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If a question is asking for a survey of beliefs, should one representative response be allowed to exist as an answer, with the hope that other belief representation will also exist as separate answers? It would seem so, since multiple answers can exist.

I ask because I had an answer deleted that provided a Protestant view of something that requested an overview of multiple views. For what it's worth, the request for overview of multiple views was edited into the question by another user after my answer was written.

Here is the question: What is an overview of the interpretations of Acts 16:31 "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."?

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In general, no, this isn't okay. Questions asking for an overview need to be answered with an overview.

Long ago, this site had a problem with people asking "truth questions," that is, questions asking "Is X a sin?" or "Is Y doctrine true?" The result was that Christians from wide varieties of traditions would respond, and answers would be voted up or down based on the popularity of the opinion, not the quality of the answer.

To deal with this issue, "truth questions" were banned in favor of questions that can be objectively answered. The question you answered, What does Acts 16:31 mean?, was definitely a truth question. Later, it was modified to an overview asking for Catholic, Methodist, Pentecostal, and Protestant views.

A "protestant-only" answer, in an "overview" question like this, has basically the same issue as was encountered early in this site's history. A Catholic answer could be provided, along with answers more specific to Methodism and Pentecostalism, and then, based on the number of members of each traditions, votes would select the "most popular" answer, rather than the highest quality answer.

That's the problem that the overview question type attempts to avoid. It's often quite difficult to answer overview questions, because you have to be familiar with the writings of a variety of different theologians, even those who disagree with you, and be able to succinctly summarize their views. But nonetheless they need to be answered as overviews, not with piecemeal answers, because otherwise voting turns into a popularity contest and not an indicator of the quality of answers.

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    I understand the issue of truth questions, but I felt like in this particular case, this was an interpretation question ("does Acts 16 teach a different doctrine of Salvation to other writings", as opposed to "is Acts 16 a valid doctrine of Salvation"). But that said, I do understand the issue of the popularity based voting. Thanks for talking the time to respond. – Jon the Architect Feb 8 '16 at 22:42
  • @JontheArchitect It's slightly different from my examples, true, but even interpretation (or exegesis) questions have this issue. A Catholic might say this verse supports baptismal regeneration, a Calvinist will disagree but may suggest that it supports infant baptism, and a Pentecostal will likely disagree with both. Exegesis questions on this site need to be tagged with a particular tradition because of exactly this issue. – Nathaniel Feb 8 '16 at 22:48
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    @Jon I first want to say we're glad you're here and trying your best to learn site guidelines. Mostly the issue here was with the question originally. It had problems and probably shouldn't have been answered until they were fixed. Editing to bring on topic then answering is encouraged. Answering off topic questions is not. Pay off the reason is what happened to you on your answer. – fredsbend Feb 8 '16 at 22:54
  • @Jon The closest this site has to exegesis questions is "biblical basis". Those are the form "How is the bible used to support/reject this belief". – fredsbend Feb 8 '16 at 22:57
  • @fredsbend There's a difference between exegesis and biblical basis. I'd call this an example of the former. Or am I misunderstanding your point? – Nathaniel Feb 8 '16 at 23:22
  • @Nathaniel Exegesis questions should be in the form "how does this group interpret this verse?" Biblical basis starts from the doctrine, asking for the exegesis that leads to the doctrine. Questions tagged exegesis are descriptive, requiring official sources. Questions tagged biblical-basis show the common exegetical practice with hopefully a source that says the same thing pricing that you didn't make it up yourself. So biblical basis questions are closer to doing real exegesis than exegesis questions. – fredsbend Feb 10 '16 at 16:21
  • Asking how part of a story makes sense is often tagged exegesis, but that's not really exegesis in the traditional sense. – fredsbend Feb 10 '16 at 16:22
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    @fredsbend Ah, gotcha. So the closest we get to having individuals do "original" exegesis is in biblical basis tagged questions, not exegesis tagged questions. I can see that. But you're right; hopefully even there people use sources rather than merely their own reading of the text. – Nathaniel Feb 10 '16 at 16:26
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In my opinion, overview answers shouldn't spend more than a paragraph or two on each belief. The best ones compare and contrast the beliefs in a single post, giving it one voice and organizational pattern. They should be heavily descriptive and spend little or no time defending any of the beliefs except a sentence or two for increased understanding.

