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I've observed that a question like "Does sacramental wine become the actual blood of Christ during communion?" is "not an appropriate question" since it's liable to be answered according to the opinion and background of the answerer, and a question like "Does God exist?" is "off-topic" because of its philosophical nature.

My questions are,

  1. How does this site find it beneficial to the asker to suppress topics for which answers might not all be in agreement?

  2. Why should an SE site exist that is so broad as to allow answerers who disagree on fundamental issues? For example, abrahamicreligions.SE would field far fewer questions than Christianity.SE and Judaism.SE. The current limitations here require that we ask no questions whose discussion might result in a unification of denominational doctrines, which is ideal.

  3. How can questions of fundamental importance to Christian faith and practice (like "Who is God?") be considered off-topic, especially when considering the volume of scriptures and commentary that deals with the philosophical precursors of Christian faith?

migrated from christianity.stackexchange.com Jun 21 '14 at 2:12

This question came from our site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more.

  • It's been a few days. What do you think about these answers? Are you coming around on why the community set up the site to be based on "what Christian group x believes" instead of "what is God's Truth?" – fredsbend Jun 25 '14 at 9:30
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    @fredsbend Participating for a few days has made it clear to me that the policies of the site encourage a kind of interaction that I find beneficial, a la "come, let us reason together." – Andrew Jun 25 '14 at 14:39
  • Glad to see you are seeing benefit to what we try to do here. I hope to see more of you in the future. – fredsbend Jun 25 '14 at 17:48
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The bottom line is that any divisive topic can be the subject of a question and answer as long as it's not phrased as "Who's right".

Understandably, some people want to use this site as a platform for evangelism, but if you really think about it, that's a horrible idea.

The point of the current site guidelines is to prevent the site from becoming just another place where there's nothing but constant in-fighting, which provides no value, and is a turn-off for new visitors.

We have even provided guidance on how to do that.

From the beginning, intentionally, StackExchange sites are intentionally meant to be different from/a better alternative to "Discussion sites". As such, Christianity.stackexchange, following that model, is also intentionally different than other sites.

As long as your decisive topic can be asked in a method that makes it definitively answerable, then it's allowed. If you ask even a non-divisive topic in a manner that asks for opinions or personal interpretation, then it is not allowed.

That's about as simply as it can be put.

That's not censorship, despite what those that are unable or unwilling to understand claim. That's simply following the guidelines that have been clearly stated about what the site is meant for.

As if the links provided already aren't enough, I'd be missing something important if I didn't add a bit of encouragement for you, since you seem genuinely interested in figuring out how to participate. It can be hard, but there's a Meta post meant escpecially for newcomers that seem to want to get it, but are struggling: Newcomers: Be patient. You will get there if you follow our direction. Keep trying

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To answer your questions in order:

  1. We ask that questions discuss a single side of the issue (either for or against), if they want both sides, questioners should ask two questions, though asking them back to back is problematic, space them out a bit.

  2. Well...this is sort of happenstance, in order for this site to become a site, and succeed at it, the company who owns this site (Stack Exchange), made the decision to lump all forms of Christianity under one site. While this isn't necessarily ideal, we've made it work with some measure of success.

  3. They aren't off topic per se. They are off topic if they are asked in such a way that any answer is valid. For them to be useful to the OP they must contain some measuring stick by which to judge what constitutes a right answer. To use another site (RPG.SE as an example, if I were to ask the question "Should I as a Game Master be trying to kill my players characters?" the usefulness of an answer heavily depends on what game I happen to be playing at the time, there isn't a right answer. If I ask "Who is God", the usefulness of an answer heavily depends on my preconceived notions of how the world works, what my base theology is etc. This is why when people want to ask questions like this, we ask them to specify a group of doctrines (usually a denomination, but sometimes simply a single doctrine or small set of them). This forms a baseline by which an answer can be judged as correct or incorrect.

The important thing to keep in mind is that SE sites are supposed to be by and for experts. An expert in Christianity should have no trouble scoping questions to specific doctrines/denominations, because they should have a passing familiarity (at least), with the basic doctrines that compose their own faith, and could speak intelligently about the ones that interest them outside of their own faith.

4

1. How does this site find it beneficial to the asker to suppress topics for which answers might not all be in agreement?

