I'm going to suggest a formula that if the question cannot fill in, it is not on topic:
- According to [Perspective], (what is the)/(is there a) Biblical basis that [Subject] [Claim about subject]?
Subject, Doctrine or Concept: The basic topic of discussion. In the first given example it would be The Trinity. The Subject of the question. Can be a person or group.
Claim: This is what separates a good question from a bad. A claim about the Oompa Loompas must be made for which you are seeking biblical support or basis. Until a specific claim about them is made, you are just asking....if they exist? Its unclear at best and primarily opinion based at worst since no starting or ending perspective is given either.
Perspective: The Established theological perspective, framework, system or denomination. Examples: Reformed Theology, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal, Anglican, Lutheran, LDS, etc. It may be the perspective of the desired answer, or simply of who is making the claim. It can even be left open to all Christianity in some cases. This is not traditional scope.
I am not saying questions should be scoped(verb) I am simply saying all questions do have a perspective or scope(dictionary noun definition). I am placing no demands on what that scope is, I am simply identifying it. Much like every argument has a bias, every question has a scope. The problem is when it is unsaid and too unclear from the rest of the question to comprehend naturally.
Please stop commenting about requiring scope. No where have I said that and I have repeatedly said that is not what I am saying.
According to most [Protestants], is there a Biblical basis for [Oompa Loompas] [being the lost 10 tribes of Israel?]
[Does anyone] (any Perspective) believe there is a biblical basis [for the existence] of [Oompa Loompas] and, if so, what is it?
How do the [Southern Baptists] respond to the biblical evidence for [Oompa Loompas] being [the lost tribes of Israel]?
As you can see the variations are limitless and even help in slightly different cases such as the last one.
Quick Check Questions
Obviously questions will not be phased in this format, but in three questions we can answer if it could:
- Who? - The Perspective
- What? - The Doctrine, Concept or Subject
- What's the claim? (How?) - what is being said about [what]?
Put another way: Who is saying what about what?
What is the biblical basis for the idea that believing in the [Trinity] (Subject) is [necessary for salvation] (Claim)?
This gives the clear perspective of starting at the Athanasius Creed within the body of the question, even if the title is missing it. +1
What is the Biblical basis for claiming that [Paul] (Subject) [upholds and teaches the Torah law] (claim)?
This may be a rare case where the perspective is missing or left wide open to all Christianity, though I could argue the scope is Early Church. +1 But borderline. Could possibly be improved.
What is the biblical basis for [valuing [virginity] (2nd concept?), but dispensing with] (Or 2 claims?) [levirate marriage] (main Concept)?
This question is confusing because it is either looking for Biblical support for two claims, or for two concepts. -1 This confusion is evident in the response to it. It could be refined by making one claim and making the other claim into the perspective:
According to proponents of abstinence (no premarital sex), what is the Biblical basis for dispensing with levirate marriage? (not saying that is what the OP is asking, I'm not even sure. Just rephrasing for example)
Now the question is much clearer. Clear perspective, subject and claim.
I think the matter of a Claim's validity or acceptance should simply be left up to the community. There is too much chance for simple ignorance on a topic for users to judge it without being familiar with the perspective.
One could be asking about a fringe concept or heterodoxical doctrine, but as long as it has all three elements defined it is still a valid question.
This proposal only streamlines the first of three levels of interpreting a question, as we will cover next.
My concept comes from observation of this site. Much like the subject, verb and object of a sentence, a question is most clear when it has all three elements.
This applies to far more than biblical basis questions, but because they have consistent form and are less abstract than other questions it makes it much easier to apply this concept to them.
The Subject will always determine the possible perspectives. The Claim also impacts the possible perspectives. A question on the Trinity will be assumed to not be about Jehovah's Witnesses or Oneness Pentecostals unless the Claim makes it clear. It is my belief that the perspective should be left as the most broad possibility dictated by subject and claim. But, we can often get in trouble assuming things. This is why I suggest the perspective be identified. I am not requiring a specific scope.
How do we understand sentences everyday without even thinking about it? We do it constantly. We 1) identify the parts, we 2) fit them into coherent places, and then we 3) examine their content, what they say.
I understand this question is focusing on 3), but I am arguing we as a community are not even doing 1) and 2) the same and until we do, debating what is and is not valid is pointless because we are essentially reading different questions.
Without the three elements of Perspective, Subject and Claim, a Biblical Basis question is always more unclear, open ended and vulnerable to opinion that it could and should be.
This gives us an objective standard we can apply across the board without discrimination and with limited interpretation. Moderators and the community will still need to struggle with clarity, such as the question on Levirate marriage, but we will have a common standard in mind to try and get a question to achieve. And the community will still have to judge whether the content is on topic.
This is not necessarily a proposal for change (nor does the question require an answer to be one) but a proposal to internally clarify our own community's thoughts and to focus it into constructive feedback.
If we cannot identify to an OP why their question is confusing, what it is missing and what they need to add, then we cannot really help them. We will be left to simply close, close, close, and hope they figure it out. That seems to be the current method. The occasional constructive comment can rarely put its finger on the heart of the issue though. This process would hope to improve that.