9

We continue to receive "Why does God...?" types of questions:

and countless others.

I wonder if we ought to add this class of question specifically to the list of off-topic questions, and possibly add a close reason?

  • I asked the same thing. Hopefully you get a better response. – David Stratton Aug 29 '14 at 23:40
  • @DavidStratton: Mmm, so you did! Perhaps this should be a duplicate of your question. – Flimzy Aug 29 '14 at 23:48
  • No, yours is worded better. I never got an answer. I'll delete mine. – David Stratton Aug 30 '14 at 0:24
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    I thought only three custom close reasons could be made? – curiousdannii Aug 30 '14 at 9:17
  • @curiousdannii: Mmm, yes, you're right. – Flimzy Aug 30 '14 at 9:22
  • @curiousdannii: This is probably a subset of our 'Truth question' close reason anyway. – Flimzy Aug 30 '14 at 9:38
  • @Flimzy Where does that leave us? We already have General Philosophical, Pastoral Advice, and Truth question. – fredsbend Aug 30 '14 at 9:43
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    Seems the thing to do now is maybe write a meta post for this specific thing, link it in "we can't handle the truth," and get it in the "what not to ask." You think? – fredsbend Aug 30 '14 at 9:46
  • I'm down to write the meta. I could probably get it done this weekend. – fredsbend Aug 30 '14 at 9:47
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Considering the volume that we get of that, I'm okay with neglecting any taxonomic labels on it and just giving it a special close reason with a decent explanation for why we cannot (will not) answer questions like that, and hopefully alternatives or a meta post with alternatives.

I thing something like:

  • Questions asking why God takes one action or another cannot be factually answered unless the Scripture explicitly says why, but it usually does not. There usually is an abundance of opinions from various traditions and asking what any of them think about this is factually answerable. Please see: [meta post title (my personal suggestion: We don't know what God is thinking or "For my ways are not your ways".)].

I suggest that the meta post expands on the logic of the close comment. It should point to other meta posts for why we avoid Truth questions (C.SE vs. Survivor and Brothers we are not Christians come to mind first).

It would be very helpful if the meta post also offers generalized options to reopen the question. I can see these questions being changed to (take "Why does God work through people" as an example):

  • According to [person, tradition, etc], why does God ...
  • What is an overview of the explanations for why God ...
  • What is the Biblical basis that God ... (note it is not 'what is the biblical basis for why God ...' That is just the same thing hiding behind a legitimate construct that we use.)
  • What is the Biblical basis that God does not ... (if the subject is small enough it can be lumped in with the other Biblical basis version.)
  • What is the historical development for the belief that God ...

Not every question like this can be remolded into one of the suggestions. Sometimes that is quite obvious. Also, some questions cannot be salvaged at all; the topic is just to philosophical and not enough theological.


On one of those questions you linked, I actually answered and started by tearing down the poor structure of the sentence:

The first thing I will note is an issue with the question. It is not fair to ask "Why does God ..." because it is wholly unanswerable unless the Scripture says explicitly why, but it usually does not explain God's actions. So I will focus more on "Why do some Christians believe ..." as there is usually an abundance of text where they explain their thoughts.

Same thing, different wording.

6

I absolutely think it should be off-topic. And I would support it being included as an example in the "General philosophical or sociological questions" close description. It's a combination of opinion-based, general philosophical question, too broad, and Truth.

At the bare minimum, it would be good to include it in the samples for "what not to ask" in the Help Center.

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    I like the idea of putting in the "what not to ask" section. Yep, bare minimum. – fredsbend Aug 30 '14 at 8:45
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The tricky thing about these types of questions is that sometimes they can be trivially turned into an exegesis question or an explanation of doctrine question. But it's not straightforward:

  1. Not all can be converted, and you're left with an off-topic philosophical question trying to probe the mind of God
  2. Even those which can be converted will often attract multiple interpretations, so when rewording it may be necessary to turn it into an overview question, or narrow it to one doctrinal perspective, or migrate it to Hermeneutics if it's about a single passage

I think we should encourage these kinds of questions to be quickly converted if possible. If they can be converted but get put on hold in the mean time, the community should promptly reopen them.

I don't think a new off-topic message or close reason is required, but it would be helpful to have a FAQ for how to convert them to exegesis or doctrine explanation questions.

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