It seems like all the questions asking for personal advice on this site get put "on hold." If I am facing a personal difficulty or a challenging decision, and I want input from Christians, shouldn't I be able to ask for advice here?
Why aren't advice questions allowed?
It's true that this site does not allow what we call "pastoral advice questions"—that is, questions that ask for advice, particularly spiritual advice, regarding an individual's personal situation. In fact, our users are strongly discouraged from even saying one little thing in response to such questions. So why is that?
Fundamentally, the reason is that this is a secular website. It is not "Christian," but rather about Christianity. And like most websites, it is public and impersonal. Practically speaking, that means:
- You don't know us.
- It might be surprising, but we aren't all Christians! Some of our users believe in other religions, or no religion at all—we simply share an academic interest in Christianity, to which this site is well-suited. And of those of us who do profess a Christian faith, you probably wouldn't consider all to be Christians. "Christian" for the purposes of this site doesn't just include Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox, but also Christian atheists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Branhamites, the Westboro Baptist Church, and Hyper-Calvinists, among many others. For more on this, see Brothers, we are not Christians‼.
- We are not trained counselors: we may enjoy studying the beliefs and history of Christianity, but that does not mean that we know how to provide wise counsel.
- We don't know you.
- Counselors provide advice on the basis of much more information than you could possibly provide to random strangers on the internet. We can't read your body language, we can't ask questions that reveal the condition of your heart, and we don't know the cultural context in which you live. Even a trained counselor could very easily provide poor advice in such a scenario, which is why they typically insist on meeting in person.
What can I do instead?
First and foremost, we strongly recommend discussing your situation with a Christian leader that you trust. Maybe that's your pastor, priest, or small group leader, or perhaps it's a professional Christian counselor. But the key is that it's someone you trust.
That said, it is sometimes possible to transform a "pastoral advice" question into something that can be objectively answered here. Here's an example of an advice question that would not work here:
Should I marry a Syrian Orthodox man?
However, by providing a few more details and, most importantly, asking for a particular tradition's doctrinal stance, it can be made to fit our guidelines; for example:
According to the Syrian Orthodox church, must a Roman Catholic woman convert in order to marry a Syrian Orthodox man?
Other users here can help guide you in this process of converting your advice question, but it's important that you provide the context and specify which tradition's views you want: we can't do that for you.
We know that life can be difficult sometimes, and that there's value in asking others for advice when facing challenges and difficulties. But that's not why this site exists. We urge you to connect with trustworthy Christians around you for support, and not rely on random internet strangers.
I also believe that Pastoral advice type question require a type of skill that very few members of this site have. It would be irresponsible for this site to let such important matters be answered by people that may or may not be qualified to give advice.
Just for your information I believe the Cognitive Science SE has a similar policy. Seeing as this site is open to a huge audience and there is no vetting process to which qualifications are proven, there simply has to be a limit to the type of questions you can ask.
I think it is just an inherent limitation to this website, but it is not an unreasonable one.