This question is about the following rule:

"Questions that can be answered from multiple Christian viewpoints are not allowed. They must be edited to ask for one perspective, or to explicitly ask for an overview of all Christian positions."

  1. Doesn't this include everything? I see many assertions on this site such as "[mainstream] Christianity teaches XYZ, or even "[mainstream] Catholicism teaches ..." or "YEC teaches...". However, given the (sometimes included) qualifier of its being "mainstream" or a response that includes "typically" (whether the qualifier is included or not), there is on almost every question the possibility that some ostensibly qualifying viewpoint that will disagree. The existence of different teachings in a sub-denomination or past authority in a church is, under normal circumstances, difficult to falsify. The only way I can think of to avoid this problem completely is to ask only for exact quotations of what a specific religious leader has said at a fixed point in time, and leave off any interpretation or application. This reduces the site to a quotation retrieval search engine. This would be useful, but eliminates the role of answerers to be on par with bots or parrots.

  2. How does one avoid arbitrariness in making this determination? Given that there are more Christian sects than there are verses in the Bible, it is likely impossible to be sufficiently precise in asking the question so as to invite only one of them to respond, and even then, word it in such a way as to avoid being potentially answerable from multiple viewpoints. How does the asker know in advance whether all Catholics or YECs agree on a particular topic? This practically speaking presupposes that the asker will already know the answer to his question, or at least be so informed that he knows there is exactly one viewpoint. This places an enormous burden of foreknowledge on the asker. We might as well be asking for an individual's viewpoint; in the end, that is what we are going to get anyhow. If two people belonging to the same denomination have different viewpoints on the subject, where does that leave it? Therefore all questions are potentially answerable from "multiple Christian viewpoints".

  3. Doesn't this admit that modern Christianity is fractured and generally incompatible with itself? That merely asking for a definitive, factual answer on any subject, even when scoped (to anything other than a specific individual's opinion) is often viewed the same as inviting contention, merely because opinions differ and doctrines disagree? This is a very bad look indeed.

  • 2
    Please make sure you've read What types of questions can I ask on this site? 99% of questions fit into those guidelines, so sticking by them is a great way to stay a happy question asker on this site.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 2:24
  • @curiousdannii This is a very different dynamic than most SE sites. 99% of useful or informative questions apparently cannot be asked? "What is the ultimate truth in the universe" is named among the "off-limits" class of questions. Christianity has everything to do with ultimate truth. Ultimate truth and Christianity are congruent. The rest is just fluff. If I want details about a specific church I'll go to their website, pick up a book or ask on a search engine. If I want random opinions on unimportant topics I'll ask on social media. This format is woefully constrained and unproductive.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 3:09
  • @pyg distinguo Ultimate Truth and the Catholic Faith are congruent, the rest is heresy; see what I did there!
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 4:36
  • @PeterTurner the fact that a person can attempt to subjectivize a question through equivocation does not mean that it is appropriate to do so.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 4:40

1 Answer 1

  1. Yes, any time you ask a question that isn't about one individual's viewpoint at a specific time, your question can be answered from multiple ostensibly Christian viewpoints, but this is naturally what we get when we allow anyone who identifies as a Christian to ask and answer questions about Christianity. In general there is no way to enforce or ensure uniformity of thought or teaching in any sect no matter how specific we get, unless it is at the individual level. There are still some teachings that are uniform within a group, and this is useful information.

  2. So long as there are so many denominations (and an increasing number of them), there will always be disputes about whether an answer represents a given "viewpoint" well, and this may shift over time. I believe a better format for the site is to ask and answer questions about truth rather than viewpoints and "facts about opinions" that presuppose uniformity of thought.

  3. Yes. Christianity has the answers to life's most important questions, and this site should reflect that, even when sects disagree as to the specifics.

What can be done?

The rule assumes complete uniformity of thought and perspective within a given faith tradition. Often that isn't the case. I believe a better approach is asking for the best viewpoints to answer plain, unqualified questions of truth, and the soundest reasons for them, irrespective of denomination or sub-tradition, and inviting the best individual thought rather than taking a regurgitation-based approach. This would mean that CSE would become an idea marketplace for edifying explanations again rather than a quotation or doctrine retrieval engine that only answers questions the asker already practically knows the answer to. If there is only one viewpoint, there is only really one good or right answer and this makes the site boring, losing the value that SE offers. There are often members of different faiths, who may or may not themselves "represent" the official doctrines of said church well, but who have informative and edifying insights to offer on the subject. A plainer format and the elimination of the a priori omniscience requirement would make the site MUCH more welcoming to people who have real-world questions instead of petty, cherry-picked and really oddly specific ones.

To avoid contention and dogpiling unpopular faiths from more mainstream ones, I can suggest that if you really want to be accommodating to different viewpoints, you can have a best answer nomination by adherents to different sects (maybe participants on the site wear their religion as an actual badge so it's more clear where their opinion counts vs. not, so long as we are trying to deduce doctrines by sampling consensus), or have multiple best answer votes, or else eliminate the "best answer" selection on the site, at the discretion of the moderators. A sect-specific answer voting technique might have the added benefit of showing users of the site wherein adherents of different sects agree. Maybe "anonymous" Christianity is preferable to some, but I can hardly think that to be true in general.

Perhaps this would require a change to the SE format and tooling that it isn't natively designed to support, and I understand that. Christianity does lend itself very well to a question-and-answer format though, and I appreciate the difficulty of selecting a "best" or "right" answer, or even making sense of upvotes and downvotes when the divide is so strong.


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