If I remember your post, you spent a good deal of time defending the belief. That may be why it was deleted. Sitting by itself as a partial answer didn't help.

I think a partial answer is fine if it is substantial enough. But then, if the one belief is substantial enough for a single post, then maybe the topic is too broad for an overview question.

One exception I can think of is that a good answer already exists that covers most of the beliefs, so you fill in the gaps with another. Convention seems to be that you disclaim this at the top of the post.

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    Sorry, I disagree with this. I see asking for an overview as similar to asking for the views of a tradition. If an answer isn't an overview, I think it should be handled just like an answer that isn't the view of the requested tradition. – Nathaniel Feb 8 '16 at 19:56
  • @Nathaniel Yet some good overview answers neglect one or two of the views, so they are also incomplete. I think it comes down to effort. The first answer does most of the work. A second fills in the gaps. I see this all the time on SE, C.SE included. – fredsbend Feb 8 '16 at 20:06
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    Mostly I disagree with "a partial answer is fine..." I can understand making the case that an incomplete overview is still an "overview" and therefore more deserving of downvotes than NAA flags. But it still needs to actually attempt to be an overview. Giving one of the four views is not an attempt, no matter how substantial its treatment. Giving two or three views could be an attempt. – Nathaniel Feb 8 '16 at 20:14
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    If another answer addresses three out of four, and a second answer addresses the fourth, I'm not quite as concerned, but I would still strongly prefer that this be addressed in a comment, an edit to the first answer, or (best case) an edit to the second answer so that it, at least at a high level, addresses the other three views. Answers should stand on their own. – Nathaniel Feb 8 '16 at 20:18
  • @fredsbend, thanks for your thoughts on this. – Jon the Architect Feb 8 '16 at 22:44
  • @Nathaniel Read my whole paragraph there. I said it's fine if substantial enough, but if one viewpoint can make a substantial answer alone then the question is probably too broad for an overview. I'm not advocating partial answers per se, but giving a cue for when an answer reveals problems with a question. – fredsbend Feb 8 '16 at 22:47
  • What I do advocate is a second answer expanding a first. It's okay if two answers together work in tandem rather than in competition. – fredsbend Feb 8 '16 at 22:49
  • @fredsbend Part of it is that I'm not clear on what you mean by "substantial." I can give a "substantial" (i.e., long) answer on this question that only reflects one view. If by substantial you mean "significant effort to actually provide an overview, as made evident by meaningfully treating at least two of the views/traditions requested in the question," then I'm more comfortable. – Nathaniel Feb 8 '16 at 22:54
  • @Nathaniel I mean if it takes multiple paragraphs to explain an overview of a single viewpoint then there's a problem with the question. But answering with only a few sentences is not substantial. Catch 22. – fredsbend Feb 8 '16 at 23:00
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Yes, for the sake of not alienating potential answerers who know a lot about their area of expertise and creating a complete overview, we should allow any reasonable answer on overview questions.

There is no inherent requirement that we care about voting on answers, if someone wants to be generous with their knowledge and create an FAQ, they can check the Community Wiki box.

We always hope that the most complete answer will bubble up to the top. However, overview questions are intended to be succinct.

Otherwise, what do you do if someone leaves off your denomination on a top rated answer to an overview question? Do you find 6 other perspectives that you don't care about and are not an expert in just to pad your answer? Do you leave long winded comments so that the best answer can get better?

No, you just answer to the best of your ability and your answer stands with the other answer as an overview.

However, you still need cite your sources.


If this is not the case, then we should re-ban overview questions because allowing them is fallacious in the first place.

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    As explained in this answer there are better ways to showcase expertise by allowing answers in contexts where they can be evaluated on their merits documenting the beliefs of Christianity instead of on how well liked or disliked a doctrine is (which is what this encourages). Eschewing the way the tools work best in the name of not alienating exactly the genre of people that would prefer a debate anyway is not a good idea. – Caleb Apr 6 '17 at 18:17

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