This is kind of tied to the general discussion of the expert level, or otherwise of questions, including this one.

My subjective observation of the question level, like others, has been that is is quite low. This, as others have said, is going to be a problem for us, as lots of simple and naive questions will tend to drive away the real experts. Looking for confirmation of this I went and checked what the top twenty reputation contributors to this site said about their Christian qualifications. Of those, only one mentioned any Christian credentials - a one-year Certificate in Christian Ministry. I realize that the bios appear across all the sites, and not everyone may want to talk about their Christian qualifications to be visible to all, especially since their programming colleagues might be watching (did I mention that every single person who provided a bio described their programming qualifications?).

Where are the people with three-year theology degrees? Where are the teaching pastors? Where are the Bible College professors? Where is Christianity's Jon Skeet? Or are we a bunch of computer programmers all pretending we know something about Christianity?

OK, since I'm supposed to be asking a non-rhetorical question here, let's do that. What kind of person do we consider an expert? What qualifications? And how do we attract them?

(I'm sure somebody is going to say "every Christian is an expert" and quote Martin Luther at me, but it doesn't hold up, and the quote wasn't intended like that. We know that there are good and bad answers - we vote them up and down - so that means some are more expert than others.)


The problem is, whatever applicable definition you can find, it will only apply to a small subset of Christians that do things that way in the first place. Some churches have professional clergy; others have lay clergy. (Some even have both.) Some accept that a minister should have formal study and training, and sponsor degree programs; others have different qualification requirements based more on a person's character.

To give just one example, we've got a handful of guys on here who are Mormons. If they served a mission, as many do, that means they spent 2 years as a formally called and ordained minister for their church, working well beyond full-time (in professional terms, full-time generally means 40 hours/week; a Mormon missionary's schedule is closer to 90) studying, teaching, participating in acts of service both spiritual and temporal, and practically nothing else. Viewed objectively that's a pretty huge amount of experience to cram into two years, but how many non-Mormons are going to say "oh, all right, that makes them all experts then"?

Answering this question brings up a lot of the same basic problems that answering "who is a Christian and who isn't?" does. It's very difficult to agree on a set of criteria. To avoid conflict, the answer "everyone who self-identifies as a Christian is a Christian for the purposes of this site" has been handed down by fiat, and for the most part that works pretty well, but we've already had a few arguments that resulted in posts being deleted when some people couldn't accept that. So how are we going to define "who is an expert Christian and who isn't?" in a way that everyone will agree upon?

I think the best way, and the only way that can work for this site, is the StackOverflow way. We know Jon Skeet is an expert programmer not because of his credentials, but because of the high quality of the answers he posts. Meanwhile, there are plenty of people with identical credentials to Jon Skeet who couldn't code their way out of a paper bag. For all our talk about "experts," external qualifications mean very little on a StackExchange; what's truly valued is knowledge, experience, and the ability to share them in a clear and easily-understandable manner.

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    Great answer. I would only want to add that the only way we have to measure expertise is reputation. It's not perfect, of course, but it does indicate the value of your questions and answers, as rated by this community. – Wikis Sep 11 '11 at 20:10
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    This isn't a great answer, and misses several points. The fact is, we are not getting lots of basic questions, and we are getting at beast mediocre answers to even those. Our purpose in this beta is to shape the site, and we are in danger of shaping it to be a a place where people come to have elementary questions answered not very well. – DJClayworth Sep 12 '11 at 13:47
  • If we were getting good quality answers by this approach, that would be fine. But we're not. And it seems that real experts are simply not showing up here. – DJClayworth Sep 15 '11 at 21:18
  • Amen! The last sentence is spot on. – fredsbend Feb 18 '13 at 7:46

We have millennia of disagreements even among the "experts".

I would also contend that voting patterns don't make someone an expert, either. Also, voting patterns don't really seem to indicate that an answer is an expert answer, either. For example, my answer regarding "giants"/Nephilim is basically just a list of possible theories. Does that make me an expert on them? Absolutely not!

Every possible method that I can think of for determining an "expert" is flawed. Practical experience will give you bisops and shamans, alter boys and missionaries. Voting patterns will give you people who can answer well but may have no actual knowledge of the material!

The best we can hope to get is well written answers; well thought-out logic; and a strong basis in either the bible or other doctrinal sources.

  • Agreement is not necessarily the point. Christianity as a subject is studied in colleges, even universities. Books both scholarly and popular are written on the subject, in their thousands. Bible college professors are expected to know at least an overview of many different theological positions. They would be good experts. But we aren't getting those people here. – DJClayworth Oct 26 '11 at 20:26

I am not an expert, but I have a Catechism, so I can answer nearly every question that overlaps with Catholicism.

I do teach religious Ed. and am in a formation program so sooner or later, I'll have some credentials.

We should probably put our credentials in our about-me boxes on our pages. If we're over 1k people will be able to see that right away, and our rep will hopefully give do the rest of the work to convince an asker.

  • Congratulations, you are probably the highest qualified guy here right now. – DJClayworth Sep 15 '11 at 21:18

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