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The site seems to be wildly vacillating on how to scope a question. So far we've heard all of the following.

What is left except for trivially Googlable questions? And beliefs that are the documented belief of record of a major denomination (not that most Christians really adhere all that closely to their church's doctrine)? How can we scope a question about people/groups of people that doesn't get closed as OT?

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    I have a certain amount of sympathy with this question, and the slight air of frustration it carries. But let's remember, we are in very early days of the site. Things will settle down. – DJClayworth Sep 10 '11 at 23:35
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    There's "settling down," but there are meta questions that seem to imply each of the above is the site policy, not just random humans closing stuff they don't like. – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Sep 11 '11 at 2:53
  • I agree, and I think you've identified a real problem. I think the way to address it is to talk about specific policies. – DJClayworth Sep 12 '11 at 13:40
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    I thought it was worth showing the overall picture, as I've tried to chime in on each individual policy but in each one everyone is full of reasons why it's not the perfect kind of question - there's pros and cons for each one, but it's at the larger level that you start to see the problem - we decide this one type is bad, and this one type, and this one type - whoops, we talked ourselves out of an SE. – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Sep 12 '11 at 14:35
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This was going to be a comment, but I've decided to make it an answer. Yes, right now the points you make are site policy (kind of). But the chances are that some of them will change over the next few weeks. If you disagree with a specific one, post a question saying "I think such-and-such a policy is wrong because...".

The specific question you cite to illustrate "don't ask questions about specific groups" is an extreme case. While they are a specific group, they are not a coherent group, who could be expected to have similar beliefs about something. And remember, the question got reopened, so we can safely say there is no ban on asking questions about specific groups.

For example, I believe it's acceptable to say "Do Anglicans believe in infant baptism?"(specific group). And the answer is "Yes, Anglicans permit infant baptism.". Now in practice a substantial minority of Anglican don't practice infant baptism, and a very good answer might point that out. But since infant baptism is official policy of Anglicanism, a simple "Yes" would be an acceptable answer.

We mustn't shy away from questions just because there are different views within Christianity. We'd be left with no questions at all if we did that.

  • Not every group of believers has an official written doctrine or policy. I don't think the scope of the site should be limited to those that do. – Waggers Sep 12 '11 at 14:45
  • I didn't mean to imply formal written doctrine, and I've edited to reflect that. I meant that only questions about actual groupings, likely to have similar beliefs make sense. You could reasonably ask about "what Baptists believe" because they will have similarities. It is not reasonable to ask about "what Christians in New York believe" because they don't. – DJClayworth Sep 12 '11 at 15:14
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I for one disagree with some of the sentiments expressed in those "policies", or at least the way in which they're expressed.

"Don't name one particular person!"

I think the question Why is Rob Bell's book, "Love Wins", controversial; which church groups endorse it and which think it is theologically unsound? would be a good one (I might even go ahead and ask it, I haven't yet asked any questions other than on Meta!) but of course it names a particular person. "Don't name a particular person" is of course nonsense for Christianity.SE if taken literally; after all, Jesus is a particular person, isn't he?

Arguably you could ask this question in a different way, without mention of Rob Bell - but doing so would require a lot more subject knowledge, almost to the extent that the question-asker would be able to answer their own question - which kind of defeats the object of asking it.

"Oh and we can't generalize to all Christians, that's too broad."

Why? While there are lots of opinions within Christianity, there are equally lots of things that apply to all of us. There can be no hard and fast rule here. What's every Christian's favourite colour? is clearly unanswerable, but Do Christians believe in God?, while incredibly trivial, is something that can be answered very easily.

"And don't ask a question about an arbitrary subgroup of some Christians, it needs to be a specific group."

"Well, even asking about a specific group, there are several people in the group and so there might be differences of opinion!"

Certainly in my experience there is more difference of opinion, and even fundamental doctrine, within denominations than between them. Also what counts as a specific group as opposed to an arbitrary subgroup? I agree with the sentiment that questions beginning "Some Christians say..." without actually giving a source or an actual frame of reference is unhelpful - but how specific is specific? There's almost, if not just as much, variety amongst "all Anglicans" or "all Baptists" as there is among "all Christians". As I say, I agree with what this is getting at but if it's to become site policy it needs to be worded much more thoughtfully.

"And don't ask a question about yourself, either."

I can't fault this one, we're not an agony-aunt site and so aren't here to give specific pastoral advice. Having said that, there are some questions that can be phrased as "about me" questions that are actually general and apply to everyone, so again we need to get the wording right.

As the OP implies, the more rules we make, the harder we make it for people to use the site. Let's try not to shoot ourselves in the foot in this way.

  • Your hypothetical Rob Bell question would probably get closed, not for naming Rob Bell, but because it is too broad. If you were to cite a specific view point he made, and ask about it's Biblical basis (or lack thereof), that would make for a much better question. – Flimzy Sep 12 '11 at 22:01
  • @Flimzy What if I were to point to this article bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=34843 which says the book denies the existence of hell, while the author denies this (and hell is mentioned on the cover)? While Biblical basis is a sound foundation to start from, there's more to Christianity than the Bible and I don't think every question should need to be a "what does the Bible say about..." question. – Waggers Sep 13 '11 at 7:46
  • I didn't mean that my hypothetical question was the only possible good question... just an example one. IOW, I think "Is Rob Bell's book Biblical?" is far too broad. See a similar question I asked, that got closed. – Flimzy Sep 13 '11 at 17:00
  • @Flimzy There's a big difference. Your question was "Some Christians find X helpful. Should I use X or avoid it?" which can only be answered subjectively. Mine is "Which church groups endorse X and which denounce it?" which is much more objective in nature - it can be answered without prejudice and backed up with sources. – Waggers Sep 14 '11 at 7:43
  • I've realised that the Rob Bell question has been asked, names him in the question, and (rightly in my opinion) has remained open: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/144/… – Waggers Sep 14 '11 at 14:27
  • Yeah, that question isn't posed as "Is Rob Bell good/bad" but more about one specific issue that he talks about. That is a good example of how to ask such a question. – Flimzy Sep 14 '11 at 18:10
  • Absolutely; my point being that "Don't name one particular person" is NOT policy on this site, contrary to DJClayworth's answer above. – Waggers Sep 15 '11 at 9:54

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