Since the very early days of this site, I have been fairly outspoken in my opinion that this is not (and should be made to be) an appropriate replacement for churches in researching, formulating and refining the field of theology or the practice of it in the lives of believers. In fact this site has been instrumental in adding "extant" to my favorite words list.
However, I am far from the only voice saying this. I'm going to pick on other mods because part of our job description is to take the heat, but here are other expressions this has taken. I found at least a dozen references in chat where we tried to explain to new users what this site is not for.
We're not a place to develop new theology, we ask and answer questions about established doctrines. — wax eagle (source)
In fact this got canonized when we had our first big reformation and cracked down on question formulations. The answer guidelines that came out of that effort included this:
To put this another way, no original research is allowed. — El'endia Starman
This is easy enough to spot and deal with when the infringement comes from some kook who has a new set of calculations for the end times, a fresh (miss)understanding of some well hashed out orthodox doctrine or is otherwise playing lone ranger. We have a very low bar for identifying what groups' theology is on topic for the site. There has to be at least one person other than you associating themselves with your view somewhere on the internet.
But what about the case of not having a known target with which to scope a question at all and speculating that one might exist? A recent question has brought this variant format to my attention. For the purposes of this meta question please try to ignore the fact that the case study is about a controversial subject matter and just look at the question format.
The question runs on for 4 paragraphs setting up a theological position on an issue and explaining how a related historical issue might be adapted by the church to apply to a modern one. Then it asks whether anybody has done this and whether there is any indication that it would work.
The following exchange1 basically explains how I took this, as well as notes that the OP does not agree.
This site is not equipped to develop theology. This is certainly something the church needs to be examining, but this site is not the venue for the discussion. We can really only deal with questions against an extant corpus of doctrine. – Caleb
@Caleb: Hence my direct factual questions at the end: "Have any conservative Christians suggested approaching gay marriage this way? Are there any indications that they would be open to such a "middle-ground" approach -- not approving of gay marriage but regulating it as a fact of life?" – metal
@Caleb, I tweaked the question slightly to change the rhetorical question at the beginning into a statement, leaving only the purely factual and on-topic questions at the end. – metal
It may not be this way on your head, but to me this question reads like a politely dressed up version of "I have this idea, anybody think it's a good one". As such I think it is of topic. Maybe change the variables to see where I'm coming from. "I've been researching international relations in the OT and the key arms to be X. This is why we can't solve the Palestinian crisis. If churches would just X we could move forward. Has anybody thought about this, does it sound like a good idea?" You have nothing extant you are asking about, you are theorizing that it must exist. – Caleb
If the same format were followed by some doomsday wacko that figured out the math and knows when judgement day is and was looking for what churches had also solved the riddles, we would send them on their way fast enough. Just because your idea has better theology doesn't mean the format is a good match for this platform. This would devolve into a discussion thread no matter how carefully you try to word that out of it. Most of the question is spent explaining why you think it's a good idea. Answers would follow suit and spend most of their space giving their feedback on the form of opinions. – Caleb
With his last comment I think my analysis was somewhat verified, but the OP still wants this to be on topic for the site:
You're not far off -- it is an idea I had that seemed plausible, and I genuinely wondered if there was anything out there along these lines. It's difficult to get a good google on this, so I was crowdsourcing it, asking a diverse group of knowledgeable people for inside information. – metal
I suggested we take this to meta, but instead of waiting for him I have decided this is an important issue to settle.
(And if you don't see our agree with my point, it's probably time to pop this issue over to meta and solicit the feedback of the community. I might be crazy, in which case getting some other eyes on this would help show that.) – Caleb
So am I crazy? Or are exploratory questions more of a discussion forum thing that we should avoid? What sort of question is "Does anybody out there agree with X?" and is that question format out of scope for this site?
1 I have migrated all the original comments on the specific question above to a chat room. This way they are archived, the question on main can be cleaned up, and the focus can go to this meta post.