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The question Is theodicy considered an open problem or a solved one, according to catholicism? was originally formulated without the denomination restriction. The reason behind it is that I don't know which denominations to ask to get the answer I am looking for. The basic question is: Why is theodice still considered a problem for "people on the street", although that subject probably has had an enormous amount of attention throughout history.

In that particular case, I probably should just put in more research effort to properly restrict the question. But in general, how do I need to proceed with questions where I don't quite know who to ask, knowing that even saying "protestant" (or probably even Roman Catholic) may sometimes not be precise enough and may be ambiguous.

  • Good question. Start with this: Types of questions that are within community guidelines – 3961 Nov 26 '14 at 19:49
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    Great question, and one that even experienced "askers" like myself struggle with for some questions. I think the answer boils down to some combination of 'you really have to do some background research to get started' and 'ask questions that clearly express where you are at and only ask for the next step, don't ask question that try to shortcut you to the end of where research will take you' but I'm not sure how to express that in detail yet. I may work on an answer for this later. – Caleb Nov 27 '14 at 9:11
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I think you provided your own answer:

In that particular case, I probably should just put in more research effort to properly restrict the question.

If you don't know which denomination to ask about, you probably need to do a bit more research.

That doesn't mean that an open-ended question is inherently bad... but it's not a good fit for our site, where we focus on academic questions and answers.

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    About the most open-ended we get is Biblical basis questions and overview questions. – 3961 Dec 2 '14 at 17:27
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I'm not convinced that "put in more research effort" really deals with the problem because it essentially defeats the point of asking a question here in the first place. We maintain that good answers are well sourced and verifiable - in other words, the products of research. If we also require question-askers to put in a load of research before their question is admissible here, we get into a situation where they research the answers to their question themselves and therefore there's no point posting it on this site, since their "problem" is now solved.

Of course there is a subtle difference in some cases where answerers may have better knowledge of where to look for answers, or better access to source material to refer to. But we do need to be careful that we don't end up with questioners having to go and do so much research that they no longer need to ask the question.

My view is that the onus needs to shift in cases like this. If the questioner isn't really interested in what a particular denomination believes but is interested in Christianity generally they should still be able to ask their question. A good answer would then explain the different views; "Catholics believe X, Baptists believe Y, Seventh-day adventists believe Z". That's not to say every answer has to address every denomination's view from the outset. User A might answer regarding one denomination and user B about another, with User M eventually coming along and providing a summary answer to pull things together. (Or users could edit the first half-decent answer to add information about other denominations).

It's a difficult balance; setting the bar too low results in hordes of rubbish, spammy questions. But insisting that questioners research the subject themselves before asking a question defeats the point of asking it to some extent. Perhaps the real question here is not what to do, but how much research should we expect a questioner to do before they post their question?

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