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I just joined this site, but I am a 2000+ rep user on Stack Overflow, so I have been around the Stack Exchange site for some time and understand the goals of its Q&A format.

With that said, I'm a little confused as to what kinds of questions are expected here and why so many are put on hold or closed when they seem like perfectly valid questions that could be answered with supporting material. An example from my 2 days on this site:

I first saw this question: Would reading "The Street Bible" help me understand the KJV Bible?

To me this seemed like a completely opinion-based question, and I would expect something like that to be closed. But others were responding, so I decided to write up an answer. My answer got lots of upvotes and even a few comments claiming it was helpful in some way. Great!

Then I saw this question: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/49006/according-to-evangelical-beliefs-can-god-kill-or-is-he-prevented-from-doing-th

To me this seemed like a much better question than the first, as it was a pretty deep question about the nature of God. I felt it could have easily been answered with supporting scripture and perhaps other material, and yet it was almost instantly closed.

I don't really understand the logic behind these two choices at all. I have read the new user guides, and the guidelines for the types of questions that are allowed here, but it just seems to me that this site tends to stifle good discussion on Christianity more than encourage it. I looked down the list of new questions and just saw close after close.

So I guess my question is, what is the purpose of this site? What I loved about Stack Overflow (and why I joined that site) was that it seemed so friendly to new and inexperienced users. I expected a similar atmosphere here, but I feel like inexperienced users are beaten down with clarification notices and scoldings and down votes and close votes.

Why are we so afraid to get multiple answers to a question around here? I understand you want to avoid denomination wars, but I would think having a few different answers from a few different denominations would be a good thing. If a person has a question about the Christian faith, I would imagine they would enjoy having several perspectives presented to them so they could make their own choice as to which answer gave them the information they were looking for. Why are we stopping that type of interaction?

So could someone please explain to me the difference between the two questions I presented above, and why the opinion-based question was allowed, but the nature of God one wasn't? Also I would like to know why we so vehemently avoid "truth" questions? Isn't the whole point of Christianity to know the Truth? If we can state that clearly and support it with scripture, how is that harmful? And if the truth on a certain topic isn't 100% clear in scripture, what's the harm in presenting a position from a particular perspective with supporting scripture?

I'm excited to be here and want to contribute to this site, but I'm a bit discouraged at how quickly some seemingly good questions are shut down. I'm hoping someone can enlighten me. Thanks!

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    Agreed. I'm looking forward to the answers here, hopefully including at least one from a mod. It is interesting--this is the nature of spiritual topics: everyone has a starting point, which may lead to an agenda. It's a difficult task to promote inclusiveness by virtue of being overly specific to the point where multiple perspectives cannot be presented and "flexible" questions cannot be asked. – tniles Jun 2 '16 at 15:59
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    In my research for this question I came across this excellent answer: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/a/5948/28088 The statement that really hit me was, "Allowing naive answers to naive questions is a recipe for turning this into Quora. Or worse." That's certainly a major risk, but I also would like to believe that the up/down voting system would quickly rectify this issue. In addition, I think more experts will be drawn to answer questions when they see that the only ones provided are complete garbage. Yes things might get a bit messy, but should we really be afraid of that? – NoChinDeluxe Jun 2 '16 at 16:39
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    Please take a look at: We can't handle the truth and Brothers, we are not Christians‼. Voting cannot solve the truth question problem, because history has shown that people vote for answers they agree with, not ones that are well-reasoned or high-quality. – Nathaniel Jun 2 '16 at 17:52
  • @Nathaniel I think it may be fair to say all SE sites suffer from ever being capable of answering Truth questions, just to varying degrees depending on the topic. I submit the skeptics.stackExchange site is in a similar boat as this one--for some topics, the "noise" of the community confirmation bias (audience predisposition?) can sometimes drown out the truth "signal". – tniles Jun 2 '16 at 18:14
  • Also, the OP (NoChinDeluxe) here is, I think, primarily asking in regards to the opinion-based nature (not truth or denomination or sect specification). The first example is blatantly soliciting opinions, without specifying denomination or sect. The second example is explicitly specifying denomination (an action often required to provide a "focused" question here), in order to avoid confusing answers. And yet the second was closed/put on hold. – tniles Jun 2 '16 at 18:18
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    Just an idea, and it may sound messy, but... Maybe the FAQ/meta here needs a community driven explanation of which groups are denominations, which groups are sects, and why each group views the other group that way. A group matrix. Combine this with a feature where Q's and A's are required to select 1) the group perspective they are asking from, 2) the group perspective they are primarily interested in having respond, and optionally 3) the group they personally belong to at that time. These would be visible on the posts even to non-logged-in users (possibly with the exception of #3). – tniles Jun 2 '16 at 18:23
  • @Nathaniel I've read both of those suggested pages already, and while I completely understand the sentiment of each of those posts, I guess I find myself just not fully agreeing with them. Maybe that means this isn't the site for me...I don't know. It just seems to me that many (most?) visitors of this site would be looking for multi-denominational views on a variety of topics. In other words, they are trying to discern...The Truth. Why else would they be questioning something regarding Christianity? Why do we question any topic on SE? To get answers -- to find out what others have to say. – NoChinDeluxe Jun 2 '16 at 18:38
  • Christianity.SE is kind of a wild west. Over the years, I've tried to engage the moderators about their guidelines for good questions, but so far they are unwilling to negotiate. We may need to talk to Meta.StackExchange about this. – Jim G. Jun 8 '16 at 11:39
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I'll handle this in two parts: the specific questions, and the bigger picture.