The purpose of this website is to ask and answer questions that are primarily focused on Christian beliefs and practices and the justifications for them, according to the respective denominations. In real life, there are many denominations that are not in agreement of each other and may not even consider each other as "Christian". On this website, we try to induce a more inclusive atmosphere and explain the beliefs and practices to anyone who may be interested in understanding them. It's less about "This you must believe" and more about "This is what we believe; this is who we are; this is the key to understand us."

2. Why should an SE site exist that is so broad as to allow answerers who disagree on fundamental issues? For example, abrahamicreligions.SE would field far fewer questions than Christianity.SE and Judaism.SE. The current limitations here require that we ask no questions whose discussion might result in a unification of denominational doctrines, which is ideal.

The purpose of this website is not to work on ecumenism. That just confuses everything, because if you want to understand, for example, how Martin Luther thought, it would be considered anachronistic and misleading to put 21st century ecumenism into Martin Luther's mouth.

3. How can questions of fundamental importance to Christian faith and practice (like "Who is God?") be considered off-topic, especially when considering the volume of scriptures and commentary that deals with the philosophical precursors of Christian faith?

"Who is God?" is considered a "Truth" question here, because many denominations have their own opinions and answers to that question. Such a question may be ridiculously broad, because you have so many denominations, and it would be tedious for a researcher to go over every single answer just to find the correct one. For simplicity and feasibility, we have one very specific question about Christian practice or belief, and complement that very specific question with a well-cited, full answer.

  • Suppose a user who self-identified as a Christian answered questions with the teaching that Christ never existed in bodily form? – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 3:36
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    As long as that person cites his or her answer in some way, I see no problem with it. We are not here to talk about truth; we are here to understand each other. – Double U Jun 21 '14 at 3:49
  • I'm concerned with modern ecumenism in modern denominations, and what the modern Christian thinks. Doctrine and ecumenism certainly have an important place in a discussion of (modern) Christianity. It was Christ's own sentiment that a house divided will not stand. – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 3:53
  • In reply to "As long as...": If I was answering questions on the programming.SE which included code that violated the particular languages syntax or programming philosophy, would I continually be allowed to answer questions? – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 3:57
  • I am personally against ecumenism on the basis of anything other than Biblical truth, but that doesn't mean that you can't hold debates between people you don't think you can serve God with. For example there are frequently Christian/Muslim debates, but no one thinks that means they're joining together. I think that actually healthy debates only thrive in places where differences are accepted rather than being glossed over. – curiousdannii Jun 21 '14 at 3:58
  • @curiousdannii the problem with accepting differences within Christianity, like you suggest, is that it allows the proliferation of false doctrines. We are commanded by the scriptures to oppose false doctrines. As such, tolerance of mutually exclusive doctrines is markedly un-Christian. – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 4:06
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    @Andrew And this site allows you to refute false doctrines. Look at all of the "Biblical basis against X" questions. But just as the apostles didn't suggest that the synagogues and Roman temples be destroyed, this site won't censure other opinions. Nor can it give a formal stamp of approval to any. If this website was a church then that kind of tolerance would be a problem, but it's not. It's more like the Areopagus in Acts 17. – curiousdannii Jun 21 '14 at 4:45
  • @Andrew re your first comment here, the way we handle this is that someone who, per your example, did not believe in a historical incarnate Christ would only be allowed to answer questions specifically addressed to that theological persuasion. That limitation is a two way street too. For example a question about the Mormon idea of not just Christ but God having a body would not be the place to refute that doctrine, only to explain the requested perspective. – Caleb Jun 21 '14 at 4:59
  • @curiousdannii that makes sense, and is encouraging. – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 5:03
  • Is there any risk of expulsion for consistently down voting answers with particular doctrinal tendencies? – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 5:06
  • @Andrew I recommend you ask a new meta question about how to vote on doctrines you disagree with rather than taking this question further off topic. :) – curiousdannii Jun 21 '14 at 5:15
  • @Andrew the question about vote patterns might be worth asking a in its own meta question. Would you mind doing that so we have more room than comments to explain? – Caleb Jun 21 '14 at 5:16
  • Thanks @Andrew! For others interested my answer about voting patterns is here. – Caleb Jun 21 '14 at 6:28
2

For historical reasons the scope of the site was set so that the beliefs of any group which self identifies as 'Christian' are allowed. While originally I thought that it would have been better if the scope was limited to only Trinitarian Christianity, I now see the value of opening it up this way. Preaching to the choir really isn't as fun as a friendly and healthy debate between people who disagree. And even though this site most definitely does not have any evangelistic purpose (and I agree that it shouldn't) I think that it's good that people who are checking out one of the non-Trintarian groups can come to a place where with a click or two they'll be able to see strong defences of Trinitarian beliefs. The scope of the site means that answers are good because of their arguments not because they fit within the predefined boundaries of one part of Christendom.

