This is an attempt at discussing what manifestations of Christianity are the subject of study for this site. I'm throwing stuff out for discussion. I also realize that may / will probably conflict with the existing site definition that "A Christian is someone who claims to be."

I am not intending to "Vote people off the island." In fact, my real objective is to allow for MORE input by helping everybody to know who is speaking for whom. I want the "not me" perspective to write, and be judged according to that perspective, not mine.

I actually don't care who is or who is not a Christian. That's for God to decide, not me.

What I do care about is narrowing the scope to Christian perspectives that are noteworthy subjects of academic study.

This is an attempt that ultimately, I'd love to see in FAQ if we agree, but I want to be clear. THIS IS FOR DISCUSSION ONLY!!!

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See also: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/4200/… –  Waggers May 9 '13 at 13:15
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up vote 9 down vote accepted

First off, remember that the working definition of a Christian for purposes of this site is "any group that self-identifies as such." In defining 'mainstream' Christianity, we are not attempting to to say who is or who is not a Christian.

What we are trying to do is differentiate between the belief of an individual (which is not a scholarly pursuit) from those historical groups of Christianity which are the subject of of scholarly study. We are seeking to cover as wide a spectrum of Christianity as possible, and we actively solicit from as many recognized manifestations of Christianity as possible.

What we are attempting to do is to arrive at a reference for people interested in "Christianity." What we're not interested in is klatsching about "What I think". This is a seminary, not a church; a scholarly reference site, not Quora or a discussion forum.

That said, the most widely recognized types of Christianity, are Nicene:

Less widely known but still equally as on-topic are Non-Nicene, Non-Chalcedonian and "other" Christians. When answering from these perspectives, it is helpful to identify the denominational perspective, in order that less educated readers would understand that Christianity is perhaps broader than originally assumed:

In the "definately requires sourcing" would be sects that have had brief histories or very, very limited followings:

When referencing groups such as this, it should be abundantly clear that these are not "mainstream," but because they self-identified as Christian, are in some instances used to round out an answer. Answers that would be this "peculiar" (theologically novel) must recognize that they are not representative of the mainstream.

May I answer from other Christian perspectives?

Sure! In fact, PLEASE DO!

We invite anyone who either self-identifies as a Christian or proports to answer for a Christian perspective to participate. For education clarity, however, please identify what strain of Christianity is being represented, especially if it is a less well-known one. We do not wish to suppress - only clarify.

What about "groups" of one? Why can't I just tell you what I think?

In the same way that Wikipedia has a requirement of 'notability,' so too does Christianity.StackExchange. Not to be harsh, but experts rarely care what "you" think. Its not that "you" are not important, nor is it that "you" are wrong. Simply put, "you" have a limited timespan, and limited effect. If "you" publish something or are recognized as an expert, then "you" will have more importance.

As such, we have a minimum bar for notability - and its amazingly low. We invite you to post your theology on your own blog. If you can show that your perspective can pass muster of two third-party references, feel free to include it when "all perspectives" are welcome. Beyond that, however, we kindly request that you honor our guidelines that this site seeks to understand the norms and practices of Christian groups not individuals.

Please Note: Our best practice guidelines suggest that questions should identify the perspective desired - e.g. What do Catholics | Baptists | Millerites | LDS believe about X?" and in that instance "you" would clearly not be germane to that discussion. If someone asks why Catholics believe Jesus to be the second person of the Trinity, rants about why the Trinity is bad doctrine are not relevant. Likewise, if someone asks why Mormons have additional Scripture, an evangelical posting that one should neither "add to nor subtract from Scripture" is, frankly, not welcome - no matter how fervantly you might believe it.

What about Mulsims? Or Hindus? Or Atheists?

This is not a Christian site, but this is a site for Christian experts. We are not here to debate the "truth" of Christianity - we are here to better understand the spectrum of Christian belief.

Do Muslims have some influence on that? Sometimes, yes, but never if its belligerent or insulting. Look at the respect members of C.SE have when posing questions on Islam.SE, and consider carefully if you are doing the same. In general, Islam does not claim to be Christian. As such, Muslims, and any other religion that does not seek to identify itself as Christian should understand they are guests in this place. Received hospitably, to be sure, but guests nonetheless. Answers need to identify their perspective, and if they don't purport to be Christian, really are subject to deletion.

We actively encourage good questions from any perspective, but we would suggest a simple motivational check before asking. With any question, you should be asking yourself, "Why am I asking this question?" If the answer is "To make a point," please use your own blog. If the answer is "So I can learn," ask away!

What if I neglect to mention the Christian perspective I am representing?

When the average person speaks of Christianity in the West, they are probably assuming at least a Chalcedonian Christianity, and depending on the country probably either Roman Catholicism or a Protestant mainline denomination. In the United States, for example, of the 82% of the population that self-identifies as Christian, 80% (=97.5% of Christians) subscribes to a Chalcedonian perspective. To the average reader, that is Christianity. We do not want to silence the other 2%, but we also don't want to misinform either.

There's a simple solution - identify your perspective.

If you don't, most people will assume you are speaking for some part of that "mainstream" Christianity. If your view doesn't reflect that AND IS NOT LABELLED AS SUCH, then one can mark it 'wrong' by comparing it to that perspective. If it isn't speaking for that perspective, it must be judged 'right' or 'wrong' according to the perspective for which it claims to speak.

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.

Conversely, one can say that Christians believe the Bible to be God's revelation to man. Mormons might add that they believe God had further revelation, but to say that Christians believe the Bible accurately describes Christian practice.

We encourage all perspectives. We also encourage good scholarship. Place a denominational perspective in context.

Is there such a thing as "Christian Atheism?"

Yes, but don't expect to be representative of the mainstream. If you are answering from this perspective, please call it out as such.

Do I have to be a Christian to answer?

No. In fact, many secular theologians have contributed greatly to the conversation, both on this site and in the wider academic world. We expect all answers to be respectful, but we do not expect any answers to be holy.

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Very useful post. In terms providing common terms that we can understand in discussing a subject this provides valuable guidance that is hard to find elsewhere. I also prefer that a person identify their self-made label in the 'about me' section of their user tag. I sometimes have to read a dozen answers from someone only to realize they are a a certain brand but hiding it well. Its only fair when providing an answer to let the person know what bias you hold and believe. Of course people will disagree but just my preference. It keeps everybody honest and better understood. –  Mike Sep 4 '12 at 4:42
    
Just to mention, Muslims accept Jesus as the Christ. So, in absolute literal sense, they are christian too! –  Gulshan Jun 10 '13 at 13:38
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There is no reason to "[narrow] the scope to Christian perspectives that are noteworthy subjects of academic study." If someone who asks a question only wants answers from those perspectives, they're free to do so--and answers from other perspectives would then be off-topic, unless they can somehow seriously illuminate a more on-topic perspective. But if someone wants an answer from any Christian perspective, or specifically is interested in extreme minority positions (including positions from a minority of one), there is no valid reason to prohibit such questions or to prohibit those who can provide relevant answers from doing so.

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