Take the following pattern/formula, which we see repeated all over the site:

Is there any teaching about whether anyone with (insert limitation that would prevent them from hearing/understanding the Gospel here) can get to heaven?


In my mind, these are all pretty much the same question (The formula question posited at the beginning of this post), with the variables changed... Perhaps it could be broken down into two questions:

  • What about those who have never heard because ___________?
  • What about those that do not have the capacity to understand because _________?

The difference between each is miniscule, and the answer pretty much remains the same no matter what you plug into the blank. Are these considered to be duplicates, or do we need to have an exact duplicate for it to count?

On the one hand, I can see why these might be hard to search if the specific instance changes, but that's also part of the point. Closing as a duplicate isn't the kiss of death for a question. Doing so automatically links to the previous question, so that if a user searches for either, they will still end up at the original answer.

  • 1
    I wish the Stacks Exchange has the ability to make related questions link up by a web.
    – Double U
    Sep 8, 2013 at 21:45
  • Note I'm not out to push my way of viewing this, I'm honestly asking if I'm looking at it wrong. Sep 9, 2013 at 0:22
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    I guess the litmus test for me is the answers. If the answer to A and B is the same then they are effectively duplicates.
    – wax eagle
    Sep 9, 2013 at 2:14
  • @waxeagle Can I talk you into turning that into an answer? Sep 16, 2013 at 0:31
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    @DavidStratton let me sleep on it and I'll give it a stab in the morning. Ping me in chat if you don't see something by lunchtimeish
    – wax eagle
    Sep 16, 2013 at 0:37
  • 2
    @waxeagle I still don't see that answer :)
    – Dan
    Dec 11, 2013 at 4:20
  • Since I cannot understand, can you better explain the question in order to make it more clear, please? Dec 11, 2013 at 22:38
  • I agree in principle, but I disagree that these examples are all the same question. For questions of this type, we could have two biblical basis questions (one against and one for), as well as multiple questions scoped to particular traditions: Roman Catholic, various branches of Protestantism, etc. Sep 14, 2015 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


I will fulfill David's request (made in an answer comment) for more responses to this old question...

Questions should be considered duplicate when the answers will inevitably be the same, even if the question is nominally different. If none of the existing questions are sufficiently broadly worded, creating a new question and closing the older ones as duplicates is a possibility. That is precisely what we did for the Messianic Secret question, after a meta discussion.


We could do what I suggested here the humanity of meta.cse can solve some of the deficiencies of the AI and pattern matching in the main site.

How did you come up with those examples anyway?

  • I searched for variations of "mental capacity", "ability to understand" and "never heard". Sep 9, 2013 at 11:32

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