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As new members join a site called "Christianity," it is understandably common that many will ask the sorts of questions that would be asked of a pastor, in a church Bible study, or over a cup of coffee at a Christian book store. Questions like:

  1. Of whom is God jealous?
  2. Is it possible to get into heaven, but then be cast out at a later date?
  3. Why did God create man?
  4. What could persuade a presumably otherwise-rational Satan to turn on God?
  5. Genesis 19. 8 Why should he protect strangers above protect his daughters?
  6. Original sin and its consequences

But despite the impression given by our name, that's not really what we're about. Why?

We can't handle the truth.

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These types of questions are what we refer to as Truth Questions. It may seem odd to say that a site about Christianity says it can't handle the Truth... Isn't Christianity all about The Truth, and determining The Truth?

Well, yes, Christianity is about the Truth. But we aren't. We are about Christianity.

Put another way: we don't study the Truth, we study the Christian study of the Truth.

And as there are a multitude of Christian opinions, as made apparent by the number of Christian churches and denominations, there can almost never be a single, universally accepted answer to any truth question. This is why we shy away from Truth Questions.

But don't despair! There's still hope for your question. Here are some guidelines on how you can clean up your question to make it possible to answer within the guidelines of this site. And below are some links for further reading if you desire a deeper understanding.

Turning a "Truth Question" into a "Christianity Question"

First understand that a "Truth Question" asks what is true. A "Christianity Question," as deemed appropriate for our site, can ask what Christians believe or do. And more specifically, it asks what a specific group or subset of Christians do.

  • Bad: Is Michael the Archangel also Jesus?

    There are at least two answers to this question. Which one is right? We don't know. We can't handle the Truth.

  • Good: Do Jehovah's Witnesses believe Michael the Archangel is Jesus?

    There is only one answer, because the question is no longer asking for truth, but only what a specific group of Christians believe. Jehovah's Witnesses have a well-defined answer to this question.

An acceptable question can also ask for the origin of a particular belief, doctrine, or practice.

  • Bad: Is drinking alcohol a sin?

    There are countless answers to this question. Some believe all alcohol is a sin, others think it's permissible only for medicinal purposes, or during communion, and others yet have no restrictions on the consumption of alcohol. Which is the correct answer? We don't know. We can't handle the Truth.

  • Good: What is the Biblical basis for claiming that drinking alcohol is a sin?

    There is a well defined answer to this question. And you don't have to even agree with the conclusion that alcohol consumption is a sin to understand the Biblical basis for the claim.

For further reading

If you are still confused about why your question was closed, or need help revising it to fit within our site guidelines, please do not hesitate to ask a question here on meta about your specific situation. We really do want to make it possible for you to participate here!