I don't think this site avoids hard or divisive questions because I've seen many of them! Perhaps this will you understand why "Truth" questions are off-topic: in every Stack Exchange site questions are bad if they ask for a consensus which doesn't and can't exist. There is no consensus to the question "Who is God?", but there is a (rough) consensus to the question "Who is the LDS God?", just as there is to the "Who is the Trinitarian God?" Actually these "Who..." questions are still very broad, but if you changed it to "What are the attributes of the ... God?" then there certainly is a consensus for each of these Christian perspectives.

  • Haha, okay, how about "What are the attributes of the Christian God?" See what I mean? This question should be completely addressable on a Christianity.SE. – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 3:27
  • Why should it be completely addressable? – curiousdannii Jun 21 '14 at 3:54
  • For the same reason "Who is God?" was addressable and answered on Islam.SE. There is a single answer or else Christianity as defined here is not a single religion. – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 4:33
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    But that's exactly the point, Christianity on this site is most definitely not a single religion! – curiousdannii Jun 21 '14 at 4:34
  • Well, excuse me for a moment while the shock wears off. I guess this isn't the place I was looking for. Who founded the site? – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 4:38
  • It's the same problem that exists in the real world. Talk to someone who doesn't know much about Christianity and Catholics and Protestants and Baptists and Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are all Christians. Talk to people who know and care a lot about the differences and they'll tell you who from that list are genuine and who isn't. – curiousdannii Jun 21 '14 at 4:40
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    As curiousdannii just pointed out @Andrew the scope of this site very definitely covers more than one religion. Yet the same is true of many SE sites. "What are the attributes of the kernel?" Is ambiguous on Unix & Linux unless you specify one of Linux, BSD, etc. "How do I unset a variable?" Is unanswerable on Stack Overflow unless you specify what language you are using. In the same way most questions here most address a theological tradition to be answerable. – Caleb Jun 21 '14 at 4:49
  • Well, when some of them worship idols, some of them teach that Christ was an angel, and others teach that God is three separate beings working together, it becomes the responsibility of the Christians to inform the person from the world which is which. Too bad the Christianity.SE URL appears to have been founded by a group of people with no concern for what Christianity is, since, as the intent of this site is to be the primary field for questions concerning Christianity on the internet, it's the very thing that Christians might use to assuage that "same problem that exists in the real world." – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 4:55
  • I'll ask again who founded the site? – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 4:58
  • A lot of people. It went through the stack exchange proposal system. – curiousdannii Jun 21 '14 at 5:17
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Andrew, this particular SE site was evidently founded under the principle of censorship of anything the founders (or whoever is left controlling the site) dislike. it's quite hypocritical. most of the questions are of exceeding low quality (based on ridiculous misconceptions of the faith), but once in a while a meaningful question will stumble upon the site and, if it survives censorship, there is no guarantee a meaningful answer to it will be allowed to be posted.

it's really quite sad.

