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Why should people avoid asking what 'the truth' is regarding a matter on C.SE? Is it because we are confused about what the truth really is ourselves or because we don't believe we as Christians have the truth? I am asking this question from the p.o.v. of someone who has converted to Christianity from another religion and after reading Jn. 8:32 which says:

32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

If one goes in search of the truth on the internet and stumbles upon C.SE and is told he should not ask questions like that. How do we worm our way past such a clear instruction from Jesus to know the truth in order that it may set us free from the darkness of sin? My question is especially for moderators of this site as they are the ones responsible for making and maintaining the rules here, I understand.

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    Moderators do not make the rules. The community as a whole does. We simply try our best to make sure they are followed.
    – Ken Graham Mod
    Apr 24 at 12:31
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    With a huge variety of Christian denominations it become clear that apart from the simple understanding that Jesus died for the sins of the world, there are a zillion other beliefs that are not common or agreed on. Frankly, they cannot all be right. We can only find truth from God's word, not men's sometimes quite odd interpretations of it. This site and BH SE offer a reader to see which views/doctrines etc conform to the bible and which do not. +1
    – steveowen
    Apr 24 at 13:13
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    @steveowen Even that "simple understanding" is disputed - lots of Christians out there who deny the problem of sin (instead it's ignorance or foolishness or whatever else.)
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Apr 24 at 14:08
  • I was trying to be diplomatic...
    – steveowen
    Apr 24 at 14:31
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    Thankfully, this question was answered a long time ago during beta stages of the site. The meta has many articles on why we hold these specific stances on questions. I’d encourage you to read through the meta because it has so many fantastic articles on this topic!
    – Luke Hill
    Apr 24 at 15:58
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    SE-C is a website investigating comparative religion. You can ask all you like, you can inquire of all truth, but questions have to be posed in such a way as to recognise that many identify as Christian and yet the very ways in which they identify themselves contradict, the one with the other. There is but one truth. There can only be one truth. I am the way, the Truth and the Life. But humans disagree. And the site is run by humans. (And so are many 'churches'.) But there is One who will guide us into all truth (as individuals) : God, the Spirit.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 24 at 17:08

4 Answers 4

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Why should people avoid asking what 'the truth' is on C.SE?

Each denomination believes they are right and teach the truth. In reality, this is impossible for a site like our to know what the truth is. Besides that (we can't handle the truth):

These types of questions are what we refer to as Truth Questions. It may seem odd to say that a site about Christianity says it can't handle the Truth... Isn't Christianity all about The Truth, and determining The Truth?

Well, yes, Christianity is about the Truth. But we aren't. We are about Christianity.

Put another way: we don't study the Truth, we study the Christian study of the Truth.

And as there are a multitude of Christian opinions, as made apparent by the number of Christian churches and denominations, there can almost never be a single, universally accepted answer to any truth question. This is why we shy away from Truth Questions.

But don't despair! There's still hope for your question. Here are some guidelines on how you can clean up your question to make it possible to answer within the guidelines of this site. And below are some links for further reading if you desire a deeper understanding.

This is why many questions must be scoped to a particular denomination in order to stay on topic. Otherwise, there will be much debating in the comments and that is not good for a question & answer site like this one.

This is not a forum and must try to rely of facts as best as possible.

Please also keep in mind that although this site is about Christianity it remain a secular site!

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  • It’s sad to see that the people who helped define this site are no longer with us for one reason or another. It would be great to have their continued support.
    – Luke Hill
    Apr 24 at 17:02
  • @LukeHill I totally agree!
    – Ken Graham Mod
    Apr 24 at 17:37
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    @LukeHill But just like how the American founding fathers or the 12 apostles are no longer with us, the torch continues with the current generation. At least we still have at least one (PeterTurner) and at least one "apostolic father" of C.SE (curiousdannii) if not more (DJClayworth's userid is 162!). "Tradition" needs to keep being updated for today's needs. (I just came across a good article about it.) Apr 25 at 17:49
  • @GratefulDisciple excellent analogy. It seems that the fallout from SE’s new guidelines and the Monica Cellio incident nuked the moderation staff.
    – Luke Hill
    Apr 25 at 17:54
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    @LukeHill I know. That's a very sad affair. I was just starting to be active when that happened. Apr 25 at 17:55
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    @GratefulDisciple To be honest, I really miss some of the old gang!
    – Ken Graham Mod
    Apr 26 at 13:18
  • @KenGraham Yes, me too, although since I came later than you, I must have felt it less than you. Especially Caleb and Nathaniel. There are several of their questions that I can now answer and would love to know their response and to benefit from their corrections. But I'm thankful that Peter Turner and curiousdannii are still active. Apr 29 at 12:08
  • @GratefulDisciple They still pass by occasionally. I can understand why they left but I wish they were still here.
    – Ken Graham Mod
    Apr 29 at 12:17
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    @KenGraham I hope one day they forgive SE management after seeing how the new policies and procedures have been followed in the past few years (although not being a moderator I don't know whether that's enough, only that I don't see any negative impact on C.SE as a regular participant). Apr 30 at 15:02
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If this site were RomanCatholicism.SE, or LDS.SE, or dedicated to some other very specific denomination, then “the truth” would be well defined and asking whether something is true would be appropriate, just as it is on sites like Mathematics.SE, where most topics have common agreement on what truth is.

As part of Stack Exchange, Christianity.SE must have a similar attitude toward truth, but unfortunately nominal Christianity itself has many different ideas of what the truth is. Without a common standard definition of truth with respect to the individual topics, asking whether something is true seldom makes sense.

That's why all questions must be asked within a well-defined context. Compare:

  • “Do Roman Catholics believe that Mary remained perfectly sinless as a child, or were her sins immediately forgiven?”
  • “Did Mary remain perfectly sinless as a child, or were her sins immediately forgiven?”

Both questions are asking for truth about the same topic.

The first one can be answered objectively, and all answers will generally agree with each other. A perfect answer would look like an article from a secular encyclopedia. It would contain verifiable facts; facts that people of all religions, even non-Christian or atheist, would agree with.

But the second one cannot be answered objectively. Roman Catholics will present their truth, other Christian denominations will present completely different truths, and non-Christians and atheists will dismiss the whole thing as nonsense.

The result will be a long stream of non-productive opinion. No one will be able to find the "truth" among all the noise.

That's why all questions on Christianity must be asked from a secular (non-religious) perspective.

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For what it's worth, to add some context to the other excellent answers, we removed the "Truth Question" close reason in favor of just one general philosophical close reason. I didn't think it was being used very well and for the reasons you outline, we do ask questions about the Truth and we just because we're on a secular site, doesn't mean we all have to be relativists.

The fact of the matter, when this site started and I posted Catholic answers to generic questions about Christianity, I (and others) wound up getting in utterly unnecessary arguments. The problem wasn't the answers, the problem was the questions.

We whined quite a bit about this and Caleb (old mod) wrote a pretty excellent meta post called Brothers, we are not Christians‼ and the prohibition of "Truth Questions" began.

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  • I miss Caleb. I wasn’t around when he was here but he contributed a lot
    – Luke Hill
    Apr 26 at 15:04
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    @LukeHill I miss the times Caleb gave me what for. He was totally on point too.
    – Ken Graham Mod
    Apr 27 at 2:56
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There IS an absolute truth (John 8:32) ...

I would like to supplement @KenGraham's and @RayButterworth's answers by proposing how this site can work for new Christians like yourself who should be encouraged and applauded in searching for the truth. I hate to see how this site could become a stumbling block for that search, when on the other hand this site can assist a Christian to deepen their faith. I hope my answer below can help you.