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  • I suppose that after we get the truth question close reason in place we should close those questions you listed above.
    – fгedsbend
    Mar 5, 2014 at 21:52
  • @curiousdannii: I'm not quite sure what you mean by competing answers.
    – Flimzy
    Mar 7, 2014 at 18:21
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    "we don't study the Truth, we study the Christian study of the Truth." That's brilliant! Mar 8, 2014 at 3:02
  • 2
    I like this. It's well-done, covers everything, and I think that everything in it is spot on, but I worry that the tongue-in-cheek title conveys the wrong message. We old-timers get it, but newcomers may not, and that's what we're trying to avoid. Also, I'd like to suggest another link for the "Further reading" section. I hope this doesn't sound too self-serving and self-promoting, but I really like Tips for editing a question to make it suitable for re-opening Mar 8, 2014 at 12:40
  • It seems that if we have a new user someone with less than a (to be determined number of reps), could someone with a (to be determined number of reps) rewrite the question, and in the comments explain what was changed and why. Hopefully that would help the new user to learn how to ask questions. We could also use that process to reword answers. I had a particularly tough time when I first began and still make a lot of mistakes, but then these others may be more adept (smarter) than me.
    – BYE
    Mar 12, 2014 at 17:41
  • @CecilBeckum: That's the status quo for SE...
    – Flimzy
    Mar 12, 2014 at 18:44
  • @Flimzy Which one my suggestion, or everyone being smarter than me? laugh!
    – BYE
    Mar 12, 2014 at 19:47
  • WOOT! I finally made #1!!!! Mar 19, 2014 at 17:18
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    Thanks for your prompt response. True, Christians disagree on whether or when drinking is a sin, but then asking what Christians believe or how Christians (or others) interpret the Bible is going to generate exactly as much controversy. But all the SE sites have "controversy" in the sense that multiple answers compete and the best are voted up. Aug 12, 2015 at 17:19
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    @ChrisJenks: You're on the right track :) It's because of this precise problem that we require that questions are adaquately scoped by denomination. Sometimes that's not enough, when a denomination has conflicting views, but generally it's good enough to get a specific, non-controversial answer.
    – Flimzy
    Aug 12, 2015 at 17:28
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    Early on, we found that a lot of questions were leading to "voting wars." Everyone would up-vote their favorite viewpoint, rather than the answer with the most researched information. "Is drinking a sin?" would become a war between those who think it is, and those who think it isn't. By reforming the question to "Do Baptists (or whoever) think drinking is a sin?" we're no longer fighiting about "who is right", but instead we can vote on the merits of the actual answer--who provides the most authoritative Baptist source on the topic, etc.
    – Flimzy
    Aug 12, 2015 at 17:30
  • 1
    That is unfortunate. I would hope that people would vote on an answer based on its quality and the strength of its support rather than whether it is the answer one currently wants to hear. After all, any topic being learned is going to involve challenge. I think what you are looking for are answers which don't overstep their assumptions by being presented as "Truth", rather than questions asking for it. After all, if we assume that the world we see has anything to do with reality, then all SE sites are about Truth questions. Aug 12, 2015 at 17:38
  • 1
    @Flimsy: Yes, in practice I would expect that is how it goes, but it is possible to cultivate skepticism regarding one's current beliefs based on awareness of their ongoing revision and the precarious assumptions serving as their basis. Hopefully this SE can move toward this in practice. At least I see one upvoted question about a Bible passage (Luke 3:16 - baptism by fire) on the front page which seems to be getting by without reference to a particular denomination. I disagree with the top answer, but I wouldn't vote on it unless there's another answer which can show how the top one is wrong. Aug 12, 2015 at 18:18
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    @Flimsy: I think you mean it is asking for interpretations of the Bible verse by the SE users rather than by spokespeople for Christian denominations. Maybe it is the ease of interpretation, not who is interpreting it, which is saving this question. But I think it is just popularity of the topic, as I would expect my own answer to it to be highly controversial. Aug 12, 2015 at 18:30
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    @Flimsy: The top answer (2 votes) does reference one commentary, but the vast majority of the answer is the interpretation of Bible verses by the poster. I'm not sure how referencing commentary helps if that is just another interpretation of the same material. Aug 12, 2015 at 18:44

4 Answers 4

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Maybe the site's name is deceiving, would something like "Christianity Study", "Christian Denominations", etc be more prudent? Even if the site's name doesn't change, we could just change the logo.

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  • 12
    The name is indeed deceiving, and I was misled by it. I guess I'm not the only one... Feb 25, 2015 at 14:06
  • 3
    I also suggest the site have a name change.
    – Adam Heeg
    Jun 18, 2016 at 1:17
  • Or how about "Christendom?" The word's a bit obscure but that would be a good thing, people would at least take the time to look it up -- instead of being confidently wrong as to the site's purpose.
    – JDM-GBG
    Jun 28, 2018 at 22:24
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David Stratton commented:

...I worry that the tongue-in-cheek title conveys the wrong message. We old-timers get it, but newcomers may not, and that's what we're trying to avoid. Also, I'd like to suggest another link for the "Further reading" section. I hope this doesn't sound too self-serving and self-promoting, but I really like Tips for editing a question to make it suitable for re-opening – David Stratton♦ Mar 8 at 12:40.

Don't fret David Stratton. Christianity is my first SE and this post was informative and fun to read. I may not be an old-timer, but Jack Nicholson's face still makes me smile. =D

-5

While the existence and seriousness of the "meta" section of this site is laudable, I simply don't think the distinctions made in this post hang together coherently. The only thing approximating a definition of the terms is given here:

First understand that a "Truth Question" asks what is true. A "Christianity Question," as deemed appropriate for our site, can ask what Christians believe or do.

Yet upon reflection it should be clear that all belief questions are truth questions, even if not all truth questions are belief questions. All questions are truth questions, whether you are asking about beliefs or math problems. "It is true that Presbyterians believe x," is just as much a truth statement as "It is true that Michael the Archangel is not Jesus." This same thing can be seen in the other example:

Good: What is the Biblical basis for claiming that drinking alcohol is a sin?

