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I recently disagreed with a user over what constitutes an acceptable answer to a particular type of question.

The user linked me to a Christianity Meta answer that he claimed represented "consensus on Meta".

This particular answer was the only answer to the related question, had received four votes, and had not been accepted. I personally disagree with the answer.

Does such an answer truly represent "consensus on Meta"? What are the minimal attributes of an answer that represents such consensus?


Thinking on this question and some comments and answers to it led me to look at a sample of past questions and answers on Christianity Meta to date. I left the default questions per page (15) and looked at the first question on each page that was open and had at least one answer, giving 83 samples. The distribution of answer scores is below. I'm not sure what conclusions to draw from the data, but it "feels" to me like no answer with a score less than 10 or so should be considered to represent "consensus".

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  • Anyway, I accidentally stumbled upon your other question here I think the real answer is that it varies from site to site. So I'm going to post an answer here. – Peter Turner Jan 22 '18 at 3:25
  • @PeterTurner - that question actually isn't from me, but I did ask a related question to the SE Meta similar to the one I am asking here to see if there are any SE-wide guidelines. Feedback from there so far is that it depends on the child SE. – guest37 Jan 22 '18 at 3:31
  • Whoops I linked to the wrong one. – Peter Turner Jan 22 '18 at 3:32
  • I added some additional data to my question. – guest37 Jan 22 '18 at 5:03
  • If you don't think that a particular meta question has a "consensus," feel free to write a different answer to that question and see what kind of response you get. – Nathaniel is protesting Jan 22 '18 at 16:46
  • @Nathaniel - yes, I had that in mind. It took me a while to think it through. I just posted a Meta question, Revisiting "No biblical basis" answers. – guest37 Jan 22 '18 at 17:56
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Anybody who says +4 votes is a consensus on Meta is barking up the wrong tree.

There are only two consensus based rules agreed to on meta.

  1. Pastoral advice is off topic

  2. We're not "Christians.SE" we're "Christianity.SE"

The rest is in the FAQ, but other than FAQqy type questions there, this is all it boils down to. You can't ask for just advice and your questions have to be objectively answerable because this is a Q&A site about Christian Doctrine.

We haven't had enough interest in the last couple of years to make any real new rules on meta. That may be why someone could consider the bar to be low for consensus, it could very well be that everyone who stumbled upon it thought it was good. You never know the reason someone votes up or down for something in meta, I get a lot of knee jerk -1's, and I'll probably get them here even though I havnen't written anything untrue or untoward.

If what your beef is what I think it is, I think we were coming close to a hard line for what constitutes off-topic with respect to unscoped exegesis, thanks to some hard work by a few committed flaggers, but in truth I prefer the subjective nature of closing some questions that aren't interesting - fixing others and even sometimes just leaving them open to wander aimlessly. Because sometimes the question attracts the right kind of answerer implicitly by the way it is phrased and it doesn't have to say "According to the Copts".

But, if someone actually gives you a response for a -1 or a close vote, consider yourself lucky. Most seem to just be drive bys - but I certainly think you're justified in calling someone out who say +4 is a consensus!


Finally, my suggestion would be not to find a hard line for a quorum to point to a consensus, but link to meta and encourage people to do what St. Paul says:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

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    It's silly to say that there is only consensus on two things! We have consensus on many issues. Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – curiousdannii Jan 22 '18 at 4:10
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    @curious none of those are are in the same category as as the two I linked and I'd have to assume the last one was just to needle me. I don't think the people who downvoted my post or upvoted Matt's post understood either argument (there are between 3 and 4 Catholics who read meta). I didn't even bother to downvote Matt's post because I don't think he disagreed with my fundamental point. – Peter Turner Jan 22 '18 at 14:38
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    I don't know what categories you're talking about. It wasn't to needle you, it was to show that there are lots of issues with consensus. And if you do disagree with Matt's answer, you should do more than vote, you should put forward your argument so that we can understand both sides. – curiousdannii Jan 22 '18 at 14:50
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It depends on the site because each site has different levels of Meta participation. On this site 4-5 upvotes with no contrary comments or answers is a significant sign of consensus. 1-2 upvotes isn't really enough, and if there are contrary answers 4-5 upvotes may not be enough.

Not every issue has consensus - for example, how to handle unscoped exegesis questions is a major currently unresolved issue.


As a long time member of this site who visits Meta most days, I can also tell you that I don't know of any serious or well received arguments that "there is no basis" answers should be accepted. My view of consensus is my own, but I feel very safe in saying that it is real.

Note that I linked to two questions:

You may have only seen the first. The second has more answers, and Lee's +7 answer also says that "there is no basis" answers are not valid answers. (There's more contrary answers on that question, but they concern a different issue, whether Biblical basis questions must prove that any Christians do actually claim there is a basis.)

  • Thank you for the additional information on the issue that prompted the discussion, but that is unrelated here. I was planning to offer my own answer to that particular question. Here I am only asking about consensus in general. – guest37 Jan 22 '18 at 3:58
  • @guest37 I separated out my answer to the general question to the specific issue. Hope this helps. – curiousdannii Jan 22 '18 at 4:16
  • no way, 4 votes may be consensus, but it is not a binding agreement that is worth mentioning to anyone on the main site. The most you should do is link to the queation and say "this is what we have been thinking about this issue" – Peter Turner Jan 22 '18 at 13:19
  • 75% of answers on this Meta have more than 4 votes. Why would an answer in the 25th percentile with respect to community support be considered "consensus"? Why not something in the 10th or 15th percentile? – guest37 Jan 22 '18 at 14:09
  • @guest37 It is precisely in the contentious discussions that posts get the most votes. If a question is asked about something which there isn't much disagreement over, and which few people want to write answers about (thereby bumping the question), and which no one feels the need to canvas for votes in chat, we won't expect to see highly upvoted answers. But that's also pretty much the definition of consensus. So if you see something with a non insignificant number of upvotes and no contrary answers, you can usually call that the community's consensus position. No need for the 10th percentile. – curiousdannii Jan 22 '18 at 14:44
  • @Peter no one was talking about binding agreements. We change consensus and policies frequently, and if anyone disagrees with the current consensus all they need to do is put forward their case. – curiousdannii Jan 22 '18 at 14:46
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    If you don't mind me being trite, consensus is something which for most people is a you-know-it-when-you-see-it type of thing. It's not about the vote numbers, but gauging agreement and disagreement. – curiousdannii Jan 22 '18 at 14:54
  • So an answer with many votes actually indicates lack of consensus? Come on. – guest37 Jan 22 '18 at 15:41

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