Specific questions

As originally written, the Street Bible question was definitely off-topic, as it asked for recommendations and advice. I took the liberty of editing it to make it focus on the question of "how different are these two versions." That is a distinctly answerable question here. The "would it help me understand" part is a bit more wishy washy, and some might argue that it should be closed as primarily opinion-based on that basis, but close voters have so far understood that to be supplemental to the main question asking about the differences between the two versions.

Next, the God killing question. This one was closed for two different reasons. You'll notice that it go two close votes for being a "truth question," and one of those was mine. Once the OP updated the question to ask for Evangelical beliefs, however, it's no longer a Truth question. However, at that point, it still wasn't particularly clear what the OP was trying to learn, so I didn't retract my vote, and others added theirs. One way to rephrase that question would be:

How do Evangelicals reconcile God being "life" with accounts of him killing men?

Such a question may still be too broad, since Evangelicalism is a diverse group. But if that's the question, I at least would vote to reopen it, and I suspect others would as well.

Big picture

Now to your bigger questions related to how this site runs.

What is Christianity.SE? It's a secular site dedicated to studying Christianity. It's not a Christian site dedicated to searching for the truth. For more on this, see: Brothers, we are not Christians‼ and We can't handle the truth.

Why are truth questions not allowed? Hopefully the above Meta posts make this clear. But let me make a couple points:

Why is the atmosphere unfriendly? Unfortunately, because of these restrictions, this site can have a learning curve. We are extremely glad to have new contributors who are interested in learning more about the site, and many of us make an effort to be welcoming and helpful. But the rules can be a significant hurdle. The following post outlines the challenges that many new users face, and how they can be overcome: Newcomers: Be patient. You will get there if you follow our direction. Keep trying.

Summary

I'm not one of the original users here; in fact I've only been a member for about a year. One of my first questions was closed, and it took me some time to figure out why some questions were closed and others weren't.

But I'm extremely glad that I stayed and joined this community. Most of us here would agree that we are not here to convert anyone or teach anyone The Truth. We attempt to do that in our respective churches and daily lives. Here, we have the opportunity to share what we know about Christianity, presenting positions fairly whether we believe them or not, so that we can learn from each other and share our knowledge with the world.

  • Hm. Thank you for the thoughtful response, although I'm not sure it really cleared much up for me. It seems like a lot of these issues could be solved simply by requiring each question to tag a denomination/faith/sect/perspective and requiring that answers are made from that same perspective (while all others could be flagged as off-topic). – NoChinDeluxe Jun 2 '16 at 20:48
  • @NoChinDeluxe That's basically what we do, for doctrine and exegesis questions: questions must specify whose opinion is desired, and answers that don't come from that perspective are deleted as "not an answer." – Nathaniel Jun 2 '16 at 21:39
  • Got it. Thanks for your help! – NoChinDeluxe Jun 2 '16 at 21:41
  • @NoChinDeluxe My pleasure. If you still have doubts, feel free to join chat and bounce them off of the folks there. – Nathaniel Jun 2 '16 at 21:44
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    I'm glad an experienced "new user" chose to answer. Certainly I, or one of the other original members could have answered, but a relative newcomer's view is much more appropriate for the question. Thanks! – Flimzy Jun 3 '16 at 15:41
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    There is, however, still a mess to be cleaned up with regard to exegesis questions, on which apparently denominational scoping is not required, and whose answers therefore still tend to reflect popularity contest votes. – Lee Woofenden Jun 3 '16 at 16:42
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    I’m the kind of person who will upvote a thoughtful response from just about anyone, even if I disagree. In fact, I have just upvoted this answer even though it makes me sad. I wish there was some way to make it clear to everyone that votes signify quality and not agreement and ensure that everyone would vote that way. This is why we can’t have nice things. – Joey Day Jun 6 '16 at 15:59
  • Follow-up meta post regarding denominational scoping on exegesis questions: Which “no-tradition-specified” exegesis questions should be closed? – Nathaniel Aug 22 '16 at 20:23

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