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It has been suggested to me that consensus has been reached here that when a question asks for the "Biblical basis" of something without asking for a particular denomination's view, any answers attempting to prove that there is, in fact, no such Biblical basis should be disallowed.

This answer with 4 votes to "Can somebody please help me provide acceptable answers?", asked in September of last year (2016), proposes:

If you think there is just no basis at all, then please don't answer the question. Let the silence and lack of answers speak for you. Or if there are answers, and you think they are poorly argued or illogical, then it may be appropriate to downvote them.

This answer with 7 votes to "What is the Biblical basis for Oompa Loompas?", asked in June of the same year, proposes:

Answers that say "there is no biblical basis," and especially answers that give the biblical basis for the opposite belief, such as this one, would be "Not an Answer" for a biblical basis questions, because the on-topic guidelines would require that some Christian group thinks the belief does have a biblical basis.

Both answers were the most highly voted answers to the related questions (the first was the only answer).


With due respect, I think there are some serious flaws here.


First of all, the question Do not assume was raised three years earlier and dealt with the issue of loaded questions. The highest ranked answer to this question, provided by someone who was (I believe) a moderator at the time, states:

Pointing out false assumptions is a valid way to answer such questions.

A question that asks "What is the basis in X for Y?" necessarily implies an assumption that a basis for Y does, in fact, exist in X.


Secondly, the Oompa Loompa solution essentially requires that some meaning be imputed to to the question "What is the Biblical basis for ...?" that the user may not have intended. "What is the Biblical basis for ...?" is to be understood, in my view of the answer, as really meaning "What might some Christians (somewhere) believe to be the Biblical basis for ...?" This is not literally what is being asked. Someone asking "What is the Biblical basis for ...?" may, in fact, mean this, but it is not obvious in my opinion. Imputing a slightly different meaning to the question may make the answers tidier to referee, but I think a disservice is done to the questioner in the process.


The justification for the Oompa Loompa solution was that "on-topic guidelines would require that some Christian group thinks the belief does have a biblical basis." I am not sure that this is true. While "what the Bible says about a subject (unless you specify a doctrine/tradition)" is given as an example as an off-topic question in the Help Center, "the biblical basis for a belief of practice" - without regard to any specific doctrine or tradition - is given as an example of an acceptable question.

The Help Center states that an acceptable topic for questions is "the biblical basis for a belief of practice." It says "the biblical basis" and not "a possible biblical basis". A different acceptable topic is "understanding the Bible from the perspective of a specific viewpoint". The Oompa Loompa solution essentially requires that any question of the first type always and automatically be interpreted as a question of the second type, with the condition that the viewpoint be "specified" relaxed.


I understand that the crux of the problem here is that the Bible is interpreted differently by different people, depending on the underlying manuscripts, how the manuscripts have been modified (e.g. punctuated), how the individual words and phrases have been translated, and even what the English words appearing in the translation are taken to mean (e.g. "theological viewpoint"). But I don't think truncating answers is the solution here. If someone is able to present a sound, or even valid, argument for why the premise that there is a Biblical basis for something might be false, I don't think we do the site users any service by suppressing those answers.

I only see the following as solutions:

  1. Remove "the biblical basis for a belief or practice" from the list of acceptable topics altogether, and possibly refer users to the BH SE.

  2. Modify "the biblical basis for a belief or practice" to read "the biblical basis for a belief or practice from the perspective of a specific viewpoint" and disallow any biblical basis questions that do not specify a viewpoint (consistent with the disallowed questions list). Somehow this seems redundant,though, given the topic, "understanding the Bible from the perspective of a specific viewpoint" already exists.

  3. Continue to allow "the biblical basis for a belief or practice" questions, but allow users to argue against the premise of a biblical basis, in keeping with the answer to Do Not Assume.

I really don't see the solutions proposed in the other two answers as being consistent with other earlier site guidelines.

