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To be honest, which is considered virtuous for Christians, I've been bugged to no end by the insistence of certain moderators on this site and by the codification of the site's stance regarding truth (or Truth) in the Help section, that CSE is not the place for truth.

If this site is not about Truth, then I suggest we all pack up our bags, close down the site, and come up with a new site called--oh, I don't know--Opinion-anity, or Religious Relativism. Why? BECAUSE THE "FOUNDER" OF CHRISTIANITY, AND THE ONE WHO BEARS ITS NAME, IS THE ONLY RELIGIOUS LEADER IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANKIND (PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE) WHO HAD THE AUDACITY TO CLAIM TO "BE the TRUTH" (OR TRUTH PERSONIFIED). (Sorry for raising my voice.) Would anyone care to challenge Him in this regard?

As a rhetorician I realize that when CSE moderators say this site is not about truth they are speaking somewhat hyperbolically, something which Christ utilized to get readers' attention and to make a point, on no few occasions. More on that, later.

Second, what the truth police--I mean moderators--SEEM to be saying, is that since there are so many denominations claiming to be Christian, and these denominations disagree--sometimes vehemently--on issues they deem to be non-negotiable (i.e., number-one-priority issues and maybe even "deal breakers "), that the Christianity website is wise to say in light of these denominational disagreements,

"This site is not about Truth."

I think the site errs in saying this. There is, however, a simple solution; namely, condense what I just said in my last full paragraph into a few words, and instead of saying truth has no place here (in order to get readers' attention, as any hyperbole does), you might think about saying something like

"This web site is not designed to accommodate contributors who use it as a platform for insisting their denomination's beliefs about X (fill in the blank) are true and other denominations' beliefs are not true."

In other words, substitute the word truth with the word belief. As an added benefit of doing so, those contributors who are perhaps unbelievers (atheists, agnostics, seekers) and do not identify with any denomination of Christianity, can feel free to contribute without the fear of being told by believers of any stripe, "Your beliefs are false, but mine are true."

There are perhaps a few unintended consequences of refusing to change the "There is no truth here" locution:

1) Future contributors to the site will become unnecessarily irked, offended, angered (righteously so, of course), or turned off by the hyperbole, and consequently might even quit contributing to the site. Put differently, if you refuse to drop the hyperbole and tell new (and even old readers) what you really mean (namely, that certain beliefs may in fact be true, but they also might not be true, depending on one's denominational perspective), then you run the risk of hurting, not helping, the site's goals, one of which I assume is to be a welcoming place where Christians (and even non-Christians) can come to contribute questions, answers, and comments on those questions and answers.

2) Confusion will still reign supreme in the minds of some newcomers, and old-timers too, as to what the "no truth stance" means, because in their minds, that stance seems oxymoronic on the face of it. I mean, if we're not about truth, what are we about? Falsity? Mere opinion? Well proved facts, every one of which can only be "proved" historically or some other way by citing various experts who may or may not believe that Christianity is a legitimate, viable religion?

3) The site will give off a perhaps unintended relativistic vibe, so to speak, which, I would hope, is not the site's intention. It is better to say, I suggest, that truth certainly exists, but also to include the caveat that quite often Christians confuse the beliefs of their denominational perspectives with truth. Most denominations even create their own "Belief Statements," in which they codify what they stand for doctrinally. They might adapt some of the great Creeds and Confessions of the Faith which have come down to us from previous generations, or they simply come up with their own, which are worded in ways that seem right to them. Our site's Help section, I have noticed, does a pretty good job of explaining the site's rationale in this regard, but it needs to explain it and break it down a little better.

4) We run the risk of dishonoring Christ with what appears to me to be a sort of "flip" attitude which says in effect, "We're better than those Bible thumping zealots who are forever spouting truth, but only as they see it!" As I said earlier, Christ (the person whose name is in my chosen religion, Christ-ianity) claimed to be truth personified. We dishonor Him by suggesting even remotely that in His person He was not "all about" truth. Christ was, is, and forever will be, Truth. Interestingly, and for this very reason, the moderators on this site have every right to chide a non-Christian from saying explicitly or implicitly on this site that Christianity is false, and that we Christians should abandon our belief in ultimate truth and come over to the dark side, where ironically, non-truth becomes the ultimate truth.

Selah.

