15

It has been several times quite a problem for me here. I would have one particular matter (a doctrine or a verse from the Bible) that I would want to know how it is viewed upon in different sectors of Christianity. So, if I asked such question I would be rebuked for asking too broad a question and not specifying the tradition in it. However, if I split my question into several similar ones - each one for one particular tradition, yet considering the same original subject-matter - I would then either not be able to ask those questions at all as the system would not allow them as duplicates or the community for some reason would still not be happy about it. So, how should I go about such cases?

11

Asking an overview question

It is possible to ask for an overview of the beliefs of multiple traditions, but you must specifically ask for this.

In the past when you have asked questions that were "too broad" or "not constructive" it is usually because you asked a question as if you were looking for one right answer on the issue.

  1. If you are looking for what the belief is on an issue, you must scope it with a tradition or doctrinal perspective.

  2. If you would like an overview of what the possible positions are you must specifically ask for that.

What does an overview question look like?

Compare these examples:

  1. What is the truth about issue Z?
  2. What different beliefs about Z are there and who holds them?
  3. How do people who believe X about Z explain verse A?

Question ① is going to get closed as non-constructive. It is going to cause a poll of the community where everybody pitches in their belief as best they can explain and people end up voting on positions they agree with. We learned the hard way that was messy and unproductive for this site.

Example ② is different. It might be too broad if Z is a big topic and there are 50 views on it, but if it is a reasonably focused issue and there are only a handful of positions, somebody who is knowledgeable on the issue (we are a site for experts) could step in and provide a well rounded overview such as "The major two views are X which states xxx and Y which states yyy. Several variants of X exist around the side issue W. Position X is usually held in churches Q and R, while S churches official hold to position Y. The theologians who first wrote about each position where G and H..." and so on. Without defending one view as correct, they could show what the various views are held by profession Christian groups. It is easy to judge with some objectivity whether an answer to this kind of question is helpful and covers all the bases even without being an expert in the individual views.

Question ③ would be a follow up when you wanted more in depth analysis of a specific position. It is unreasonable to expect this kind of depth in an overview answer that has to cover many traditions. Answering what beliefs exist is very different than giving a defense of them and requires a different kind of expert. This kind of detailed question should not be mixed with a scope that is too broad (i.e. covers more than one position or tradition). Answers in this category are usually best judged by people who actually hold or have specifically studied a particular belief.

5

There is now also an overview tag (currently under-used). Because of the tendency for people to ignore a single request for an overview (particularly if it's buried in the body) and instead gravitate towards their own preferred perspective, I recommend including the word overview in title, body and tag to make it as obvious as possible.

  • 3
    I often find myself noting to close voters in the comments that it's an overview question and then I edit the question to make that part bold. – 3961 Aug 1 '15 at 4:58
  • What is the value of the "overview" tag? I can't imagine anyone using it for notifications/favorites/ignored. Plus, it will push out subject-based tags when we approach the five-tag limit. – Nathaniel is protesting Aug 3 '15 at 19:25
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    @Nathaniel I tend to agree, I think, but I can conceive of one use: You're new to Christianity and questions tagged overview will give you basics on various beliefs. I believe that most of the tagging gurus (explicitly, I am not one) would say that tags should be able to stand on their own and mean something to the question's topic, not the type of question that it is. Personally, that seems like a subjective metric to me. – 3961 Aug 5 '15 at 18:58
  • Here's a better argument I've stumbled upon: blog.stackexchange.com/2010/08/the-death-of-meta-tags – Nathaniel is protesting Aug 12 '15 at 18:36

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