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We still continue to have users struggle to understand why some questions get closed as opinion-based, or "off topic because general philosophical questions". I know we've got a bunch of Meta posts explaining the issue. What I'd like to get here is some suggestions for tips that we can go back and then incorporate into some of the existing FAQ meta posts, or maybe in a new close reason.

I'll start with one idea to get the ball rolling, and see what everyone else comes up with.

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    Please, someone come up with something else! – David Stratton Jul 17 '14 at 6:05
  • maybe instead of rehashing the same rule over and over which does not work we should think of a new rule or plan of address to the perceived problem – user4060 Jul 17 '14 at 23:47
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    @caseyr547 This is not just a "perceived problem": at several points in the history of this site it became a very tangible problem that dragged the site through the mud. This is how we solved it, and the rule does work, it just takes a lot of education to got people to understand (hence the need for meta posts like this). If you have a better solution, please propose it — but you'll need to start your proposal by demonstrating a recognition of what the issues are before you'll get much traction for solving them with an alternate solution. We don't want to go back to the mire we came out of. – Caleb Jul 18 '14 at 10:30
  • @Caleb it is possible to integrate the truth question philosophies into the webpage without destroying it. I am able to purpose ideas and solutions to that end however my social status on this webpage does not allow me to make suggestions of any significance for various reasons. You however could ask a post on meta requesting alternatives and only alternatives to the current method and allow someone who is more beloved to make a suggestion. – user4060 Jul 18 '14 at 14:37
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Ask yourself what would happen if you asked ten random people on the street the same question.

  • Would you get multiple different answers? Then it's probably not a good question.
  • Would you get a bunch of similar answers, all of them starting with "I think...". Probably not a good question.
  • Would you get a bunch of blank stares and MAYBE if you're lucky, someone who say something like "Oh, yeah, I remember reading about that! According to __ the answer is _". You're in better territory.
  • Would you get a bunch of blank stares, and someone who says "Oh, yes, I remember exactly what he said! He said ____". Now you're talking.

Let's apply the above to see if that pattern holds:

Q: Did God create the world in seven literal 24 hour days?

  • (Bad question, possibly falls into category 1 or 2, might get some blank stares by people who've never heard of such an idea.)

Q: Do Catholics believe that the world was created in 7 literal 24 hour days?

  • Could be in categories 1, 2, or three. Bad question. Not all Catholics believe the same thing.

Q. What is the official Catholic Church teaching on the idea of a literal seven day creation?

  • Good question. Falls in category four, can be answered by citing Papal statements, the catholic Encyclopedia, etc.
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Here at C.SE, we cannot tell you how the world should work, only how it does. As such, we have a concept called a "Truth" question that we try to avoid.

What is a Truth Question?

A "Truth question" tries to get to the essence of topics like:

What do we do here then?

Here, we are interested in the study of the Truth moreso than the Truth. Put another way, we don't care what the "right" answer is - we care about what large groups of Christians have historically said the right answer is. As such, we would prefer questions like:

  • What is the doctrinal reason for thinking X is sinful?
  • Historically what do [INSERT DENOMINATION HERE] say about this?
  • Who teaches that God is like this?
  • Historically, how have theologians reconciled [THIS BIBLE VERSE] with [THIS PROBLEM]?
  • What was the justification for [this bad thing Christians did].

Notice in every instance, we are looking for sourceable questions with answerable facts, using the standard sources of theology. Your opinion belongs on a forum, not here.

How can you tell?

I can answer questions about things I think are downright heretical.

I can do so objectively by accurately listing assumptions therein, even if I think they are totally rubbish. If a person who thinks you are an absolute fool can nevertheless see that you have identified your assumptions and sourced them appropriately in the context of Scripture and Tradition, you're probably on the right path. If you are looking for a "discussion" or the chance to preach, please, use your own blog.

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