6

From AG's question here, are we allowed to ask question to the Christian population without being specific to a denomination if the question sufficiently narrows the scope? In contrast, there is this question which was too broad and needed to be narrowed - I find them similar in this regard.

  • 2
    Good question :) I'm going to add my comments there, and explain why I thin kit should be on-topic – Affable Geek Jan 26 '15 at 19:52
8

I would argue that if the question is reasonably scoped, it doesn't need a denominational perspective.

For the record, I answered concerns here:

I'm allowing doctrinal interpretation, which is why I posted it here instead of bh. I'm aware that different denominations may have different interpretations, but since this is inherently seeking to identify the distinguishing criteria, a denominational perspective itself isn't necessary.

Basically, if your denomination distinguishes between any of these types of hell, and you have any sort of biblical reference to show that, your answer is on-topic

I think you'll find the subject matter itself is sufficiently narrow (take these three words often translated as hell and tell me if there are any differences between them) that there are a very limited set of interpretations. There will be only two camps. Those that say "They are the exact same thing" and those that say "Gehenna is different from Sheol and/or Hades in this way, according to X". That's a narrow enough scope to get a decent answer

In general, I believe denominational scoping is one means to a simple end: Narrowing questions to answerable proportions.

The problem that many questions suffer from is that they need books to answer. Some issues, like the understanding of the Eucharist, have so many different viewpoints as to require a book or a Ph.D. thesis. Such questions are bad fits for the site, because they attract more "heat than light."

That said, other issues are a lot more simple. All Nicene Christians can agree many things, and these are a fit for the site, because there is a small finite set of answers. In these cases, I don't think you need adenominational perspective, because there are few enough answers to be written.

  • Just for the record, I do not disagree with you. It just hasn't been allowed for a long time. Would this allow questions like, "What is the biblical-basis for Jesus not being divine?" - and since there are so few denominations which believe this, no specific denomination would need to be defined / scoped. However since there is more than one in this case, I don't know which would be the accepted answer in this sample case. – The Freemason Jan 26 '15 at 20:05
  • The accepted answer in that case is the one that best describes a consistent theology meeting the argument sought. For the question you posit, if you can find two different denominational answers, the accepted one would be the better explained case, or the one that is clearest in its explanation. Both may be worthy of an upvote, but the accepted one is the one from which you learned the most. – Affable Geek Jan 26 '15 at 21:26
  • 1
    "In general, I believe denominational scoping is one means to a simple end: Narrowing questions to answerable proportions. " EXACTLY right. Well said. – David Stratton Jan 27 '15 at 4:03
  • So then, my question didn't have to be scoped to coptic? – The Freemason Jan 27 '15 at 14:27
  • 1
    IF you're talking christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/36682/… then I suppose "Why do churches who practice circumcision do it?" works. That's answerable. But then you'd get someone saying "Who does?" And as your answer showed, no church that I'm aware of still practices it (especially since Paul is so opposed!) By asking specifically about the Egyptian church, you got an answer. – Affable Geek Jan 27 '15 at 14:34
  • 2
    In general, you as a questioner have the burden to prove that your question is answerable. Anything you can do to make that reasonably scoped and reasonably clear is your job. – Affable Geek Jan 27 '15 at 14:35
  • 1
    FInally, I point to this post: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/884/… alot, but there is a reason. I make the point that for those who don't know any better, "Christianity" means Nicene Christianity. Copts are, in the main, very, very obscure. It would be disingenuous to say "Christians practice circumcision" because 99.9% of them don't. Where the practice is obscure, it is incumbent on you to clarify whom you are describing. – Affable Geek Jan 27 '15 at 14:37
-1

The answer, IMHO, would be: denominational scoping is useful and advisable for many questions, but not for all of them, since the full scope of Christianity is sometimes the one the asker needs information about, for example in cases of ecumenical interest (the OP may want to know if there’s a common ground), or when a significant part of the usefulness of the answers resides in the fact of being varied (comparative theology).

