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I am trying to ascertain whether, or to what extent, scholarly (1) answers about Christianity and its various denominations (as opposed to faith-based answers written from a believer's perspective) are on-topic on this particular site.

(1) By the term scholarly I am simply referring to factual, objective, and (hopefully) informative approaches, written from a detached (rather than partizan) perspective.


To better illustrate my point by way of a simple example:

Question: Why are Orthodox bishops celibate?

Scholarly approach: Episcopal celibacy was adopted as a disciplinary measure against the increasing financial corruption of the Christian clergy, following the cessation of religious persecution in the early fourth century, in keeping with apostolic injunctions (1 Timothy 3:2-3).

Mystical approach: The Levitic and Aaronic priesthoods of the Jerusalem temple found their ultimate spiritual fulfillment in that of Christ, described in the seventh chapter of Saint Paul's epistle to the Hebrews as possessing an eternal (high-)priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, characterized elsewhere within the same letter as not having any parents (and, by extension, a family). Since the Hebrew high-priesthood represents the equivalent of the Christian episcopacy, the pious conclusion follows.

Though I would personally welcome both, the community might not feel the same way; also, while already aware of the existence of a somewhat related meta-question, I am, on one hand, not entirely sure what to make of it, and, on the other, I couldn't help but notice that (at least) some (arguably, many) of my scholarly posts have been consistently down-voted and/or deleted, which is what prompted me to ask this question in the first place, being uncertain of whether the method itself, or only my (deficient?) use of it, are what seem to have triggered the (negative) reaction.

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Of course scholarly answers are on-topic here. And the example you gave is what we'd expect answers to be for historical questions.

If your answers have been downvoted, perhaps it's because you're giving historical answers to questions that are more focused on theological explanations? But I haven't looked through your answers, and it's impossible to say in general.

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Are Scholarly Answers About Christianity On-Topic?

The short answer is absolutely.

Scholarly answers are in fact the best way to answer questions here.

Scholarly method

The scholarly method or scholarship is the body of principles and practices used by scholars and academics to make their claims about the subject as valid and trustworthy as possible, and to make them known to the scholarly public. It is the methods that systemically advance the teaching, research, and practice of a given scholarly or academic field of study through rigorous inquiry. Scholarship is noted by its significance to its particular profession, and is creative, can be documented, can be replicated or elaborated, and can be and is peer-reviewed through various methods. The Scholarly Method includes the subcategories of the Scientific Method, in which scientists prove their claims and the Historical Method, in which historians verify their claims.

The mystical method of answering questions is somewhat more ambiguous.

The Mystical Approach

There is an experience which we read of in prose and religious texts of every culture and time. This is the experience of oneness, the mystical experience in its vast variety. It is a special state of consciousness, where thought has totally ended and there remains only the silence of absolute peace in the mind. People fall into this state of mind, sometimes without noticing how or why. There is suddenly an overwhelming silence and the person stands thunderstruck against this totally new experience, for it is always new and fresh, even if he or she has experienced it more than once.

Common descriptions might be something like these: I was one with everything there is. I was the world and the world became I. My separation from the world disintegrated and instead there was love and oneness, impersonal, all encompassing. Hate was unthinkable and all my problems vanished into thin air. Everything was good. Or, The world was as it had always been, nothing had changed except that the "I" had ceased to be, had blended into everything else. Such descriptions are taken from ordinary people telling how they experienced their world when this special state of mind prevailed. This has been called 1-less-ness.

It is a state that is without problems and therefore rather comforting and desirable. You feel that you are nothing but the whole of existence, regardless of whether you look to the stars or think of your neighbor. Everyone is a brother, whether he be rich or poor, good or bad, friend or enemy in ordinary terms.

Often people feel that they are standing before God; sometimes even a picture of the Godhead appears before them. But we should bear in mind that God is an idea acquired from someone else.

The God that the Christians see is different from that of the Hindus. You may have touched the Universal Divinity, but its form is from your own religion or civilization. The aim of the mystical approach is to reach for this state of consciousness, and the methods take form after that.

As for your downvoted post, there have been a number of community wiki answers on your part in which you have commented that ”there's no point in posting comments on soon-to-be-deleted posts, since the inbox-messages announcing their posting will inevitably disappear soon after.”

Community wiki posts are ”to indicate the answer is incomplete and to invite community contribution to finish it.”

Do not get me wrong, I enjoy your answers, but they must be scholarly based and not based on the assumption that the post will be deleted some time soon.

Thus, what scholarly support have you offered in this question, which contains not one scholarly quoteation from a Catholic source: Why do Catholic persons not partake of mass every single day?

What about this question of yours, which contains no historical or scholarly sources or quotations: What is the support or arguments to indicate the age of the Virgin Mary? One commentator said that ”this answer does (probably correctly) deny the objections, but it does not give any support. Historical examples of marriage age? Opinions of Jewish writers about appropriate marriage age? One book from 150 AD is listed, but not quoted.”

Another one of your Catholic questions (According to Catholicism must we all suffer in life?) does not give any scholarly support of any of your statements. In fact it’s only external link you included was to Aesop's fable: The Young Mouse, The Cock, and The Cat!

Thus your possible downvotes were due to a genuine lack of scholarly support in your answers and not that they were community wiki posts!

As a typical example (only), Catholic questions should require a Catholic answer and just not merely an answer uniquely based on biblical quotes. In fact scholarly answer are generally really the best. This method can to some degree be applied to any denomination within Christendom.

  • Biblical quotes from appropriately approved translations of Sacred Scripture can be used.
  • Catholic sources which include Canon Law, traditions, teachings and other sources may be used, but should be accompanied with appropriate sources and links.
  • If no magisterial teaching can be found on a particular subject, the teachings of canonized saints or prominent Catholic theologians must be invoked.
  • As a general rule, do not just quote Scriptures since interpretation can vary.
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  • As already stated (repeatedly) in a previous discussion, the reason for the answer being on its way to deletion was due to its acquiring down-votes, not because of its community wiki status. – Lucian Nov 10 '20 at 0:27
  • @Lucian Do your posts meet the scholarly criteria that I just posted, apart from being a community wiki answer? – Ken Graham Nov 10 '20 at 0:33
  • As far as I can tell, yes; hence my puzzlement. (My approach is always the same, regardless of the sites I post on). – Lucian Nov 10 '20 at 1:05
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I think only scholarly answers are on topic. But mods mostly act on flags so its' always a judgement call to make, I hope nothing has been deleted specifically for being objective.

But there are multiple ways of being objective, the way to be objective and answer questions here usually requires you to not refute the theological axioms that underpin the questions.

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