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In revisiting this issue:

What should we do with "church shopping" questions?

I find that we have sort of supported this kind of question, but we have not laid down any clear guidelines.

There is a recent question that was quickly closed by a regular user and a Mod (so only the two): In what churches does this set of beliefs and behaviors best fit?

I edited it to hopefully be amenable to the community. Basically I followed these simple guidelines:

  1. The title asks clearly in which churches these beliefs, behaviors, etc. fit.
  2. The body immediately lists the basic points that any church listed in an answer will meet.
  3. I created a new tag . I'm open to other suggestions.
  4. I put all the other stuff that might have hidden details at the end and headed it "Background". Effectively, if the person asking is not sure what other details might be important they can put it there.

I think these are fair guidelines for the question format. What we need to decide is how specific they must be.

I suggest that all church shopping questions contain statements that address christology, soterioloy, and approach to the Bible at a minimum. Christianity in large part is about Christ the person, Christ the savior, and the story we have about Him, so requiring it in all church shopping questions helps keep the really fringe requests in focus.

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Hmm. The thing is you're likely to end up with two groups of these questions. For one the answer will be some kind of generic protestant baptistish church. The others will be some fringe heterodox requests with probably so many specifics that there will be no answer that matches completely.

Underneath it all, these questions are seeking affirmation for someone's beliefs without the possibility of critique or discipleship. This site is not the place for addressing the truths and falsehoods which anyone believes, but if we want to actually help people, we should be encouraging people to humbly reconsider what they believe, because everyone is wrong about something!

I think maybe we should close these questions by pointing people to talk to the ministers of some of their local churches about their beliefs. In a way these questions are pastoral care questions in disguise.

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    "Underneath it all, these questions are seeking affirmation for someone's beliefs without the possibility of critique or discipleship." I don't think so. That's a pretty big statement. Besides, we don't critique beliefs either, so everything you say from the quote on doesn't quite make sense. – fredsbend Dec 17 '14 at 1:15
  • @Fredsbend It really depends on what their criteria are. So for example, If they asked for churches who affirm homosexuality, we could answer that objectively. If they asked for churches which affirm a specified sex act between teenagers it's a pastoral care question in disguise. That's the kind of distinction I was trying to get at. I don't think firm guidelines would be helpful for these questions - we should judge their ontopicality on a case by case basis. – curiousdannii Dec 17 '14 at 8:16
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    That particular example falls into the "Is X a sin?" bucket (or very close to it). The criteria for church-shopping questions are fine, especially for real shopping questions. Dressing a question up as a church-shopping question should be ruthlessly dissected: but then your example question is unlikely to address christology or soteriology, which is an easy way to discriminate. – Andrew Leach Dec 17 '14 at 8:46
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I disagree with the addition of church shopping questions. They are too personal in nature, because they may require tailoring the answer to a specific person, which may or may not be applicable to everybody. On a second note, a church is composed of people. I am afraid that church shopping would reduce people to merely beliefs and stereotypes of certain denominations. For example, someone may choose to affiliate themselves with Roman Catholicism, because they are raised Catholic all their lives. It's an integral part of their identity, and they may identify strongly with the Catholic culture and tradition, and may still live by a Catholic lifestyle to some extent, even though their beliefs may be less strict or traditional than the Vatican. Is it our job to say that the said example is less of a Catholic?

Some people convert to Christianity, because they believe in the exact doctrines of the church beforehand. But there are also some people who convert to Christianity, because they just happen to have friends who are affiliated with a church, and a church allows them to do social networking and maintain social connections. Usually for these individuals, beliefs and prayers come later.

  • I think you only make one good point: These might be too localized. I'm not sure if that should actually matter in this case. Yes, I think some can be too specific and on the fringe, such as the given example, where an answer the OP is content with is unlikely. But these questions have success on other sites as well. The rest really doesn't seem to matter to this topic. – fredsbend Dec 17 '14 at 18:30

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