Consensus on the site seems to have coalesced around the idea that "Truth Questions" are bad. Trying to get to a definition of a "Truth Question" is, of course, squishy, but generally is characterized by a question that seeks to understand what is "correct" as opposed to what is practiced by particular denominations.

By this logic, any "Is X a Sin?" question is off topic, but more generally any question that seeks to understand how "Christianity" "works" falls into the category.

Thus, "Do people go straight to heaven?" or "Did the flood cause X?" type questions should all, technically, be "Truth Questions."

I have no argument that Truth Questions are at minimum suspect - "Christianity" is very wide and many answers could be considered "right" depending on the denomination. By contrast, any question that is scoped denominationally "Do Catholics | Protestants | Sacred Mulestraps of the Amish Order think you go to heaven immediately?" is inherently more passive in construct and also inherently more answerable.

The question is, Is the categorization of "Truth" question inherently off-topic? And assuming they are off-topic, should this be a custom closure reason?

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This is an interesting -- and not so obvious -- issue. Generally the smell is so bad it just doesn't matter, but part of the current problem is that our answer standards aren't high enough to keep the smell down on that half of the equation either. If we could find a way to keep ourselves to higher answer standards, we might be able to break some ground on questions we currently can't handle without devolving into muck. I haven't voted on your answer yet because I'm torn between experience that tells me it's a bad plan and having some sympathies for the issue. I'm going to sleep on this one. –  Caleb May 8 '13 at 7:39

2 Answers 2

I'm going to go out on a limb and say they're inherently not constructive.

Sometimes I hate the fact that we can't point to a teaching and say "BEEP! Wrong. That's a heresy!" Some of the things people post are just flat-out wrong, according to what I believe. But there's the problem. I'm also wrong according to what they believe.

As I said in "Another reason this is not a Christian site":

Would you really want this to be the place for a potential converts or new believers to learn about Truth?

I wouldn't. Assuming that there is one Truth, this isn't the place to find it. We have many active users, all with different backgrounds and beliefs. Since this site is meant as a place for sharing ideas, any question a seeker asks will likely have many different answers, all of which the answerer thinks is the Truth. A seeker will find nothing but conflicting answers and confusion here. To avoid confusing people on topics that may have, as Christianity believes, eternal consequences, it's best to clarify that this site is not meant to be a place to find that kind of Truth.

This is above and beyond what you've asked, but I've been asked several times why I spend my time here if this isn't a site for Truth. I've been asked by several people why I would waste my time on a site that isn't promoting God's Truth, and worse, seems to have standards that make it easy for people to say "See, they can't agree on anything." At it's worst, visitors, true seekers could come her and see that we just don't agree on anything, and it can outright discourage them and leave them thinking there is no Truth. That weighs heavily on my mind, which is why I posted the "Another reason this is not a Christian site" post.

I'm going to share this as encouragement that this site, even thought it is not a Christian site, does still serve God's purpose.

I once hoped that this site would be a place to teach seekers Truth, but I gave it up a long time ago. Instead, I now see it as a site merely to learn what various groups teach. This is useful in two ways:

  • It allows me to hear perspectives I wouldn't normally hear preached. I can evaluate these perspectives, measure them against the plumb-line of God's word, and determine if there is cause to question what I believe if there is a conflict. This can either strengthen my faith in my current beliefs, or lead me to see God in a new light, and ensure that I'm not merely following dogmatic teachings.
  • It allows me to see what others teach, which is helpful in Apologetics and witnessing. How can I refute heresies if I don't understand the heresies? Thanks to this site, I can better understand these heretical teachings and refute them.

This site may not be winning non-believers to the Kingdom of God. And it may be discouraging some honest seekers, but it does have a purpose. Unfortunately, that purpose is simply not to be a source of Truth. The purpose is to be a source of information to equip us to better discern, understand, and teach the Truth.

Allowing Truth questions is just not constructive all around.

  • From a StackExchange guidelines perspective, it allows polling, debate, discussion, and makes it impossible tp get one correct answer, due to our inherent fallibility.
  • From a Kingdom of God perspective, it adds to confusion and is more likely to turn seekers away.
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this site turns seekers away most of the time anyways –  caseyr547 Jun 21 '13 at 2:59
    
there are multiple correct ways to make lasagna but i don't see the cooking se having a meltdown. –  caseyr547 Jun 21 '13 at 2:59
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@caseyr547 that's because no matter how poorly you make the lasagna, no one thinks you're going to burn eternally for it. Once you get into the realm of personal values and faith, things change. –  maj nem ɪz dæn Jul 16 '13 at 16:16
    
@Dan as long as we tell people they cannot express that it wont ever be a problem –  caseyr547 Jul 16 '13 at 23:44
    
@caseyr547 sorry, I'm not understanding your last statement. –  maj nem ɪz dæn Jul 17 '13 at 0:02
    
@Dan as long as people only thing "your going to hell" to askers and answers and they are not allowed to express it there will be no problem. People think your going to hell even as it is and people call people heretics as it is those posts are flagged and removed. –  caseyr547 Jul 17 '13 at 0:16
    
I think the other answer answers the question better, but +1 for making a good point. Stack Exchange sites are for experts, not new converts. Your reasons for using the site are expert reasons. Maybe a better name would've been Christian Theology SE. –  Eva Aug 29 '13 at 21:47

I know the "correct" answer is to say "Yes, they are off topic and should be closed immediately," but I don't like that answer.

You see, in declaring any such "Truth" question as off-topic, you are inherently making the claim that there is always an exception within "Christianity." At its widest definition, I agree that there is very little that Jehovah's Witness, Baptist, Catholic, LDS, Coptic, the "Christian Atheists" and David Koresh's followers all agree on.

But, Nicene Christianity has a lot that it does agree on. And, as established many times, Nicene Christianity is a pretty workable definition for what most people think of as Christianity. Yes, there are exceptions, and Yes, we define Christian as "any group that identifies itself as such." But there is still a lot of ground to be had under this label.

I would suggest that if broad consensus across Nicene Christianity can be had, and an answer can be posited. Many questions that are truth questions do have solid answers. Most of what is phrased along the lines of "Does the Bible really say X?" can be answered categorically ("Is Jesus God?" "Did Jesus really spend three days dead?" "What is the status of Old Testament Law?" etc....) from a Nicene perspective. For that category of question where interpretation divides ("Is Peter really the 'rock' upon which Christ built his church?"), the number of available interpretations is finite - usually even manageable.

As such, I think they still remain answerable. And, if they are answerable, I'd like the chance to answer them. I do not think myself alone in this.

To be sure - most questions can be enhanced by limiting to a particular denomination. And, many questions that assume a monolithic Christianity really are not that good. I am not arguing that we change our stance on that.

But I would argue that the lack of a denomination, or an attempt to understand what really is "True" is not inherently off-topic - only a bad question smell. A good answer can often correct a bad question, if given the chance to live.

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+1: Well said. Thanks. –  Jim G. May 12 '13 at 1:59
    
Obviously there are questions for which Nicene Christianity is an obvious and workable scope. We do handle these (often basic) questions with quite a bit degree of success. For these I think the solution is to just explicitly note that that is their scope. Unfortunately on issues of any specificity, that scope stops being constructive in a hurry, at which point a more specific framework needs to be identified in which the question will can be kept constructive. –  Caleb Jun 22 '13 at 9:39

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