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This site has many good questions that aren't scope to a particular denomination or tradition. Here are some I found tagged with biblical-basis:

I'm not saying that these questions are perfect and some might be able to be improved, but I think in general that they're pretty decent. Some even ask what the Truth is, but I don't think it's unconstructive.

The on topic page says that questions which ask "what the Bible says about a subject (unless you specify a doctrine/tradition)" aren't constructive, but I disagree. Some are and some aren't. Furthermore it would be a disadvantage to need to restrict these to particular tradition - it would be a shame I think if there were five different versions of the separation of church and state question. There are two advantages of not requiring these questions to specify a tradition: firstly most of the time there is no real difference in answers, which means the same answers will get given in each of those questions. Secondly, when there is a difference, I think it can be good to see them next to each other. For example, in the past the Catholic church hasn't had much separation between church and state, so it would be interesting to see a Catholic answer next to other answers. I think for many issues there will be a generic answer that covers 90% of the denominations, and then one or two exceptions.

Questions can and often should be scoped to a particular denomination or tradition, but I don't think they have to be.

I'd suggest that the on topic page be rewritten. (Some work on that has begun but it should extend to the off topic section too.)

I'd also like to suggest that a slightly different approach be taken with these questions:

  1. Firstly generic Christian questions and answers should be allowed
  2. Occasionally we may even like to suggest that a question remove a limitation to a denomination if the answers are likely to apply to every denomination
  3. We perhaps should expect 'generic' Christian answers to be the default for the site. As a question gathers answers it will become quickly apparent whether or not there are denominational differences. The answers can then specify their background if that will help.
  4. And sometimes we should suggest that the question asker add a denomination at the beginning (as we do now.) For example, if you ask about the Biblical basis for infant baptism it's appropriate to specify whether you're looking for a Catholic or Reformed/Covenantal answer because the answers are going to be very different.

Thoughts?

  • A doctrinal approach may be more useful than a denominational approach, because beliefs may vary within a denomination, and the beliefs held by a particular community may not accurately reflect the entire denomination. So, I think the website should move towards a doctrinal approach. A question may ask: "According to the doctrine of infallibility, __________." – Double U Mar 30 '14 at 3:23
  • I must add that some questions may not need explicit description of the denomination, because the question may allude to the beliefs, rituals, and practices of some groups. One question that I can think of is: "What does the Book of Concord mean by __________?" That question is obviously looking for a Lutheran answer. – Double U Mar 30 '14 at 3:28
  • All the questions on your list were asked in the year 2011. At that time, Christianity.SE was still in Beta mode, still developing and trying to figure out what type of questions should be acceptable and whatnot. In 2013, Christianity graduated from Beta mode. Does that mean generic questions are forever banned from the site? Well, that can only be judged on a case-by-case basis. I do remember the time when I answered a question about what to do with old bibles you don't want anymore. – Double U Mar 30 '14 at 3:34
  • If you're downvoting this, please consider writing something, either as a comment, an 'answer', or as another question. The issue of scope and appropriate questions is a tough one, and it doesn't really matter where the debate happens as long as it happens. – curiousdannii Mar 30 '14 at 5:13
  • @Anonymous I picked the questions by sorting the tag according to most votes, so they're all old because they've had more time to accrue votes. Many old questions have been closed however, and those ones haven't. I've seen no indication that they're thought of as bad questions. I think most people do think they are decent questions, even if they don't go well with the official on topic definition. – curiousdannii Mar 30 '14 at 5:15
  • @Anonymous I think doctrinal scopes are better, but they too could be enforced too specifically. CS Lewis wrote Mere Christianity about broad, cross-denomination Christianity, and there are many questions that don't need to be any more specific than that. That's what this post was trying to express. The scope of some questions might be Trinitarian Christianity, or even broader than that, but I don't think they need to mention it. – curiousdannii Mar 30 '14 at 5:18
  • On the Judaism.SE, generic questions are fine, because there are not so many doctrinal differences in Judaism as there are in the 50,000+ Christianities. I think the command to label the denomination has to do with inherent hostility among Christians and who has the Truth. – Double U Mar 30 '14 at 13:24
  • Academic hermeneutical sources also give a cross-denominational, non-denominational Christian approach to reading the scriptures. As a matter of fact, I asked a question in that regard. meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/3325/… – Double U Mar 30 '14 at 13:26
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I think that this question is related to the earlier meta post Is "biblical-basis" a de-facto denomination designation?, in that many questions which ask for the "Biblical" or generic "Christian" view are implicitly scoped to a Protestant, sola scriptura, Bible-believing, whatever-you-want-to-call-it family of traditions. If this is the case, then for me the issue is how our general site standards - which ask for a denominational/traditional scope, and authoritative references - adapt to a group which is sceptical of non-Biblical tradition. Many people in this category would object to attributing their beliefs to some named historical tradition: they simply want to say that it is Biblical.

Instead of arguing the point, I've been trying to say something like: "It would be helpful for readers if you could identify which people or groups, in the world today, agree with what you've said here." This wording is meant to avoid the suggestion that those people have authority to declare what is true. It's just asking for a more "sociological" indication of who else reads the Bible in the same way.

Other questions might be unscoped because the author doesn't know which scope might apply, or that there is a denominational difference involved at all. In that case, I think your suggestions are good. I particularly like the idea that scope could be broadened, because I've noticed questions where someone asks for the view of a particular denomination, but the "true" scope is either broader, or doesn't correspond to denominational boundaries at all. (For the latter, I mean that some belief might be held by some Lutherans, some Anglicans, etc., at the same time, but is not universal in any one denomination.)

However, I think multiple complementary answers are not the way to go. We always want it to be possible to choose a single best answer. If answers cover disjoint doctrinal territory then the choice is not meaningful. Equally, if the question is too broad, then an all-encompassing answer might be too long or too vague to qualify as a good answer. So I think that your proposal is basically solid - but if a question is just plain ill-conceived, we shouldn't go to great lengths to rescue it.

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