This is said to be a good question, but what if we add another possible criterion, "What is the Biblical and/or Augustinian basis for claiming that drinking alcohol is a sin?" Is that still a good question? The more criteria we add, the closer we come to the simple, unqualified, "Is drinking alcohol a sin?" The difference is one of degree, not kind.

The Point

The actual distinction isn't between truth questions and belief questions, it is between easy questions and hard questions, straightforwardly verifiable questions and questions that do not have ready-made answers sitting in some library book. It just so happens that belief questions tend to be easier questions than non-belief questions. And the alcohol example just limits the premises, or criteria upon which a question can be judged, thus making it an easier question to answer. The ease of these answers comes from the fact that they are meant to be merely descriptive and thus require no synthesis, creativity, judgment, or weighing on the part of the author.

The mindset represented by this post has had a very problematic influence on metaphysics in recent years, and yet it may be legitimate for a website to limit itself to easily verifiable questions. Hard questions often have a correlation to entrenched argument, trolling, outlandish and facile opinions, etc., but there is by no means a direct causal relation!

So go ahead and say the site is only concerned with easily verifiable questions, or that it is only concerned with belief questions, or that it is only concerned with questions that can be answered in a purely descriptive way, but don't misleadingly say it is not concerned with truth. For myself I think such a limiting would be unfortunate. There are many good questions that are neither denomination-specific belief questions, limited-criteria questions, or questions that require only a descriptive answer. One such question is "What would be different if there were no Holy Spirit"? It's a great question for Christians and those wanting to learn more about Christianity, but it isn't an easy question.

