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Those of us who have been around for a while are, of course, familiar with the "we're not here to debate who's right" guideline. (a.k.a. "Truth questions", a.k.a. "Opinion questions", a.k.a. "general philosophical questions that don't specify a denominational perspective")

If you're not familiar with that guideline, see the help page and How we are different than other sites?

As I'm doing reviews of first posts by new visitors, one of the most frequent comments I make is "who is right and who is wrong" is off-topic here", or "This site exists to explain what the various christian teachings are, not which ones are correct."

Every so often, I get replies (usually not from the new user, but some more experienced user who doesn't agree with the guidelines) like I got on this meta post.

However there is nothing wrong to say that one is wrong if s/he is, though. Otherwise, if nothing is wrong everithing is right and this is, on one hand, not possible and, on the other hand, very dangerous, no? ... and mind of a number of times when Jesus said "you are wrong", though. ... and, wouldn't it be better to avoid politically correctness, at least for Christians?

Now, I may be reading those comments wrong, but when I see them, I think "OK. This user thinks that I'm saying that there is no absolute right or wrong, and that I'm preaching moral relativism".

So, the primary purpose of this Meta post is to clear up that misconception.

The secondary purpose is to serve as yet another attempt to clarify the "Truth Question Policy".

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This site's policy has nothing to do with whether or not there is an absolute Truth.

First point: Nobody who has defended the site's policy has ever done so based on the idea that there is no absolute truth. The idea that there is no absolute truth is based on a logical flaw in the first place. Only a fool, or someone who hasn't actually thought it through would actually believe that there is no absolute truth. It's a logical necessity.

Second point: If you actually read the statements of those who helped formulate, and later, defend the policy, the argument isn't that there is no absolute truth, it's that this isn't the place to get on a soapbox and argue about who's right and who's wrong about what that Truth is.

Key phase: This isn't the place.

Think of it like this. When discussing politics, where would it be appropriate to make the statement: "Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant that ignored States' rights." (Not that I believe that, I'm just using it as an example.)

Would it be appropriate to put that...

  • On a Facebook post? Sure. People are allowed to post whatever views they want on Facebook, and it would probably generate a very interesting comment stream. It'd get liked by some, shared by others, denounced, celebrated, whatever.
  • On a blog? Yep. It might generate some traffic, as well as some interesting feedback.
  • In a chat room? sure.
  • In an opinion piece in a Newspaper? Or a magazine? yes.
  • How about in a newspaper article that's just reporting it as a news story. Hmmm. probably not. There's a difference between a news story and an opinion piece. In a news story, it would probably be appropriate to quote someone as saying that, but not to print it as truth.
  • An Encyclopedia article about Abraham Lincoln? Probably not. Again, you could quote someone as saying that, but not state it as fact.
  • A textbook on history? Still, probably not. Same deal as the previous two.

Similarly, there is a time, place, and medium where it's OK to spread eternal Truths.

As a Christian, I can tell you that not only do I believe very strongly in absolute Truth, and what that Truth is. I believe very strongly that as a Christian, our number one duty is to proclaim that Truth.

But this site is not the place to do that.

Third point: It's not this site's policy.

This site is not a Christian site. It's purpose is not evangelism. It was never, ever, intended to be such. This site is a StackExchange site that just happens to have Christianity as the topic of focus.

StachExchange has a very specific set of guidelines that apply to all StackExchange sites. They're covered here.

Included is this:

You wouldn't shout out a calculus question in a football stadium, right? You'd go to the math department of a university. That's why instead of allowing questions on any topic, we bring together individual communities of experts on very specific topics.

We welcome questions that are clear and specific, representing real problems that you face; Stack Exchange is not the place for conversation, opinions, or socializing.

Also, the Area51 site, which is where new StackExchange sites (including this one) start out as proposals has very clear guidelines on what's expected on StackExchange sites.

The guidelines are also pretty clear in the Real Questions have Answers blog post by one of the creators of the StackExchange Network, and it's been backed up and enforced pretty much on every site that ever made it past the graduation period.

So, again, when you're told that this isn't the place to discuss who's right and wrong, the important part of that phrase is "this isn't the place". Take it someplace else. Not to be too blunt, but if you disagree with that, this may not be the site for you.


The flip side of that argument.

For all the people who think that this guideline should be done away with. Let's just imagine for a minute that it is done away with. What will the result be?

Simple. On Truth questions, we will get a bunch of answers, some similar, some conflicting, explaining the doctrine each person holds, and explaining why their answer is the right one.

So, a genuine seeker comes along, and what does he or she do?

They read through the answers, and decide which one makes the most sense to them.

In the meantime, they are seeing in the answers a bunch of infighting, maybe finger-pointing, and otherwise nonconstructive content. maybe that nonconstructive content is a determining factor in who they choose to believe. "That person sounds like a blowhard. why would I care what he thinks?"

How is that any better than our current guideline?

Our current guidelines allow us to ask questions about doctrinal views. Perhaps we get conflicting answers, but all of them written professionally, without the argumentative content. A seeker comes along and reads the various answers, and...

They read through the answers, and decide which one makes the most sense to them.

Either way, we are still free to post the doctrinal view we believe in. The guidelines merely prevent us like sounding like bickering children when doing so.

  • The community would be better severed without a Christianity.se but instead with a Catholic.se and Baptist.Se etc. but there are not enough questions for this. Having a Christianity.se being a smelting pot increases the chances of a question having multiple correct answers which get debated by the community until a mod steps in - for better or worse. – The Freemason Jan 5 '14 at 17:55
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Our policy on Truth Questions is actually very simple:

C.SE is a place for facts, not opinions. We are interested in what is verifiable, not what is desirable or even imagined. We are interested in knowledge, not debate.

Our postulates are that God exists and the Bible attests to that. All Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience are welcome, and can be evaluated.

Put simply, there are several categories of things that are true.

  1. Things that are demonstrably true - e.g. "Theologian X said Y"
  2. Things that are true in practice - e.g. "In situation Z, Baptists tend to Y"
  3. Things that are true but not obvious - e.g. "The Old Testament shows that God is X because of"
  4. Things that are true but not everyone sees it - e.g. "God is Y"

Categories 1 & 2 are great fits here, because we are in the business of sourcing, verifying, and explaining the things that demonstrably true. If you can prove it right or wrong, you have a definitely answerable question.

Category 3 can get interesting, because they rely on Category 1 & 2 facts to make a point. The problem is that they quickly devolve into Category 4 which is the problem.

Category 4 is the problem, because, frankly, if you are right or if you are wrong, there isn't a way to tell definitively. If God is a person (and I believe he is), then he is not a fact to be checked or a force to be controlled. I can be more right or more wrong, but not definitively so. Indeed, I could even be wrong, and be unaware. Unfortunately, we will not be able to tell until God himself deigns to participate on this board - and frankly, when He does, I'm not going to be bothering myself with the trivia.

Simply put, there is a whole category of question that can only be resolved by God himself. One of these days, we will in fact know. But until then, they devolve into mere argument way too quickly, and usually only promote the sort of behavior in which He is disappointed.

As such, we leave these 'Truth' Questions to the one who can truly answer them. In the meantime, you can be wrong if you want to be :)

  • Meh. Unnecessary postulates should be avoided. Since you can come to the same conclusion about the site rules with or without those postulates, you're probably best off leaving them out. – TRiG Dec 27 '13 at 16:29
  • What in religion is verifiable? Faith by definition is not subjected to scientific scrutiny. – The Freemason Jan 5 '14 at 17:57
  • Behaviors, Practices, Statements, and Scriptural traditions. These are subject to literary scrutiny like any other document at least. – Affable Geek Jan 5 '14 at 19:19
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One of the things I like best about this site is in the fact that it is a site where you can ask questions about Christianity, and receive varying views, while at the same time you find varying interpretations about the meaning of certain Scriptures. When we give a truth is answer we basically stifle dissenting views.

Even if we feel that we have the only true interpretation, we do not have the right to dismiss another's interpretation as untrue unless it is blatantly un biblical. An example of that lies in the fact that Some denominations accept either all or part of the deuterocanonical books as Scripture and others do not. I for one do not feel that it would be advantageous to comment on that subject.

Beyond the point of the veracity question there is also the determination of what constitutes a Christian, and the only one qualified to make that determination, as far as the Bible is concerned is Jesus himself.

  • Agreed. Thanks for the input! – David Stratton Dec 30 '13 at 3:07
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The truth is, we have no option but to say that nobody knows the Truth.

The reason is, the moment we allow people to profess their belief, we are all going to contradict each other.

Believe it or not, I am very much convinced that Mormonism is a heresy just like Islam, Catholicism has gone too far away from the Truth, Adventists and Witnesses are maniacs who are obsessed with end time prophesies. (OH! I can't believe I said those words!) :)

But, what proof do I have that what I believe is the Truth?

When it comes to faith and Truth, we all follow our own hearts. Some may call it the guidance of Holy Spirit. However, if we all claim to be guided by the Spirit of Truth, how come we have many denominations?

Therefore, we have no other option at all but to say "This site is not a place to find the Truth".

  • Agree. When faith is the subject varifiable truth cannot always be done. "Did God create the Earth?" "The bible tells us so" can be a answer, "yes" cannot be the answer. – The Freemason Jan 5 '14 at 17:51

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