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    You're missing the mark a bit here, but I definitely sympathize with your bullets, I'll try to work up a proper answer as this is a rather important question to this site's future. – wax eagle Mar 27 '14 at 23:54
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    @waxeagle: Feel free to critique anything I've said in my question; I'm smarter and less sensitive than I look! Oh, I just hope your "missing the mark" isn't an allusion to one of the Greek words for sin; namely, harmartia, meaning to miss the mark! (A joke.) – rhetorician Mar 28 '14 at 2:38
  • This is a secular website regarding Christianity, not a Christian website. – Matthew Moisen Mar 29 '14 at 7:20
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    @MatthewMoisen: I reject out of hand the sacred/secular distinction. The two rubrics are in fact so intimately connected, that to attempt pulling them apart is akin to flaying a human being to make him more comfortable. All life, potentially at least, is sacred. Relativistic absolutists want us to believe otherwise, but they are the same ones who say inanely, "True For You, But Not For Me." I recommend you read the book with that quotation as its title. It's by Paul Copan, published by Bethany House Publishers (Minneapolis, 1998). As I said, the Christ of Christianity claimed to BE truth. – rhetorician Mar 29 '14 at 18:28
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    @MatthewMoisen: Since He is the only person in the history of humankind, at least that I am aware of, who claimed to BE the truth, I suggest that the people who suggest the Christ of Christianity can be approached from a "secular" perspective have the burden of proving He was NOT the truth personified, and that He can therefore be treated as any other human being; that is, He was either a liar, a lunatic, a legend, or the truth. I'm open to hearing your arguments for the first three options. Really! – rhetorician Mar 29 '14 at 18:36
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    @rhetorician When Matthew Moisen says "This is a secular website, not a Christian website," he means that it should be based on known facts and official statements from Christian denominations. He most certainly does not mean to suggest that Jesus is not the Truth or that Jesus should be treated like "any other human being". That would also be doctrinal information. The so-called "secularity" of the website just means we should be reporters of established facts. – Double U Mar 30 '14 at 4:02
  • @Anonymous: Facts, schmacts. Facts can potentially be just as slippery (if not more so) as beliefs. Also, if a "secular" website concerns KNOWN FACTS and OFFICIAL STATEMENTS, then what does a sacred website concern? UNKNOWN FACTS? UNOFFICIAL STATEMENTS? Please enlighten me. Don – rhetorician Apr 2 '14 at 0:34
  • @rhetorician No, I meant "published information". At best, users should cite sources as much as they could. It is not to declare what sources are more truthful than others; leave that to the discussion forums. On the C.SE, we are supposed to just report what we read. That's it. – Double U Apr 2 '14 at 0:39
  • @Anonymous: OK, I think I get you. About facts: years ago, a fellow graduate student had the audacity (or hubris, or ignorance, or naivete) to say to me that Jesus' resurrection did not qualify as a fact or non-fact. She was suggesting, I guess, there is a third category of fact, and Jesus' resurrection falls into that third category. What illogical insanity! Hey, he either did or he didn't, and you go about proving it one way or the other in exactly the same way. Reminds me of Jesus: "Which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'Be healed'?" Well, duh! So Jesus did BOTH. I love Him! – rhetorician Apr 2 '14 at 21:54
  • rhetorician - just came across your post. This is an interesting dilemma, worthy of massive discussion. The dilemma is not caused by the content of your post, rather, as @wax eagle points out below, it doesn't fit well with the SE model. There's deep irony that the being who ultimately puts the Truth in Truth can't be truly discussed here because the definition of "Truth" has to be subsumed into Boolean algebra to fit the SE model. Thus - at the risk of serious feather ruffling - christianity.se can't be truly christian, because we aren't allowed to discuss his True nature! (continued ...) – Infinitesimal Sep 10 '14 at 22:06
  • as you point out! We can hope only for degrees of "Truthness" - although that is truly lame. Speaking of Boolean logic: I'd posit that your fellow graduate student lead you into the very same dilemma - but you stood then on the other side of the table! That "the resurrection did not qualify as fact or non-fact" is just as plausible as admitting the Living Truth is beyond ordinary factual truth. There is the "becoming" and the "became" which are both true, yet different. Resurrection defies the laws of physics, the "truth" of this world - so it has to be beyond and encompass contradiction! – Infinitesimal Sep 10 '14 at 22:15
  • @Infinitesimal: Good points, all. All points, good. Just finished reading an article provided by Reformation 21, in which the author, Pierce T. Hibbs (MAR), who serves as the Assistant Director of the Center for Theological Writing at Westminster Theological Seminary, talks about the nexus of words and truth: Words would have no effect at all if they were not inherently relational, and their relational nature would be nothing more than conventional and arbitrary if not grounded in an ultimate person. We rely on words to reveal our thought and sentiment and to call for response, – rhetorician Sep 11 '14 at 16:47
  • but that is only possible when language is stable, when its meaning is upheld by more than our linguistic whimsy. We speak not just because that is what humans were meant to do and because we see everyone else doing it, but because we have an irrevocable trust in that communication to foster vital relationships. Phonemes, before we articulate them, are part of a larger system of language and all of human behavior that is structured and meaningful because the entire cosmos is structured and meaningful by a relational God. In this sense, our use of words betrays not just our perceptions – rhetorician Sep 11 '14 at 16:49
  • and opinions, but the truth upon which those perceptions and opinions rest--we are relational beings made in the image of a relational God. We speak because God has spoken to us . . .." I'm pretty sure I agree with Hibbs. What thinkest thou? Don – rhetorician Sep 11 '14 at 16:53
  • If Hibbs hadn't described us as 'beings made in the image of a relational God,' I'd say his description of 'words having no effect at all if they were not inherently relational' sounds like warmed over Wittgenstein (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wittgenstein) who I consider having de-godded the word because he turns it into into purely rational relationships. (And speaking of Boolean, Herr Wittgenstein was a logician :) I think the Logos gave / gives logic in the ordinary sense, but also in higher senses Higgs seems to hint at ... will try to track down that paper ... sounds cool ... – Infinitesimal Sep 12 '14 at 0:58
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There are some big issues with trying to do what we're doing here within the SE model. One of them is the voting. Here's the thing:

