We're a little bit different from other sites. Here's how:
1.We are not a forum!
In many sites on the web, participation of any kind is encouraged. Here, we have a very specific purpose – we encourage on-topic questions about what Christians believe, and we only want answers that actually answer the question. If you want to contribute in other ways, you might want to add a comment, or maybe ask another question, but please do not just “chime in.” We don’t mean to be unfriendly – we just are very strict about what we are doing here.
What Christianity.StackExchange is (and more importantly, what it isn't)
What makes a good focused question?
Tips for editing a question to make it suitable for re-opening
2. We are not a Christian Site!
Stack Exchange is a secular company run for secular reasons. Those of us who are participate are looking to learn more about Christianity, and this site provides a place to do just that – and you should read this article to understand what that means:
Brothers, we are not Christians‼
Christianity.SE vs. Survivor
Because we seek to be objective, open-minded, and liberal in our definition of "Christianity," we will often ask that you identify your perspective if you make a point that is not universal to all Nicene Christians.
Do you have to have an "identifiable perspective"?
3. We are not able to answer your personal situations!
As Christians, we really want to help people – but as any EMT can tell you, sometimes, where there is an injury, applying immediate care can cause more harm than good. No doctor worth his salt would try to “cure” a person he hasn’t seen. As such, our policy is not to answer 'pastoral care questions' You have deep and real questions. You need a pastor, not some random people on the internet. We’re happy to pray for you, but please, you are too valuable to be “fixed” by anyone you don’t know.
But can't I just say one thing?
4. We care about Description not Prescription - more about Theology than "Truth"!
We are a seminary, not a church! We are interested in questions about Christian doctrine and practice, not “Truth”. We want to know how things are and have been - what they should be is your concern.
Imagine being observed by a bunch of professors who know the Bible, but don't necessarily believe it. That is you audience- even if many of us are believers. In seminary, "Truth" is often less important than how you arrive at it. That is not to say that Truth isn't important (indeed, those of us who are believers are very concerned about Truth in our lives!)- it just is secondary to scholarship in this context. We make the Internet a better place by bringing rigorous scholarship to bear on the real questions people have about the Bible and the Church.
Another reason this is not a Christian site
Are truth questions inherently off-topic, or just a bad question smell?
5. We are interested in facts, not opinions!
Christianity.SE is all about asking genuine questions about Scripture, Tradition, and Practice of Christianity in all it's forms. It's about being able to show off when you know what the right answer is, proving it using any or all of the traditional four sources of theology, and perhaps most importantly presenting it in a clear, convincing fashion.
We know that many people assume all religion is just opinion – but even within religion, there are sourceable facts (e.g. doctrinal positions, historical events, and appeals to recognized authorities) that differ from private opinion.
What is a well-sourced, dispassionate answer?
6. We are concerned with all groups that are “Christians,” but that doesn’t mean we concerned about “What you think”!
As Christians, we are so accustomed to Bible Studies in which you are asked “What do you think?” that you may be surprised there is anything else. "What you think" is valuable, but it's not what we do here. We want to know what groups of people think - not what you found interesting. If you know the difference between eisegesis and exegesis, you will understand why we don't particularly care about what is a novel way of thinking. As Charles Spurgeon said, "I hope I said nothing new, only arranged it in a better way"
Indeed, if you’ve ever visited a different kind of church, you may be amazed at who calls themselves Christian. Here, we don’t really care about what you think (see above) – we care what whole groups of people think. Learning to see from a perspective that is different often opens us up to be more effective at ministering outside of “us.”
What are guidelines for "Good Subjective" answers on this site?
What is the minimum bar for a "group" (sect / denomination / etc..)?
7. We care about learning, not preaching.
If you are here to convince someone of your point of view, you are in the wrong place.
Stack Exchange sites are based on a question and answer model. We like questions to be just that - honest questions that seek to enhance one's knowledge. Answers are intended to be dispassionate, logical, and illustrative of what Christians think. If your goal in writing an answer or a question is to "make a point," then sadly, you've missed the point of this site!
In the end, most of us believe that each of us is able to make up his or her own mind about a thing. Two thousand years of robust argument has not resolved every dispute within the church. There are positions which are mutually incompatible, there are demonstrably wrong "facts," and there is such a thing as "truth." But, there is also such a thing as opinion. If, as Paul stated, the church is a body composed of different members, then it is also true that those members can have different outlooks on some matters.
We encourage people to vote for the degree to which an answer is faithful to the position for which it stands. Jehovah's Witness and LDS churches here in particular are a common example of where an answer may seem "wrong" to more mainstream perspectives. As an example, an unlabelled answer that uses say, The New World Translation (a Jehovah's Witness translation of the Bible) to prove that Jesus was merely a god by citing John 1:1, would be factually incorrect. "Christians" do not believe that Jesus was only one god of many. Absent the perspective, "Christians" would be the assumed subject, and "Christians" by and large reject that translation. On the other hand, simply by prefacing the answer with "Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus was merely a god because ..." should be marked up. It factually represents those for whom it intends to speak.
We are not here to convince anyone of anything by our writings alone. We are here to describe what is and promote learning.
How should we address "convince me" questions?
Refute this vs Why do they believe this?
Should we avoid "refute this"-type questions?
8. We are actually happy you’re here!
Let’s face it – this isn’t your average “Christian” site. Here we concentrate on facts, not feelings, and so sometimes it is very easy to get offended. That is not our aim, and we apologize if you are.
And, straight up, we know that we are sinners. And sometimes, we will not be showing our best sides. When we screw up, when we are unwelcome, we are sorry.
The point here is that we are different, and sometimes it takes a little bit of a paradigm shift to adapt. Trust me, every student who enters seminary feels that way at some point. Having your assumptions challenged, your motives questioned, and your wisdom spurned is not pleasant – but as Hebrews says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
This how we grow – how we truly consume the meat of the Word, and not just milk. We do love that you are here. You just may be surprised at how that love is manifested.