10

The on-topic page says:

However, there are questions that are not constructive for the format of this site. These include questions asking for:

  • a survey of all Christian views on a particular subject
  • what the Bible says about a subject (unless you specify a doctrine/tradition)

I'm interested in learning about Christianity. However, I struggle to avoid the above question styles because I know next to nothing about Christian denominations.

The top answer to the question What to do when it is not clear which denomination to ask? states:

If you don't know which denomination to ask about, you probably need to do a bit more research. -- Flimzy, 2014

Alright, let's hit the books. Only...

Question: What do I need to know about Christian denominations in order to ask an on-topic question at Christianity.SE?

8

Short answer: it depends. In particular, the traditions/denominations that are helpful to know about depend on the topic of your question.

As in most cases, Wikipedia is a great place to start. There's a "Major denominations" section of its Christianity article that provides a brief overview of beliefs. Some of these major denominations are more geographically concentrated than others; in English-speaking countries, you're less likely to run into Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East.

Reviewing those summaries, you'll find that some of these traditions have much more variation within them than others. Protestantism has dozens or hundreds of different belief systems within it (depending on how detailed you get). But Catholicism is much more uniform.

Practically speaking, this means that it's often more straight forward to ask a question about beliefs in Catholicism than beliefs in Protestantism – because for many topics, Catholicism has one view, while on the same topic Protestantism might have a half-dozen major views and a number of minor ones. On the other hand, for some topics there is broad agreement in Protestantism, or even between Protestantism and Catholicism (for example).

I know it can be overwhelming, so here are a few suggestions:

  • Drop into our chat room, The Upper Room, and bounce your question ideas off of people there
  • Find a belief that you are interested in, and do a search on the main site, or use tags, to see existing questions associated with that topic.
    • Sometimes this reveals the views of particular denominations. For example, has questions regarding the Catholic view and Dispensational views (one of several Protestant viewpoints), in addition to numerous history questions that may also shed some light on the subject.
    • Or, read Wikipedia's article on that belief first.
  • Pick a tradition that interests you, direct your questions to that tradition, and then be ready to respond to comments suggesting that you broaden or narrow your scope.
    • Sometimes it will make sense to broaden your question, such as if you ask a question about the Trinity and scope it to Catholics. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox also believe in the Trinity, so it's usually not necessary to restrict the question to Catholicism.
    • Other times it will make sense to narrow your question, such as if you ask a question about the nature of the Lord's Supper in Protestantism, you'll find that there are several different views. Sometimes it's possible to ask an "overview" question to get a summary of several views. But often it makes sense to ask for an explanation of each view separately.

Hope this helps! Remember, asking for input in The Upper Room is totally fine too.

  • 2
    Assuming you have enough reputation to get into chat. – Matt Gutting Feb 18 '18 at 11:55
1

Question: What do I need to know about Christian denominations in order to ask an on-topic question at Christianity.SE?

I'd say the most basic thing is the name of the denomination. Asking about what "Christians" believe is hard because there are 2.18 billion Christians in the world, and they don't have a unified belief system. However, denominations are almost always formed around a common set of beliefs.

A simple, on-topic question could be "What is the Catholic stance on X?" (provided that it's not also too-broad, etc). In this case, you are asking a specific, answerable question about a denomination that can be answered by their writings, and other published works. "Why do Catholics believe abortion is sinful?" would be another good example that shows you've done a little bit of research.

Be aware that sometimes there are classifications rather than denominational names. "Protestants" is an umbrella term for Lutherans, Calvinists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and many other groups. Sometimes you will have agreement between them, sometimes not. It can be harder to determine what the area of commonalities are.

To give some practical advice, you can start by asking questions about what the sources of agreement and disagreement are. If you have a particular denomination of Christianity you are interested in (perhaps there's a certain denomination near where you live that you're interested in learning more about), that's a great way to ask questions too. If in doubt, asking about Catholicism is always a safe bet, since they are the largest denomination and have a very unified set of beliefs with a lot of writings over two millennia.

Finally, don't be afraid to let commenters give feedback on how to broaden or narrow your scope.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .