Should questions about particular denominations use the Scriptural Canon espoused by that particular those particular denominations, such as the case within Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy or Mormonism?

Some don't understand how some questions fit on our site: provide the scriptural basis for X without using the scriptures espoused by the faith in a particular question.

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    That would seem to be the logical conclusion to me, yes. Up-voted +1. The same would also apply to questions where the difference between the Received Text and the Critical Text was significant to the question.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 2 at 1:30

6 Answers 6


Yes. I agree that if a question is about the beliefs of a specific group, the logical basis for that belief would have to be the texts considered authoritative by that group.

If the purpose of this site were to evangelize, one could certainly object by saying "I won't believe this unless I see it in my authoritative text"...but the purpose of this site is not to evangelize.

The Sadducees tried this millennia ago -- they would ask for a belief to be justified using only the Torah. The other sects of Judaism, of course, believed lots of things that are not in the Torah, because they accepted the teachings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. This exercise tended to be unproductive.

A natural corollary, then, would be that if a Papal bull, an ecumenical creed, the writings of Augustine, a statement by Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Emanuel Swedenborg, etc. effectively articulates a theological principal believed by a denomination, on an open site like this we will have to accept that both of these statements are true:

  • Many Christians will reject that source but
  • Those sources are certainly in scope for explaining the views of the denomination in question

Nobody is required to believe what is said in Tobit, 1 Clement, or Moroni, but we share this site with people who do. They are welcome to cite those sources in explaining their beliefs.

Post-script per the ongoing discussion

If I understand correctly the comments that have been made here, no one sees a need to eliminate the biblical-basis tag, though some see a need for clearer scoping.

The following may be an effective way to ask biblical-basis questions of faiths who accept more than a 66 book canon:

  • What is the canon basis for this Catholic/Orthodox belief, and to what extent is it dependent on Deuterocanonical texts?
  • What is the canon basis for this LDS belief, and to what extent is it dependent on Restoration texts?

This opens the door to highlighting passages in the canon that is shared by the asker & the answerer, without artificially restricting the answerer to an incomplete response.

A touch of humor to evaluate some alternatives

1 - If the answer to the OP's question is "no", we should probably just have 1 question on the site that goes like this:

Question: Do denominations which accept more than a 66 book canon believe things that are not explicit in the 66 book canon?

Answer: Yes

And then the matter is resolved once and for all and we can move on.

2 - Alternatively, I think it would be fun to ask everyone to argue all of their theological beliefs using only the Song of Solomon as a source. =) =) =)


Should questions about particular denominations use the Scriptural Canon espoused by that particular those particular denominations?

The short answer is, absolutely!

Unfortunately, there are those you think that their particular Biblical Canon applies to everyone: Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox and Mormons. Hey all of these communities have a different Biblical Canon and questions about the beliefs of these different denominations will have to be explained according to what a particular group holds as sacred writings.

Catholics and Orthodox have some Deuterocanonical Books that Protestants hold as Apocrypha.

Catholics and Orthodox have a different set of Deuterocanonical Books between them.

Mormons have a legitimate right to explain their doctrines and beliefs according to their own set of Scriptural Canons, even if the rest of the world disagrees with them.

Traditional Christianity struggled for many years to define its canon, to determine which of its writings were sacred, inspired, and authoritative. The Latter-day Saint concept of canon differs from that of other Christians. In addition to the Bible, the Latter-day Saint canon includes the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These “standard works” provide a measuring rod by which we can judge other texts and statements. But while we have a canon, we nevertheless believe that God continues to make known His will through the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—men we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. Inspired by the Holy Ghost, their decisions are to be made in unity (D&C 107:27). We as Church members also need the Holy Ghost in order to recognize scriptural power in their words, and we can be comforted in the Lord’s promise that the President of the Church will never lead us astray. - Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures

Personally, I feel that if questions cannot accept the Canons of other denominations on this site, they should be closed as this site recognizes Mormons as Christians.

This is not a Christian site, but a site about Christianity.

Brothers, we are not Christians‼

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    If the community decides with this, I would like this to be a policy going forward.
    – Ken Graham Mod
    Commented Jan 2 at 3:31
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    should the biblical-basis tag be updated to scriptural-basis to match the description better: "Biblical basis" is the way in which a practice or belief is derived from Scripture. Use this tag to ask how Christians use the Bible to derive a specific belief. (maybe a slight modification in the final sentence?)
    – depperm
    Commented Jan 2 at 14:34
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    "In addition to the Bible..." the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has other scriptures including the Book of Mormon. You say "Since this site recognizes Mormons as Christians" and this is "a site about Christianity", then surely it is wholly appropriate to ask for the biblical basis for LDS doctrines? By all means they can quote from their own scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, but what is wrong in asking for the Christian Bible basis to support their doctrines?
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 4 at 15:26
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    @Lesley it's not the full canon. If I ask you to support your belief using only 50% of the books you believe in from the bible, would that correctly represent your beliefs? Yes you believe the whole bible, but particular truths are best taught in certain books/verses. Additional tag ideas might be canon-basis
    – depperm
    Commented Jan 5 at 12:04
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    @depperm - If a question about Christianity asks for the biblical basis for a belief, then Christians should be able to turn to the Bible to support their views. I realise that the Bible is not the full canon for LDS but the Bible is the crucial, fundamental word of God upon which Christianity is based. Are your beliefs supported by the Old and New Testaments of the Bible? If so, then there should never be any difficulty in quoting from the Bible in support of your beliefs. A tag like "scriptural-basis" or "canon-basis" is ambiguous. The "biblical-basis" tag on CSE is unambiguous.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 5 at 12:22
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    @Lesley I don't see the unambiguity. 'psalm-basis', 'torah-basis', 'gospels-basis' are also specific, but that doesn't change the fact that it limits the answerer to give an uncomplete response. pygosceles idea of 'common-ground' tag might be a better way. A few of the recent lds biblical-basis questions from my perspective are from those who continuous post anti lds rhetoric, in what I see as an attempt to discredit my beliefs. If I can only use half the alphabet to speak anything I say will be a lot less clear than if allowed full alphabet(canon).
    – depperm
    Commented Jan 5 at 12:42
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    I feel like a canon-based tag would allow all Christians to answer fully from their perspective, for most this is just the bible and would basically be the same as biblical-basis. It allows every denomination to use the necessary scriptures to explain their beliefs from the sources they rely on and it allows the questioner to see that this denomination has wider canon (whether this is a few extra books in the bible or additional scripture like the Book of Mormon).
    – depperm
    Commented Jan 5 at 12:47
  • could probably still keep biblical-basis for common beliefs or common-ground building questions, but canon-based might be clearer for denomination specific questions
    – depperm
    Commented Jan 5 at 12:49
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    If a tag such as 'lds-basis' was created, then anybody who wanted to know what the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants & Pearl of Great Price teaches, could be submitted in support of LDS beliefs. As for 'psalm-basis' Christians know that comes from the O.T. and 'gospel-basis' comes from the N.T. But 'canon-basis' begs the question, "Whose Canon?" Do we then need a tag for 'judaism-canon' or 'swedenborgian-canon' or 'bahai-canon'? Or 'roman-catholic-canon' or 'eastern-orthodox-canon' or 'protestant-canon'? Does Stack Exchange want to prohibit 'biblical-basis' questions and answers?
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 5 at 14:00
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    @depperm - Likewise with the proposed 'scriptural-basis' tag. Whose scriptures? Where will all of this end?
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 5 at 14:07
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – depperm
    Commented Jan 5 at 15:09

A complication arises when a question is asked of a particular denomination claiming that the Bible (which they accept as part of their canon) states XYZ, which they use as support for one of their beliefs. Such a question is not asking denomination members to explain why they have that particular belief. The OP is not wanting to know anything other than where, in the Bible, they can quote bits that state what they state.

Unfortunately, questions like this are often misunderstood as seeking the denomination's theological stance, which requires them using the whole gamut of their (extra-biblical) canon. No, not if the question is scoped clearly as to whether they can quote the Bible as proof. If that is all that is being asked for, that is all that should be answered. Such a question is not an "explain X" question. It asks, "Given X, where in the Bible can they point to as it stating X?"

Let me give an example, regarding an entirely different denomination to those mentioned by the OP. This one has this particular doctrine, as detailed in this imaginary question that might be posted:

Question: XYZ teaches that not every person who has ever died will be resurrected. [Quotes from some of their literature to prove this is, indeed, what the denomination holds to be doctrine.] Where in the Bible is this stated?

Now, some members of XYZ might take that as an invitation to launch into other quotations from their denominational canon of literature to prove that the first quotation was correct, and can be substantiated. However, if their quotes are merely interpretations by their leaders as to some Bible verses, and the Bible verses do not actually say that some people will never be resurrected on the Day of Judgment, they are abusing the question. The question never wanted to know anything other than which Bible verses actually state what the denomination claims. But some are taking it as a launching-pad to spell out the entire basis of their denomination's teaching. That was never asked for!

Now, before anyone jumps to wrong conclusions here, I am not asking that question! This is a hypothetical question, purely dreamed up by me right now for the purpose of illustrating my point, to show a complication that needs to be taken into account before any Stack policy is formed that would prohibit such a basically simple question.

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    I would say there is generally misunderstanding if question is asked of a particular denomination claiming that the Bible (which they accept as part of their canon) states XYZ, which they use as support for one of their belief would be similar to asking another denomination to use say song of solomon/psalms to support belief XYZ because they believe the bible. There could be support in said books, but all of a denominations beliefs are rarely found in one book (or select books specified). I would say restricting a denominations canon is abusing the site and the denomination
    – depperm
    Commented Jan 5 at 12:01
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    @depperm I disagree. I think it helps an honest inquirer to suss out whether a belief can be found within the canon the asker recognizes or is from a denomination's 'other' scriptures. If an individual abuses the process, which has precipitated this question, that is a moderator/stack-user issue and not the fault of the 'biblical-basis' tag, nor the biblical basis type question. Of course, increased sensitivity towards the various accepted biblical canons must be fostered. An appropriate answer to "Where in the bible is 'X' found?' can be "Nowhere in the biblical canon that we recognize". Commented Jan 5 at 13:58
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    say it is stack-user issue, issues can be caused by bad UI or clarity of terms. I think adding tags and clarifying existing tags would help in this. If you want to investigate a denominations perspective you should probably examine all their doctrine/sources, not just doctrine/sources you already accept, otherwise you don't learn much as you aren't being open to new ideas and you don't get the whole picture
    – depperm
    Commented Jan 5 at 15:14
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    @depperm And part of that process is discerning what parts of a perspective are within and without a particular canon. Editing tags will not remove belligerence. Commented Jan 5 at 15:40
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    @MikeBorden since the most recent question by the belligerent user in question received 6 upvotes despite its open hostility & lack of effort, this seems like more of a structural problem than a purely individual issue. If the site is willing to encourage bad behavior (e.g. awarding +46 reputation for a question that doesn't belong on this site; unwillingness to close said question), what would you propose to address this problem until such time as the site has the maturity to more consistently use biblical basis questions as you've described? Commented Jan 7 at 4:36
  • @MikeBorden PS that's not a "gotcha" question - I'm actually interested if you see a better solution. As depperm has clarified, nobody on the Meta post thinks we should eliminate the biblical basis tag, but can we scope it better? (E.g. I could imagine a hypothetical question asking what is the canon basis for this LDS belief, and to what extent is it dependent fully on restoration texts? - that would address both biblical basis & canon basis and I think it would be consistent with the vision that Ken Graham outlined) Commented Jan 7 at 4:41
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    @HoldToTheRod Adding a canon-basis tag would be fine. There's no need to scope biblical-basis differently. Commented Jan 7 at 15:28

Most (if not all) of the theologies represented on this site, although they may adhere to additional revelations, present the claim that the biblical texts are authoritative, and, even though there are differences in what is considered biblical canon there is far, far more agreement.

Additionally, most of the time the Biblical text is not disregarded but deemed incomplete or erroneous and the additional revelation is purported to correct or add to the biblical text in question using other scriptures. Therefore, these other scriptures are, in practice, applied to the Biblical text.

Predominantly, each of the additional revelations or clarifications in the scriptures of different theologies are additions to or clarifications of the biblical text therefore, if such a policy is to be instituted it is virtually imperative to allow 'biblical basis' questions to stand alone rather than lumping them into a 'scriptural basis' category which puts everything on the same level.

I see no problem in a tag directed towards the scriptures accepted by differing denominations so long as the biblical-basis tag remains; they should definitely be allowed and available for inquiry, since they often explain a particular take on the biblical text in question. But if we remove or obfuscate our only common reference point, I cannot imagine what we are doing here.

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    Whose Bible is the common reference point? Can we quote 1 Maccabees on a Biblical basis question? How about Song of Solomon & James? (in the Protestant Bible but rejected by some) Is 1 Clement in scope? (Printed in some Bibles today). How about the Shepherd of Hermas? (In some past Bibles). Eusebius or Athanasius canon? TR, critical text, western text? Or what about Jesus' Words Only or the Jesus Seminar text, cutting out much of the New Testament? A site this diverse lacks a single common reference point. Assuming that "Bible" = "Protestant Bible" seems to miss the point of this question. Commented Jan 4 at 18:22
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    @HoldToTheRod I do disagree. There is great value in finding common ground, in fact I believe intelligible discourse requires it. I recall a conversation between you and I where you happily exclaimed "We have found common ground!". Re 1 Maccabees, etc. Most biblical-basis questions I have seen make reference to a particular book and, if that book is not recognized within the canon of the target audience then that is the answer. Commented Jan 4 at 19:40
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    @HoldToTheRod I would not be opposed to language requiring the questioner's canon to be divulged in the question but to remove biblical-basis entirely is, I feel, a dreadful mistake. The Flying Spaghetti Monster lurks just outside the gates. Commented Jan 4 at 19:40
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    I likewise believe in the value of finding common ground, but this misses the point my prior comment makes. User1 & user2 probably have some common ground. User2 & user3 probably do too, but it may not be the same ground. But the question on main that I gather prompted this Meta discussion was not seeking common ground; it was seeking to mock people for believing something not explicitly taught in the asker's Bible. Since all Christians believe things not explicitly taught in their Bible, this tactic is hypocritical, and scorches what common ground may exist. Commented Jan 4 at 21:19
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    PS I didn't argue for eliminating the Biblical basis tag (though I see that others have); I'm suggesting that it has (sometimes) been used improperly. Asking an Egyptian Orthodox to argue everything they believe from my canon of scripture is question-begging. Commented Jan 4 at 21:28
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    not arguing for removal of biblical-basis, minimally it needs clarity. I think additional tags should be added
    – depperm
    Commented Jan 5 at 15:42

Maybe yes but probably no. I believe the answer could be yes if the sole intent is to avoid too much combativeness or to avoid inviting evangelism, because otherwise too many questions may be phrased as challenges of the form "Explain Belief X to me using only Scriptures that I accept, or presupposing that a viewpoint you don't hold is true". The problem I have with this isn't necessarily with the challenge itself, but that the question may lack transparency of intent for purposes of identifying the actual question and differentiating it from similar ones.

As pointed out using other examples in Hold To the Rod's answer, this is not unlike demanding that the followers of Moses justify everything they do and believe from something contained exclusively in the writings of Abraham, when God has called a new prophet to continue the pattern of revelation. The Lord even has some specific critiques targeted at this form of thinking. The resulting state is infinite fracture of Christendom as every denomination becomes a hypercritic of every other and engages far more in defensiveness rather than building bridges of understanding, which ought to be a primary purpose of question asking and answering.