There are several thousand groups who all claim to be Christian, many of them vary widely on a point or two of doctrine. However, all of them think there are objective standards of truth, and most of them agree on a lot of the general points, and many of them even come into agreement on some of the finer points. However, if you tried to nail all several thousand of them down on a single point, someone is going to disagree.

Let's set up an example. Let's suppose that there are 20,000 denominations of Christianity. Let's say that 19,999 agree on a specific point of doctrine. For this case we're going to go with the absurd, and say that Oranges, are in fact Orange. The lone wolf here argues that Oranges are green, and this is their distinctive factor.

If someone were to come here and ask "What color are oranges?" then they will most likely get responses like "Orange" and that response will get dozens of upvotes. But when someone comes and says "Oranges are green, that's why Church X says."

This person is going to get downvoted to oblivion because they posted a clearly wrong answer. The problem is though, that for the purpose of this site their belief that oranges are green is just as valid as the belief that oranges are orange.

This presents the primary reason why we've developed the guidelines the way we have. Our mandate is that all groups who claim to be Christian are welcome here, and in order to make them feel welcome, we cannot have their beliefs belittled by voting contests. That's the source of our guidelines, and the guidelines we've tried to develop are essentially:

  • If you want to ask a question, scope it in such a way that it is objectively answerable.

The best way to do this is to stick to established doctrine, there are literally millions of pages of doctrinal writing on which to base questions and answers, and most of it at this point is unexplored territory for this site.

However, because most people aren't well enough read or familiar enough with doctrinal concepts, we've made the concession of trying to frame things based around denominations. Granted, denominations vary widely with the doctrines they accept, but hopefully they have some agreement that we can use to establish objective criteria. Again, doctrines are the gold standard here.

Lastly, we've made a final concession. Questions that ask for a biblical basis are on topic. This is our most absurd concession, but it's, ultimately, the most important. Basically it becomes a de facto doctrinal scope and asks for an interpretation of scripture that provides evidence for the belief under discussion. This tag alone is funky and merits further discussion, and it's mostly irrelevant to our discussion here.

Ultimately, we've decided (through many meta discussions), that most succinct way of putting "we're looking for objective questions that are answerable" is to say "hey, you're looking for the truth here, and what we're here for isn't so much to help you find the right answer without context, but to help you find the right answer for the context you're operating under." At varying times we've done better, and worse, at this, and we could do a lot better in explaining what we're getting at. Ultimately I think we're heading in the right direction.

I'd like to get to a place where in a single sentence we can explain to people that we aren't going to tell them the meaning of life, but we can help them better understand what they already believe, or specific movements in the church.

The most important thing here is that questions that we tend to call "truth" questions are often really broad, general things, that don't seek to understand specific points, but often seek to understand everything at once.