I myself, as most of the frequent contributors here, are committed Christians coming from all sorts of denominations who all worship Christ as the Son of God, the Christ (Messiah), our Savior, our Lord and King, the Son of Man who will judge at the end of the world, etc. This is the TRUTH that your quoted John 8:32 talks about (see GotQuestions excellent article What does it mean that “the truth will set you free), but not all kinds of truths. The freedom which John 8:32 talks about is also rather specific: freedom from becoming slave to sin. All denominations and most contributors here are not confused with this primary truth, which is our core identity as Christians.

... but not all truths can be known absolutely.

Unfortunately, even the briefest study of church history in the past 2000 years will uncover many theological options and consequently many doctrines espoused by different denominations. You will see that there are legitimate variations on how the Bible is interpreted. This is simply the fact that any new 21st century Christians have to deal with.

But all Christians agree that a serious Christian will want a local church or a denomination to guide them in conforming our life to the image of Christ. It is a long-term decision similar to how we need to choose whether to trust an MD doctor, a DC (Doctor of Chiropactic) doctor, or a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor, each using a different "doctrine" of practicing medicine. In nutrition, we are also aware of the ongoing debates between different camps of nutritionists whether vegetarian option is healthier, whether a little wine helps, etc. But there is a growing consensus that smoking is bad for us and a growing consensus that all three different medical practice "doctrines" complement each other. Similarly, the question of which denomination is best for my spiritual health can be answered differently by different Christians, although the truth that we need Jesus's death and resurrection is universally held by all Christians.

Will the Holy Spirit help one choose a denomination / church?

There is only One God, One Gospel. There is also One Holy Spirit who helps us believe that

  1. Jesus is Lord (John 16:13-14, 1 Cor 12:3), and that
  2. We are children of God (Rom 8:14-16).

(source: John Piper's short interview How Does the Spirit Testify I'm Saved?)

Although the Holy Spirit will guide each of us individually to the "right" denomination, I don't think the Bible promises that the Holy Spirit will provide a believer with the same level assurance that denomination X is the right one as the assurance for the 2 points above. We thus have to combine the promptings of the Holy Spirit with God-given wisdom to discern which denomination can help us best individually to grow in Christ (along with the subset members of the entire body of Christ that belong to that church / denomination).

My hope for you as you begin the journey to find your denominational "home" is that eventually the bewildering options can turn from confusion into a source of riches. This journey is something that a Christian needs to undertake sooner or later (it was a decade-long journey for me).

What this site offers

This site can help one navigate through those options. In today's ecumenical situation, in my opinion there are several legitimate Biblical denominations. This site can help you investigate the various claims of a particular denomination. Which is why, as the other answers point out, the questions and the answers may need to be scoped accordingly. I myself have benefited greatly from this site for my personal search of the denomination I prefer.

If it helps, I wrote an answer on how to deal cognitively with various denominational options, and I welcome your follow-up questions about the difference between being a Christian and Christianity as defined by a denomination in the chat room specifically for this topic. However, those two examples plus thousands of Q & A this site offers should not be substituted with a flesh and blood pastor that you trust! As C.SE makes clear:

Like any library, Christianity Stack Exchange offers great information, but does not offer personalized advice, and does not take the place of seeking such advice from your pastor, priest, or other trustworthy counselor.

It is a paid pastor's duty to guide you in your Christian life and to provide you with a safe place to include personal circumstances that may not be safe to share online, similar to how there is a strict and law-protected confidentiality agreement between us and our doctor / therapist / lawyer.

Growing "head" knowledge to help grow our "heart"

Regardless of which denomination or church you finally can call "home", the Bible is clear that we cannot stay drinking milk like spiritual babies (1 Cor 3:-1-3, Heb 5:11-14). Thus growing in knowledge of the Bible and of a denomination's Christian theology is essential for a mature Christian. Just like in maintaining our bodily health we seek a doctor's second opinion and educate ourselves on good eating and on rudimentary medical knowledge, this site can supplement that maturing in our "head" understanding of Christian doctrines and Bible knowledge, which in turn we use as a "map" to grow spiritually (our "heart").

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