Below you’ll see the little analysis I’ve made about this topic. It summarizes some things that I’ve found in other people’s posts, plus some reflections of my own. Apart from the current question, this answer also has ties to these other ones: first, second, third.

Why denominational scoping can be useful

  • It gives the answerer a more manageable field to focus on.

  • It makes questions easier to answer by reducing their proportions. Even (allegedly) impossible ones may become answerable.

  • It may prevent some bias when accepting answers. If all of them are given from the same denominational point of view, you can’t use denomination to discriminate.

Why denominational scoping can be more harmful than helpful

  • As I said before, scoping makes ecumenical efforts at answering impossible. Let’s remember that ecumenism is an integral part of Christianity:

    “20 I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me”. John 17:20-21 (NAB).

  • If you want to find out the beliefs of n denominations about a given subject (comparative theology), scoping forces you to choose between a) ask n times and b) ask once and give up on n-1.
  • There must be concordance between the name of the site and its contents. So, if the name is “Christianity.SE”, there must be room for questions about “Christianity”; otherwise, the name becomes misleading.

Does the SE model make denominational scoping compulsory?

When I was reading what had been written before about this topic, I found people saying “I don't think asking questions about Christianity in general will fit the SE model very well”, or “[the scoping is] technically correct, but is it good?”, or “if we try and force newcomers to ask all their questions with a specific denomination in mind (which they probably didn't intend to do) we'll scare them away”, or even “we need to consider that many posters [...] won't know which denomination/sect they are asking about. We need to allow room for these people to ask their questions without feeling punished”.

So scoping has been a problem in Christianity.SE for a long time, and it seems that its roots are technical. More precisely, it has to do with the Question/Answer structure of SE. But is that structure really an obstacle to asking full-scope questions? I don’t think so. Let me explain it with a couple of examples:

  1. In Spanish Language.SE, you can ask about Spanish. The whole Spanish. If you want to use dialectal scoping, it’s OK. But it’s not mandatory, and your questions about “general” Spanish don’t get frowned upon. By the way, that SL.SE question mentions another SE sites and the way they tackle this problem. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Christianity.SE has got too draconian, when compared to the rest of SE.

  2. Wikipedia, which has a Q/A structure of its own, in which the question is implicit (if the article is about “X”, the question is “what is X?”), proves that nothing is really unanswerable. It may be harder or easier, but it’s possible. So there’s no need to worry about “impossible questions”. Someone might argue that the maximum allowed size of Wikipedia articles is larger than that of the SE answers; yes, it is, but do you seriously think that Wikipedia would stop giving answers if its article size got reduced? No, they’d just adapt. In fact, they systematically do so when composing the lead sections.

Conclusion

I’d humbly suggest relaxing the scoping rules. Full-scope questions can be justified. If my suggestion is not accepted, please change the name of the site; “Christian Denominations.SE” would be a better match for the site’s reality.

  • "Full scope" questions are consistently misunderstood as "truth" questions when that scope is left implied. They can be handled here but the question needs to specify what the scope is even if that is comparative or an overview. The catch is that scoping an overview question in a reasonably answerable way takes a little work and usually some preliminary research on the subject. The ones that don't do this have always degenerated into truth questions and all the troubles inherent in that pattern. – Caleb Feb 5 '15 at 10:52
  • I've been thinking about the name changing lately and I am starting to agree with that sentiment. – 3961 Feb 5 '15 at 18:21
  • If you'd like specific replies to your question that brought me here (the one on occultism), then you should post a separate meta question. – 3961 Feb 5 '15 at 18:27
  • @fredsbend It's not the particular question, it's the background issue what matters most to me. I can't get my head around not being allowed to ask about Christianity... in Christianity.SE. I checked the dictionary just to be sure, but "contradiction" has the same meaning in English and Spanish :) ... – Pedro Pablo Feb 6 '15 at 14:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .