At times comments on this site have been misused by a small number of community members, which can be very off-putting for other members of this site, and especially for new members who may feel unwelcome. The mods frequently clean up comments (far more than we would like to!), but it may not be clear to everyone what sorts of comments we consider acceptable or unacceptable. For greater clarity, the mods present this acceptable comments policy, which is a site-specific elaboration on how the mods here apply the general network-wide guidelines for comments and the Code of Conduct. This should not be seen as a change to what we consider acceptable comments; we have been moderating in line with this policy for years already. But so that everyone is on the same page, here is the policy for what we consider acceptable and unacceptable use of comments.
Unacceptable comments will be deleted (as they already are.) Users who frequently write unacceptable comments may face suspensions.
Acceptable uses of comments
Asking for clarification
The first use of comments is to ask the author to explain something in their post in more detail.
- ✔️ “What did you mean in paragraph 2?”
- ✔️ “What is a ‘Spirit of balance’? I’ve never heard anyone use that phrase before, and can’t see anything relevant in Google.”
Requesting additional supporting evidence
When an answer has no or inadequate references and quotes you can ask the answer’s author to expand it with supporting evidence.
- ✔️ “What denomination is this answer meant to be representing?”
- ✔️ “How do you know this? Please edit to explain in detail.”
- ✔️ “Are you sure the Catholic Church does teach this? I thought they taught the opposite, as this part of the Catechism seems to indicate (Q #85). What evidence do you have that they do teach it?”
You can use comments to suggest relevant Biblical cross references or other relevant reading materials. But be selective, only share very relevant links. Excessive comments of this type may be deleted.
- ✔️ “See also Hebrews 8:6”
- ✔️ “This article was helpful for me for understanding Calvin’s position on this topic”
When a post makes a truly factual error, comments can be used to point that out. But differences of interpretation of theology do not qualify as true factual errors.
- ✔️ “1 Corinthians 6:7 is about Christians suing each other, not the Antichrist. Which verse did you mean? I don’t know any verse that sounds like what you are saying here.”
- When it’s obvious what a person meant, please edit the post instead. Only comment if you cannot edit the post because the suggested edit restrictions (edits must change at least 6 characters) mean you cannot make the change yourself.
- ✔️ “You wrote 1 Corinthians 6:7 but that should be 1 Cor 7:6. I couldn’t edit it to fix it, so please do so.”
- ✔️ (In response to a post saying Luther never mentioned the Antichrist) “Luther did actually talk about the Antichrist, in these letters …”
- ✔️ “This answer doesn’t actually present the Reformed position on justification, which can be seen in WCF 11.”
- But only when it’s indisputable that the answer is misrepresenting the position. Often a denomination will have internal diversity, so be careful not to misrepresent your position with the position of the whole denomination.
- ❌ “Paul’s teachings are actually against the eternal divinity of Jesus in …”
- While you may sincerely believe that your understanding of Paul (or any other part of the Bible) is correct, this is not what we mean by a “factual” correction on this site. People in good faith do disagree about how to interpret the Bible, and we can’t declare that only one interpretation is correct. Instead what we do is show what official teachings a denomination has.
Light and respectful pushback
To a very limited extent it is permissible to make one comment saying that an answer’s presented argument is unpersuasive. If possible this should instead be phrased as a request for clarification or more supporting evidence. But if the post doesn’t really have anything about which you could ask for more supporting evidence, it is acceptable to write one comment raising a respectful pushback.
- ✔️ “Sharp's rule was invented by a Trinitarian trying to counter Unitarianism, so it’s not really persuasive to us Unitarians.”
- ✔️ “The etymology you’ve proposed here doesn’t seem supported by any Biblical lexicons/dictionaries, nor can I see any widely used Bible translations that would agree with it.”
But these comments cannot be used to make disparaging remarks about the post or the position it represents.
- ❌ “Just like usual, Trinitarians are just making things up and reading their theology into the Bible.”
- ❌ “This answer is just filled with reckless conjecture.”
- ❌ “This just shows that Anglicans care more about tradition than following the Bible.”
Unacceptable uses of comments
It is not appropriate to use the comments to post general thoughts about the site or its moderation. Use Meta instead.
- ❌ “Trinitarians always downvote these questions because they can’t answer them.”
- ❌ “This site doesn’t care about Biblical answers anymore, anything is allowed.”
Don’t be part of a comment swarm. If someone else has already raised a criticism with a post, think carefully before you comment if doing so would actually help, even if your concern is different.
Long comment chains
In all cases, avoid long comment chains. If you ask for clarification or request more evidence, the author may do so, or they may not. You may or may not find their edits satisfactory. But being unsatisfied by their response does not give you the right to continue commenting about the one issue.
Signs you’re in a comment chain:
- ❌ If you’re writing more than 3 back-and-forth comments then you’re commenting too much.
- If you get an automated comment suggesting you move discussion to chat, then you’ve definitely written too much.
- If you’d like to create a chat room before one is made automatically, you can create one here.
- ❌ If you want a clarification on their clarification on their clarification, you’re expecting too much.
- ❌ Comments are not for point-by-point rebuttals.
- ✔️ If you ask for clarification or more evidence, and their edits aren’t satisfactory, then you can comment saying “Sorry, but that argument still seems unsupported by the evidence to me.” After that stop. You can of course downvote such a post.
- ❌ And if you need to write more than one comment in a row, you’re almost certainly trying to say too much. Try instead to condense your comment to only focus on the most important things. 600 characters (the comment limit) is almost always enough.