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    Biblical basis questions, in current practice, assume a background position – either agreement with (biblical basis for) or opposition to (biblical basis against). Thus our current practice matches our longstanding practice of requiring answers to match the perspective of the question. So the logic is similar to the reason we delete evangelical answers to Catholic questions – such restrictions help preserve objective Q&A, as opposed to debate and discussion. – Nathaniel is protesting Jan 22 '18 at 18:21
  • @Nathaniel, so Biblical basis questions not specifying a positional background are no longer allowed? This seems not to have been the case in the past: e.g. What is the Biblical evidence that there are ONLY three persons in the “Trinity”? – guest37 Jan 22 '18 at 18:29
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    Correct; in the past (2011 and 2012 especially) people asked questions like "what is the biblical basis for and against ___" and there was a lot of drama. Almost all such questions have now been edited or closed as a result. – Nathaniel is protesting Jan 22 '18 at 18:31
  • And even that question I would interpret as a "biblical basis for" question, despite its slightly different wording. Arguments for four persons in the godhead would need to be presented as answers to a question "What is the biblical basis for four persons in the godhead?" – Nathaniel is protesting Jan 22 '18 at 18:33
  • Ok, that clears up a lot then. But part of the "Oompa Loompa solution" posits, "I don't think we should require biblical basis questions right off the bat to identify a Christian group or denomination that holds to the belief in question and thinks it has a biblical basis." Am I missing something, or would this go against the current practice? – guest37 Jan 22 '18 at 18:35
  • So What is the Biblical evidence that there are ONLY three persons in the “Trinity”? should have been closed by now? – guest37 Jan 22 '18 at 18:37
  • It seems that What is the Biblical basis for the doctrine of the Trinity? should have also been closed by now. – guest37 Jan 22 '18 at 18:38
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    Both are "biblical basis for" questions, so I don't think they would need to be closed. The matter of identifying a Christian group that holds a position is different from the questioner taking that position. All that is saying is that someone can ask a question like "What is the biblical basis for Christians being able to stop sinning before death?" without specifically mentioning Methodists (who hold that view). But the question's assumption is that such a view can be defended from the Bible (it can be; Methodists do it all the time) and thus answers need to provide such a defense. – Nathaniel is protesting Jan 22 '18 at 18:48
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Peter Turner Jan 23 '18 at 3:10
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Assumptions of Biblical Basis questions

"What is the Biblical basis for ...?" is to be understood, in my view of the answer, as really meaning "What might some Christians (somewhere) believe to be the Biblical basis for ...?" This is not literally what is being asked. Someone asking "What is the Biblical basis for ...?" may, in fact, mean this, but it is not obvious in my opinion. Imputing a slightly different meaning to the question may make the answers tidier to referee, but I think a disservice is done to the questioner in the process.

Yes Biblical Basis questions make assumptions, but very reasonable ones. The first assumption is this: that some Christians believe the doctrine asked about. This is a reasonable assumption because the question format is not one that gets mistakenly used. People who want to ask truth questions do not format them as Biblical basis questions - they simply ask what is true. "Biblical Basis" is a conventionalised phrase which caries with it a particular conventional meaning, and that's the case outside of this site too.

If you do not think that any Christians actually believe the doctrine, then challenge the OP in a comment to produce a quote, or close the question as unclear.

A second assumption is that those who do believe in the doctrine see the Bible as supporting that belief. This is an extremely reasonable assumption, as it is extremely rare for Christians not to see any Biblical support for their doctrines. Even churches like the Catholic church which see sacred tradition as being divinely inspired will see at least some Biblical support for nearly all their doctrines. As I've said before, one of the only cases where this is not true is for the immaculate conception. A question asking for the Biblical basis for the immaculate conception is one of the few questions where it is legitimate for an answer to say that there is no basis because it is found only in sacred tradition.

The scope of Biblical Basis questions

The Help Center states that an acceptable topic for questions is "the biblical basis for a belief of practice." It says "the biblical basis" and not "a possible biblical basis".

Biblical Basis questions have a conventionalised scope: those who believe the doctrine asked about. For the most part this works fine, and questions can ask for the (singular) Biblical Basis as those who believe in the doctrine will almost always share their basic understanding of that doctrine.

But there are some doctrines which appear on the surface to be the same, but which the theology underlying them is actually very different. For example, infant baptism. A question which asked for the Biblical Basis for infant baptism should not be understood as asking for the Biblical Basis, nor for a possible Biblical Basis. If the community knows that there are actually multiple positions with unrelated theologies and unrelated Biblical Bases, then they can either close the question as too broad, edit the question to specify a particular denomination, or edit the question into an Overview question, so that all answers need to give an explanation of all positions.

Correcting misconceptions

Pointing out false assumptions is a valid way to answer such questions.

There is a difference between correcting a false assumption or misconception in an answer, and arguing against the doctrine. For example, it is a misconception that Catholics pray to Mary. It is a doctrinal dispute that Protestants don't ask Mary to intercede for them. If a question asks for the Biblical basis for praying to Mary, answers may correct that misconception and then give the basis for asking Mary to intercede, but they may not present an argument for the Protestant rejection of the intercession of the saints.

But you should only correct a misconception if you're confident that you can identify the intended scope of the question. If you can't, vote to close as unclear. For example, if a question asked for the Biblical basis that Jesus didn't rise from the dead, that could be asking about Muslim theology, so-called "Christian Atheism", or some form of liberal Christianity. If you can't tell what the author wanted, vote to close as unclear.

Arguing against the premise

If someone is able to present a sound, or even valid, argument for why the premise that there is a Biblical basis for something might be false, I don't think we do the site users any service by suppressing those answers.

If we allowed this it would implicitly turn Biblical Basis question into a "what is the basis for and against X?" question. And if we allowed those questions, it would mean that Biblical Basis questions would turn into Truth questions. There are no types of questions on this site where we intentionally allow contrary or competing positions to be presented in answers. Your proposal goes against the key principle which has made this a successful site.

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    Your last point seems to ignore the point that David Stratton made 3 years ago in his answer: "Pointing out false assumptions is a valid way to answer such questions" – guest37 Jan 23 '18 at 1:44
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    @guest37 David's post is about correcting misconceptions. It is a misconception that Catholics pray to Mary. It is a doctrinal dispute that Protestants don't ask Mary to intercede for them. If a question asks for the Biblical basis for praying to Mary, answers may correct that misconception and then give the basis for asking Mary to intercede, but they may not present an argument for the Protestant rejection of the intercession of the saints. Does that make sense? But you could also comment on or vote to close such a question as unclear, as per the first section of this answer. – curiousdannii Jan 23 '18 at 2:12
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    So you seem to be saying that we should treat "What is the Biblical basis for X?" as if it read "Assuming that at least some Christians believe X, supporting that belief with Scripture, what Biblical basis do these Christians posit for their belief?" That makes sense to me. – Matt Gutting Jan 23 '18 at 13:45
  • @MattGutting Exactly. That's how I've always understood it. – curiousdannii Jan 25 '18 at 0:56
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I don't think that

If you think there is just no basis at all, then please don't answer the question. Let the silence and lack of answers speak for you. Or if there are answers, and you think they are poorly argued or illogical, then it may be appropriate to downvote them.

is a valid statement concerning Catholicism and because of this Catholics either need to specifically know to avoid the questions or be allowed to say "There is no Biblical Basis".

I don't think either of these options make sense and that is why I think all the questions you cite should either be closed or locked. They're Truth questions open to interpretation and juxtaposition of several disparate answers. Some folks think that answers from denominations with no central authority or teaching office would be acceptable to those who do and other people just want to get their personal convictions in and others naively posit what their church has proclaimed for two millennia. This website has almost always sought to avoid that kind of conflict by disallowing the questions to exist through closure or winnowing the criteria for an acceptable answer.

Now that you've brought to light an old conflict or a new conflict where one previously was glossed over (although I always thought it was a problem), I don't think there is no point in re-examining it. I just hope people here do so with an re-opened mind.

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    I have repeatedly said that cases where Catholic theology is sourced only from sacred tradition are exceptions where you can say there's no Biblical basis. That said, I only know of one example where even Catholics find zero Biblical basis: the immaculate conception. Every other time I've seen Catholics answer with Biblical support, even if it isn't the main basis. But that's not what guest37 is primarily asking about, which is about post answers which argue against the doctrine. – curiousdannii Jan 23 '18 at 4:27

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