What is a reasonable level of research and forethought for us as a community to expect from users prior to asking a question?

Often we will get a question and upon asking the OP to select a doctrinal perspective several identical questions will spawn from a single OP asking each asking for a different view point.

How much research should we ask an OP to do? I think that spawning 10 questions like this shows a lack of forethought and research into the question. You should look into the doctrinal options and come to the table looking for a specific doctrinal perspective.

How should we regulate strings of questions asking for multiple perspectives? What level or research should we ask for. Should the OP have to make an effort?

2 Answers 2


I wonder if instead of putting the onus on the question asker, the "expert" answer should be the one to identify any doctrinal stances. There is a heck of a lot of theology that can be done without narrowing down to any particular school of thought, and its really only as you get into fringes that you need to identify a school.

For example, on the question "Why does God need people to have faith in him?" you can already presume an Arminian answer. The Calvinist may be debating whether the person who "chose" was chosen ante previsa merita or post previsa merita, but the question is beyond the Calvinist because God doesn't need to bring someone who is already going to come.

Furthermore, it is wholly legitimate for someone to ask this question without knowing anything about predestination, free will, merits, or grace. Indeed, I would be surprised if someone who genuinely wanted to know the answer would be familiar with these things.

Now, a really good answer is a different story altogether. Where appropriate, an expert should frame the relevant the discussion in historically accepted schools of theology. It makes total sense for the answer to say something like

Assuming that people have free will,...

(implication: an Arminian soteriology). A great answer would actually include the term, relevant links to Wikipedia would be even better. That way, the questioner learns how to ask what the terms are.

A true expert should be able to answer complex questions simply, aware of who will and will not agree with him. (I don't mean to brag here, but occasionally you'll see me acknowledge an issue, but then say "I don't want to deal with that objection here.") Putting labels is good, being restrained in what you claim if you are assuming a broad consensus is even better.

And, again, I don't mean to brag, but I think you'll see I strive to introduce theological terms (like kenosis in this one) so that the questioner then has a basis to refine the thinking and see what others have thought of the matter.

If we want the site to attract experts, then it is the answers that should be expert. The more sophisticated the questions, obviously, the better the site can be, but I would be careful about closing questions that can be refined.

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    SE sites are not "Ask the experts" sites. They are intended for the exchange of Expert information. They are intended for high level answers AND questions. The idea is to have expert questions to attract expert answers. Not to have basic questions get expert answers.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 14:53
  • Really? I'm thinking with Stack Overflow, most of the questions are "How do I implement X?" Clearly, these are people who know how to code, but my have little to no experience in the exact technology they're asking about. (Heck, its hard enough for me to ask a question about MSBUILD without admitting that whilest I may know C#, I'm not an expert in MSBuild.) Likewise, a Christian may be an expert in his question without being an expert in soteriology. Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 16:16
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    In fact, if you are an expert, why are you asking the question in the first place? Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 16:17
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    Stack Overflow requires some effort on the part of the asker though. they have to at least have tried something. They can't just ask "give me the codez" which is what I see questions asking for all view points as doing.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 16:35

I don't think that this is a lack of research problem; it's an expectations problem. When you expect questions with a specific scope, and an asker expects general knowledge, then telling them to ask their question with a specific scope clashes with their expectations. Your rule does not get them the knowledge they're looking for, so they figure out a different way to get at it within the rules.

When a rule that is supposed to accomplish one thing starts being gamed in order to accomplish a different thing, that's generally a sign that there's a problem with the rule. The usual pattern is: "We want A, but it's difficult to formally define. But B is very much like A, and a lot easier to define, so we make a rule requiring B." And then people start exploiting the differences between A and B. So the question to ask is, what is A in this case? What are we really trying to achieve by asking for a narrow doctrinal scope on our questions?

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