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I recently saw a question asking for the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic perspectives on one particular theological issue. The accepted answer, which came from a very highly rated contributor, who I am quite sure is neither Eastern Orthodox nor Roman Catholic, nor from what I can surmise any kind of theologian. I'm not trying to bash the individual - he posts a lot of interesting questions and answers.

The contributor answered the question from what I guess one would call pro forma Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox perspectives. He presented as the Roman Catholic position excerpts from the Vatican Catechism and from the canons of the Council of Trent, which I would say are fairly authoritative.

His answer on behalf of Eastern Orthodoxy, if I might phrase it that way, though was based on selective quotations from a fairly long tract published by one particular Greek Orthodox priest somewhere in the United States. He admits that he didn't know very much about the Eastern Orthodox Church, but states that he found some material on the web that seemed relevant.

Has there ever been any guidance here regarding how or even whether you should answer a question about a particular church's belief when you are admittedly not very familiar with it? It seems that pasting a few bullet points one finds in a google search falls a little short of the standard this site tries to set. I suppose one could just downvote the answer, but this seems a little deeper issue to me.

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In short, the answer is yes, because there are never any restrictions on who can answer a question because of personal beliefs. We ensure the high average quality of this site by making the subject matter not "personal Christian beliefs" but the "documented teachings and practices of established Christian groups". If someone can point to and quote the documented teachings from some denomination, then they can write an answer about that denomination, regardless of what their personal beliefs are.

What about when someone isn't an expert and the resources they reference or quote are not ideal? If one of their references is a poor or misleading explanation of the denomination's teachings I think it's valid to point that out and downvote the answer because that means it's not a good explanation of that denomination.

However if someone uses an unofficial source and ignores the official sources, that's worth pointing out, but I wouldn't downvote unless the unofficial source leads the answer to be false or misleading. After all the whole point of this site is not to help people Google official sources, but to provide helpful explanations. That's why we encourage fresh explanations of teachings here, because the to-and-fro of discussion on this site can help both askers and answerers communicate clearer than an unchanging book or webpage. So if someone has found an unofficial explanation of some denomination's teachings that is clearer than the official explanation then that's a good thing. That's what we want! But it never hurts to have both unofficial and official sources to confirm what the answer says.

What you described above sounds like one of my posts. In regards to Eastern Orthodoxy, after searching for quite a while I wasn't able to find any sort of ecumenical catechism, all I could find was the catechisms of single denominations or even single churches. I personally would like to know what the best resources for Eastern Orthodoxy are.

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  • Dannii - thank you for your comments on this. Generally people who have an interest in Orthodoxy - whether with an aim of eventually becoming Orthodox or not - are considered "inquirers" and are invited and welcomed to come in person to share questions they may have. This page contains a list of Orthodox parishes in Australia. Many inquirers then become Catechumens during which they undergo some months of additional instruction in the Faith. – guest37 Mar 30 at 14:22
  • If this is not practical, however, then perhaps I could recommend the book The Way: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, amazon.com/Way-Protestant-Should-Orthodox-Catechism/dp/…. I'm giving you the Amazon U.S. link. – guest37 Mar 30 at 14:25
  • @guest37 Any in person inquiry will have to wait ~6 months now ;) Thanks for the links though. – curiousdannii Mar 30 at 14:30

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