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  • 1
    The actual distinction ... is between easy questions and hard questions This really isn't the case, although I can see why it might seem that way. The real distinction is that we answer questions about doctrine, as one very specific area of "truth" (as you describe it). Every SE site (indeed every site of any genre) has to limit its scope. This is how we limit ours. The discussion of "Truth questions" is a literary shortcut many of us use when discussing our site's scope. If that terminology is not helpful to you, feel free to ignore it. But your suggestion is, as I read it, to...
    – Flimzy
    Jan 3, 2015 at 22:51
  • ... open the scope of this site up to something completely unmanageable (and we know this from experience!) Before this community decided that we are a site about doctrine, we had a lot of voting wars, and hurt feelings, when someone would ask, as an example, "What would be different if there were no Holy Spirit?" and one person would reply "I don't believe in the Holy Spirit at all, here's why...". We need some criteria to make such questions constructive. The best we've come up with, so far, is to limit the scope of all questions to existing doctrine. If you can propose an alternative...
    – Flimzy
    Jan 3, 2015 at 22:53
  • ... scope which accomplishes our necessary goals, I'm sure we'd all love to hear it. But removing the scope isn't the way.
    – Flimzy
    Jan 3, 2015 at 22:53
  • 1
    First, I'm not sure how you could read me as saying the scope of "doctrine" must be removed. That scope was not even mentioned in the question or my response. Second, after familiarizing myself with more of the “meta” discussions, it seems that the site is having an identity crisis and the answer isn’t clear. Your idea of doctrine is interesting, but certainly not unanimous. The scope as “describing Christianity” seems more commonly accepted and in line with SE’s compendium mentality, but verifiability and relative ease inevitably attach to this scope. I think “describing Christianity”...
    – zippy2006
    Jan 3, 2015 at 23:27
  • 1
    ...is a workable scope, but I don’t think that should devolve into a distaste for hard questions and the synthesis and creativity that accompanies them. Else the most interesting and useful questions will be barred. Too many questions are balked at on the basis of difficulty rather than any principled scope concerns. I’m of the mind that this could lead to a relatively shallow, sterile site. It may be more apt to say that--rather than simple description--the scope should aim at a (deeper) understanding of Christianity, which is a living religion and not a dead specimen.
    – zippy2006
    Jan 3, 2015 at 23:27
  • 2
    So you quote how the original post defines "Truth question" then you redefined it and argued from there. That doesn't make any sense. Actually, I believe that is a classic straw man. yourlogicalfallacyis.com/strawman
    – fгedsbend
    Jan 4, 2015 at 3:45
  • 1
    Can you provide an example of a question that has been rejected or otherwise "balked at" for its difficulty?
    – Flimzy
    Jan 4, 2015 at 11:10
  • @fredsbend On the contrary, I took his definition of a "truth question" (i.e. "asking what is true") and pointed out that belief questions are, by that very definition, truth questions. Indeed the point is that his understanding of "truth questions" actually has nothing to do with truth. All you have to do is consult a dictionary to see how improperly words are being used in the original post. Flimzy himself explains the nature of the problem well here.
    – zippy2006
    Jan 4, 2015 at 18:43
  • @Flimzy Two examples come readily to mind, one that I answered and one that you asked. These questions are a good fit for my criterion of "understanding Christianity" but they don't fit your criterion of "doctrine" or a "strict description" criterion. They are hard, not easy, and the objections given to them don't seem to be intelligible. In any case, SE and the community see them as valuable.
    – zippy2006
    Jan 4, 2015 at 18:53
  • @zippy2006 Words are used differently among different groups. This group, the community on C.SE, has a history of using the term "Truth question" in the context that this page discusses. Neglect that if you want, but you will only look foolish to the rest of us.
    – fгedsbend
    Jan 4, 2015 at 19:16
  • Again, the distinction isn't coherent. Does Flimzy himself still think a coherent distinction can be made between questions of truth and questions of belief? He gave definitions, no one is confused about meaning, and thus no (community-based) equivocation is occurring. I already pointed out that a more proper distinction would be belief vs non-belief questions. Flimzy isn't even standing behind his original language: he now describes it as doctrinal vs non-doctrinal, which is a subset of belief vs non-belief.
    – zippy2006
    Jan 4, 2015 at 19:49
  • ...I think you're being too dismissive. This is a foundational meta topic involving "admins" and is therefore a significant issue with far-reaching implications. The language is problematic, but if you would read me more carefully you would see that I am not merely quibbling over semantics. I think the meaning underlying the original post is faulty or at least skewed. Others see it too.
    – zippy2006
    Jan 4, 2015 at 19:55
  • 2
    The two examples you provide are not problematic because they are hard questions. They are problematic because they are out of scope. In fact, both are asking for opinions. For this reason, I would vote to close my own question, too, but it's presently locked.
    – Flimzy
    Jan 5, 2015 at 18:47
  • 1
    @zippy2006: Informed opinions are still opinions. And we don't answer opinion questions here--informed or otherwise. And no, that's not what "every other question" is looking for--we expressly reject such questions. Our site caters to answering questions of objectively defined theology. "What do Catholics teach about X?" is not a matter of opinion. It's a matter of what Catholics actually teach. Whether Catholics are right or wrong about X is opinion, but we don't address that--that's the entire point of this meta post in the first place.
    – Flimzy
    Jun 26, 2015 at 15:26
  • 1
    Fwiw I think you are right and your critics here misunderstand what you are saying. We've had similar meta disussions on BH.SE and have mainly settled on not using this sort of language to define topicality. This site is different but I think a more helpful (not to mention accurate) wording to achieve the goal folk seen to want here is "questions that lend themselves to opinion-based (ie unsourced or without reasoning that can be followed) answers are off-topic" Aug 9, 2015 at 17:46
-8

I want to respond to this posting by saying, if you can't handle the truth, you can't handle Christianity! Because Christianity is the truth. To study and learn from Jesus is what Christianity is all about. Why create a stack exchange where questions can only be asked about denominations- why not, for lack of a better phrase, swing the axe at the root of the tree.

Luke 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [our] father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.

I want to bring the forums attention to the story of king Ahab in 2 Chronicles 18. This was a man who couldn't handle the truth. Next I would like for the moderators of this forum and author of this question to read about felix in acts 24, another man who couldn't handle the truth. Lastly consider the most succinct words of Jesus himself!

John 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

This is how you can know the truth! Continue in His Word. As he (Jesus) prayed to the Father in his great high priestly prayer-

John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

The Word of God is truth. That is why the Bible is invaluable to us. It is how we can know- and handle- the truth!

In case you wonder why I post this answer- my motivation is that the moderators of this site may reconsider the idea that they should merely study the christian study of the truth- rather than just studying the truth for themselves! I would also add, that the stack exchange would be so much more interesting, if questions of all kinds pertaining to Christianity (truth questions) could be asked and answered.

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    The extended conversation regarding this post has been moved to this chat room; please continue in there if you want to chat about it.
    – Caleb
    Feb 27, 2015 at 8:20

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