  • This is a great overview of the difficulties of making this kind of site work, but also of the value it has. Thanks! – curiousdannii Apr 1 '14 at 7:54
  • I do not share curiousdannii's glowing review of your answer, but I will not downvote you. You seem to explain your perspective fairly well, save for the fourth paragraph from the end, which I find a bit fuzzy. Also your "oranges are green" analogy (not "example") is a bit weak, since the thinking behind it is simply too pluralistic for my taste. There ARE beliefs which are irrational, illogical, invalid, and even immoral by virtually any and every standard. They need to be rebuked in a loving way (i.e., by speaking the truth in love). Some examples off the top OMH: David Koresh and Jim Jones – rhetorician Apr 2 '14 at 22:19
  • @rhetorician We're not endorsing anyone's beliefs. That's sort of the point. Anything the claims to Christianity is on topic and should be handled in a positive or at the very least NPOV manner. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with them, or they aren't wrong, just that this site isn't going to take a stand. Naturally our users have all manners of opinions. I'm on record that I don't think Mormons and JWs are actually Christians. But that doesn't affect the fact that they are welcome to ask and answer about their beliefs here. – wax eagle Apr 2 '14 at 23:08
  • "But when someone comes and says 'Oranges are green, that's why Church X says.' This person is going to get downvoted to oblivion because they posted a clearly wrong answer" Well, it's a good thing comments can't be down voted - or this one would head straight for down below. ... I live in Florida. We have LOTS of oranges down here. In fact, I have three orange trees in my yard. I'm looking out the window at one right now. Guess what? They are GREEN. ... – Infinitesimal Sep 12 '14 at 0:48
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I feel the moderators on this site try to be as unbiased as possible, and they are entitled to deflect contributors to the site who take a stand for the truth.

This website, I feel, is really for people like me who do not know about Christianity. Where I come from when I come to this site can be summarized as follows: The Truth Is, Philosophy Rules Your World.

I understand where you are coming from. What I am suggesting is that according to philosophy, nothing is real and nothing is true. And any subset of philosophy needs to establish its own reality and truth. The subset of Christian theology has already done that.

We need to understand that THE TRUTH has already been established. Christian theology states that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are real and that they are the TRUTH. That is why C.SE doesn't need people to point out:

  • what is true
  • what is right
  • who is wrong
  • what is a sin
  • what is not a sin

If I sound as though I'm putting the Bible under philosophy, and for that reason I should be stoned to death, I assure you I am not and that I shouldn't be--stoned, that is! I believe that to an unbiased scholar, PHILOSOPHY NEEDS TO BE ON TOP OF EVERYTHING.

When you are an atheist, you just have a different philosophy, and you land here on C.SE to figure out if you want to adopt the philosophy of theology or not.

Strangers should not give Pastoral advice because it is dangerous and somebody can get hurt or hurt others.

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    The moderators of this site are most certainly not 'entitled to deflect contributors to the site who take a stand for the truth.' Suppressing the truth is against Bible teaching. It is always harmful. If you try to stop people giving false pastoral advice by stopping everyone from giving it, you throw the baby out with the bathwater and what you have is the first step to a dictatorship where the media is censored. It's not healthy: believe me. I would ask gainsayers this: do you believe in freedom of speech? This website as it stands does not permit freedom of speech. – George Tomlinson Mar 28 '14 at 12:44
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    If someone abuses freedom of speech, then if necessary, they can be warned and disciplined accordingly. It's not good to take away everyone's freedom because some abuse it. If so, God would have to destroy us all because some people were going to get things wrong. The gift of life we've been given includes the possibility to make mistakes. If you take away that possibility, you take away life itself and so you're left with a dead website, or at least one which isn't as alive, well and flourishing as it ought to be. Obviously The Bible is quoted on the website, so it isn't completely dead... – George Tomlinson Mar 28 '14 at 13:06
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    Sorry you feel that way but can I persuade you to think that C.SE is open minded. New ideas are welcome. I would love this site to be more diverse. C.SE is here to RAISE awareness and to GIVE light based solely on the StackExchange Q&A model. – WelcomeNewUsers Mar 28 '14 at 15:41
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    I understand the argument about protecting people from being hurt, but this world does have evil people in , so to avoid ever being hurt, one would have to be removed from the world, which would hopefully be preferable, but in the interim, since part of life is dealing with the evil or trouble which inevitably comes to every one of us to a degree, I feel that (as I've said), preventing people from discussing the things they really want to discuss, or making it more difficult by making rules about how questions and answers are to be worded is just getting in the way. – George Tomlinson Mar 28 '14 at 16:25
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    Also, I think that downvoting questions or answers which don't fit in with this pattern causes people upset and could be avoided. – George Tomlinson Mar 28 '14 at 16:27

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