who don't know theology, but have an off the wall idea, that somehow nobody in the last 2000 years has ever come up with. The ideas presented are usually either inane or so prosaic as to be mind numbingly dull. "Has anyone ever thought about" is usually asked by someone who wants a discussion, not an answer. It is, imho, a bad question smell that almost always tips me off to a VTC - and I hate VTCs! – Affable Geek Aug 2 '13 at 2:33
  • In these cases, at best, the answer can be "this doctrine is called X" or "this idea is referred to as X", but rarely does much good come of them. – Affable Geek Aug 2 '13 at 2:34
  • 1
    This kind of question is evidence of someone who has not even tried a google search yet. – 3961 Aug 2 '13 at 20:07
  • @AffableGeek: are you referring to the specific question about Judas and / or a class of questions? – Reinstate Monica Aug 4 '13 at 15:38
  • 2
    Just the class. That one is actually pretty good – Affable Geek Aug 4 '13 at 16:48
  • @AffableGeek: appreciate, thanks. – Reinstate Monica Aug 4 '13 at 17:46
  • We had a certain person a while back- someone who couldn't have been more than 12- a while back. She wouldn't actually read the Bible, or theology, but was convinced her brain farts were somehow able to answer questions that nobody else could answer simply by coming up with her own ideas. – Affable Geek Aug 4 '13 at 23:48
  • @AffableGeek Hey! I resemble that remark! (Earlier use of this argument for the necessity of evil? is my offending [?] question. I would like a discussion but was curious about the history of the idea. I did state that it was a basic extension of a well-known concept. The question was upvoted [currently 6] more than I thought proper [about 3 to 5], but I think it is a valid question for this site.) – Paul A. Clayton Aug 7 '13 at 14:55
  • @PaulA.Clayton You were by no means the person I was thinking of. Your questions are very good. The person I was thinking of wanted to posit things like "What if the serpent was actually another god" and nonsense like that. – Affable Geek Aug 7 '13 at 17:04
  • @AffableGeek I did not think you were thinking of that question--which is partly why I used the humorous "resemble that remark" (perhaps a smiley was in order?)--but it is that type of question (though the 'X' was very specific). – Paul A. Clayton Aug 7 '13 at 19:28
3

Where to find it in the Bible

Although you can find excellent references in dead tree form there is merit to questions asking "where is X in the Bible". (i.e. Where is Satan in the Bible) The Bible, should mean at least the 72 books of the Bible with a few doctrinal caveats. If someone asks "Where is purgatory in the Protestant Bible" then, although the question is not wholly without merit, an answer ought not reference 2 Maccabees.

Verdict

Where to find it in the Bible questions are sufficiently scoped.

  • 1
    I find this identical to "what is biblical basis". – 3961 Aug 2 '13 at 20:08
  • Well, I don't think Biblical-Basis questions are inherently scoped since they deal with interpretation. – Peter Turner Aug 2 '13 at 20:28
  • Answers to this kind of question could be dependent upon interpretation as well. "Where is Satan in the Bible?" could have an answer that uses Isaiah 14:12-17, but not everybody agrees that it refers to him. – Ryan Frame Aug 2 '13 at 21:09
  • If the answer to a question could result in a correct answer of two words (eg, "Matthew 2:34") then the question is probably better asked on chat, anyway. – Ryan Frame Aug 2 '13 at 21:11
1

Why do some Christians vote Republican / Democratic / ... ?

We have had lots of questions about the intersection of Christian culture and doctrine with society at large. Some have been good, and others... not so much. Examples of bad questions (which have been closed) include: "What Doctrine Supports The Christian Gun Culture?" and "https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/16883/what-christian-doctrine-supports-being-ultra-patriotic-in-america". A question like "What is the Biblical and historical basis for Christian pacifism?" is rather better because it is built around a particular belief, rather than a cultural practice - it engages the substance of the Christian faith, instead of being about Christians as a sociological group. "What is the basis for ascribing any fiscal policy to Jesus?", similarly, is about the recent history of Biblical exegesis on economic topics, and not particularly about the politics of the people involved.

Although all of these topics are contentious, that's not the real problem. The issue is whether there is a solid, objective foundation to give a useful answer. Doctrinal answers are expected to come from some identified Christian perspective, rather than the perspective of an anthropologist / sociologist / political scientist in the wider society. Therefore, questions about doctrine as it relates to politics should still solicit answers from a particular Christian perspective.

Verdict

Questions about politics and society are fine, so long as they are rooted in Christian doctrine and history - Christianity "from the inside" - and don't just treat Christians as a sociological or anthropological phenomenon to be studied "from the outside".

  • I think the pacifism question could be better scoped to Quakerism and the fiscal policy question could have been scoped to "in light of what I know as a person who reads X who detests Y why do adherents to Z still profess Q" (but that would make it hard to learn new things) still, it requires a bit of cheek to offer a encyclical as the answer to a question that probably wants a Bible answer. – Peter Turner Aug 2 '13 at 15:40
  • Being the guy who started this I think you have said it best about how we handle these. We should avoid "treat[ing] Christians as a sociological or anthropological phenomenon to be studied 'from the outside'". We are about Christianity from the Christian perspective. – 3961 Aug 2 '13 at 20:14
-1

Where to Find it in the Bible

Where to find it in the Bible questions are problematic because the Bible means different things to Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox and "finding things" in the Bible is difficult when you've got a variance. This puts folks whose faith tradition is at a minority at a disadvantage unless they know the kind of answer they're producing matches the scope of the question at hand. i.e. It would not be justifiable to down vote a reference to burying the dead in Tobit, if the question was about the Catholic Bible

Verdict

Inherently off topic unless properly scoped.

  • This is another way of asking "What is the scriptural underpinning of doctrine X?" As a preacher, I find it instructive to go back to a doctrine, and SE is a great way of doing that. If these are off-topic, this site is useless. I think it is completely appropriate to ask "What is the biblical basis of purgatory?" and get "Tobit" or "What is the bibiical basis of exaltation?" and get a Mormon book. In both instances, the underlying "Scripture" will necessarily correspond to the tradition of the doctrine in question. – Affable Geek Aug 2 '13 at 2:29
  • I think @AffableGeek's alternative formulation is a good way of adding scope, because once you've mentioned "doctrine X" you've implicitly identified whose reading of the Bible you're looking for. – James T Aug 2 '13 at 2:39
  • Really it is the complete opposite of "What does the Bible say about X?" which has no proper scope at all. – James T Aug 2 '13 at 2:40
  • @affable this isn't about off topic questions this is about questions that need to be as coped so answers don't have to compete if they represent different traditions. – Peter Turner Aug 2 '13 at 3:02

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