I believe we ought completely to abandon contentious attitudes, while maintaining the full useful freedom of a marketplace of ideas. There are actually some interesting situations in which some of these types of challenges or invitations might be helpful and informative--although I am probably too new on the site to say for certain whether they fail to check some box of what the site is "about". What I will suggest is that the question (including the title) be phrased in such a way as to convey what belief system is being challenged or invited to be explained, and on what basis, with an urge towards greater transparency of intent (and ruthless edits until such parity and expression of intent is accomplished). An example of such coupling could be "How do members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints explain the age of accountability to Catholics?" or "How does denomination X justify Y from the Bible, [or from other sources]?" or "How do XYZs evangelize their doctrine of ABC to QRSes?". All of these questions are phrased so that both the matter to explain and the allowable basis or frame have been clearly established. This could be very fun and exciting, in fact, as we are incentivized come up with many and varied new interfaith connections to pose for answer, to gain information, to gauge persuasiveness and relevance, and of course to appreciate common ground. If the intent is to challenge a belief specifically from another belief system, this should be expressly stated in the appropriately qualified manner, for example, "How is baptism for the dead justified to a Methodist interpretation of Scripture?". (I suppose the "from" group needn't be completely specified if multiple groups understandably hold comparable versions of the belief. Just so long as it's clear.)

"Scriptural basis" is essentially a frame challenge to "Biblical basis" questions, which I think for their novelty and informativeness ought to be allowed generally, unless a specific viewpoint is specified. Biblical basis questions in general will continue to invite frame challenges owing to the expansion of canon among different groups. So far I have actually been rather edified to find additional evidences of doctrines that I had supposed were exclusively new revelations in more ancient texts, so I think the challenge is often worth our while, provided the one asking the question is transparent about the intent of the question. Such questions could be tagged as interfaith-evangelism, bridge-building or some such thing. That way, evangelistic answers will be far less surprising and the accepted and upvoted answers to the question will be seen for their evangelistic or common-ground value rather than turning it into a contest to try to get accepted authoritative answers to a misframed or misleading question designed to win reputation by subterfuge.

In short "explain X" questions should generally specify both "from whom" and "to whom", unless they are intended as overview questions with respect to origin or basis (or both), which I think are still exceedingly valuable. (General questions that can be answered from any faith perspective or as an overview I believe should also remain entirely open as such. Truth claims are among my favorites because the revelations excel at answering these.) I think much of the problem is that we often do not adequately appreciate the value systems of the parties invited to opine on a question relative to the value system being represented by the asker. It's consistently actually quite exciting to find pieces of my faith that overlap and can be explained very well to someone of a different faith background or value system. I routinely find things that fortify and inform my own faith in that process.

So I would vote "no" insofar as it would preclude questions that involve "Let faith X explain Y to Zs, or on a basis already accepted by Zs", since this is far more than just an accidental or odious niche of battlegrounds, but if phrased transparently, it can actually function as a vast bridge building and connection-forming topic space, provided we set that expectation and do our part to maintain it.

In short I think the answer is no. We mainly need to set the expectation that questions be transparently worded about what they are trying to accomplish and be diligent in upholding these expectations. There is nothing stopping us in general from creating a more broadly and inclusively or differently scoped version of a question once we have verified the asker's intent to fish for a more exclusively scoped answer, for which there are already numerous examples on this site.

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Yes, otherwise the answer may only be partial answer.

If someone asked a question and wanted only the torah or the gospels basis in the answer, there may be some basis from those select books, but it would probably only provide an incomplete view of the question at hand.

Maybe there would be a way to ask for a primarily-biblical-basis tag (or scriptural-basis/canon-basis), that wants mostly biblical basis but then allows for other scripture/sources to tie the answer together for a particular denomination's point of view.

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