  • I've seen good questions and answers, but I have seen a lot of people stonewalled and dead-ended by moderators after asking important questions that are very relevant to Christianity. But if this site is operated by a secular entity, it makes sense that they would (in error) sacrifice good teaching for inclusion. – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 3:47
  • testing, 1, 2, 3... – robert bristow-johnson Jun 21 '14 at 3:50
  • oh, now they magnanimously let me comment. how generous. the folks who control christianity.se are not inclusive. they are sacrificing any "teaching" (good or bad, that is in the eye of the beholder) for whatever it is that they like to read. they are simply not interested in a real or honest discussion of Christian theology or practice. what Christians have in common and what divides them. they just don't wanna deal with it, because it can be contentious. but it's really not about that. they just want absolute control over the message. – robert bristow-johnson Jun 21 '14 at 3:54
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    No opinion is ever censored here as long as it is spoken politely. (Which also means giving answers which address questions.) – curiousdannii Jun 21 '14 at 3:59
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    @robertbristow-johnson If they aren't willing to discuss these things, what in your opinion is the majority of the content here (I'm new)? – Andrew Jun 21 '14 at 4:01
  • @robertbristow-johnson you're not being censored, though it appears you may have run into automated quality bans for a series of low quality, highly downvoted and deleted posts. If this is the case and you're interested in answering again, you'll need to either ask some good questions or edit and flag for undeletion some of your old answers. – wax eagle Jun 21 '14 at 14:58
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    Since you persist in willfully misunderstanding the purpose of this site, and then lying about it, even though it's been explained to you numerous times, I begin to wonder what you're still doing here. – TRiG Jun 21 '14 at 16:34
  • @Andrew, i don't understand the nature of your question, particularly set alongside the premise of the question. the majority of the content is what it is. a lot of goofy crap that seems to be left uncensored (that's okay, i'm not for removing goofy stuff) and the occasional good question, sometimes with good answers and sometimes not-so-good. "good" is in the eyes of the beholder, and i don't demand that anyone agree with me about what it is. if you want to know what i think were relevant and "okay" questions, look at the ones that i have responded to that they did not delete. – robert bristow-johnson Jun 21 '14 at 21:50
  • @TRiG: ...and then lying about it... looks like a good example of Mt 23. i had written that this site is censored and you say that i am "lying about it". i guess we can let others decide who is lying. it's a common childish practice (done by both Republicans and other self-authoritarians like Cartman on South Park) to preemptively accuse their opponent of precisely their own sin, so as to evade such examination themselves. it's literally what Jesus was talking about with "Judge not lest you be judged". nice try, T. hurry up with your (false) judgment to deflect the spotlight from you. – robert bristow-johnson Jun 21 '14 at 22:06
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    You continuously post substandard gibberish that is downvoted into oblivion by the regular users of the site. There are 9 downvotes on this whiny, self-righteous, soap-boxed piece of crap you call a legitimate answer to Andrew's question, yet there are only 4 mods. The community at large is taking action against your abysmally low quality posts. You don't even use proper grammar most of time! You are the problem with your posts. Do better and stop blaming everyone else for your inadequacies or gtfo. Your tired song in your shrill voice is wearing on my ears. – fredsbend Jun 25 '14 at 9:28
  • @fredsbend: i'm not blaming anyone else for anything except for censoring. and i'm not censoring myself. (small surprize you're FSM if your "study" of theology came from DL Moody.) – robert bristow-johnson Jun 26 '14 at 4:13
  • FSM is new to me. Just heard of it two days ago. I thought it was funny. I said I enjoy reading books like "Moody hand book of Theology." My formal study was two full semesters at Boise Bible College about eight years ago. The censorship of this site is limited to quality and factual inaccuracies, both of which you have in your posts regularly. Many of us have tried helping you see that, but none can seem to connect with you in a meaningful way. Your frustration/disappointment is obvious, but the community/mods are blameless. We have tried; you still do not see. – fredsbend Jun 26 '14 at 4:55
  • for have a rep in the thousands and just having heard of FSM is interesting. have you heard of the Invisible Pink Unicorn? or how 'bout Russell's Teapot? Richard Dawkins? Daniel Dennett? Sam Hudson? the late Christopher Hitchens? heard of these guys? how 'bout the Intelligent Design debate? (don't accept the totally one-sided view on the article at Wikipedia, those guys ain't honest nor NPOV either. and they act like the mods here.) – robert bristow-johnson Jun 26 '14 at 15:11
  • so when people ask a stupid question, i stay the hell away from it. when they ask a reasonable question, i answer like christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/2095/… or christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/27202/… or christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/24345/… or christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/24899/… . disagree if you like. – robert bristow-johnson Jun 26 '14 at 15:18
  • those are reasonable, but not pat answers (that you get from the American Prosperity Heresy that masquerades as Christianity). when the answers get more difficult and theologically controversial, the mods just censor it and wipe it clean. i can't even refer to it. if you don't get it, @fredsbend, your Moody and Boise Bible College left you short changed. the fact is, most of the answers here are crap. most of the questions are also. they don't censor those (and they shouldn't). so why censor the authentic answers that are difficult to accept? try knowing what you're talking about. – robert bristow-johnson Jun 26 '14 at 17:01

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