6

Proposal: Biblical Hermeneutics looks like it's explicitly about Christianity, and I believe it would be best merged with the Christianity proposal.

Although honestly, I'd probably prefer to see a more generalized Religion SE site.

  • So, the merge has been accepted. What's the next step? – Ray May 17 '11 at 16:52
  • I think a merge proposal ought to include reasons for merging two topics besides that one is a subset on another. (In this case, the topics overlap, but hermeneutics need not be Christian even if it is limited to the Bible.) I can not imagine the horror of a generalized Religion site. ;-) – Jon Ericson May 28 '11 at 0:23
  • 1
    @Jon: The SE platform is intended for questions and answers, not worship, discussion, or proselytizing. I can't see why there would be a problem with an all-encompassing Religion site. As for hermeneutics not needing to be Christian, that's probably fair, but this specific proposal does specifically mention "Christian scripture" in it's scope, and I don't really see how "we need Christianity so no Muslims come and answer questions" is any different than "this site's for Christian hermeneutics so no Jews comes and answer questions." – Wooble May 28 '11 at 10:39
  • @Wooble: Some things are used in ways they were not originally intended. If you follow the Socratic school of philosophy, all human discussion boils down to a series of questions and answers. That may very well include worship and, yes, proselytizing. As my answer to your question shows, a narrower topic, such as careful study of texts shared by all of the West's monotheistic religions, may actually attract a broader audience than a broad topic. If you look at academics who teach and research in the field, you might be surprised how many non-Christians study the Bible. – Jon Ericson May 31 '11 at 16:44
  • @Wooble: To address a point you implicitly made, a Q&A site needs an objective set of standards in order to function and remain on topic. For a hermeneutics site, the standards are confined by the rules of interpretation and the texts the group has chosen to study. In that environment, an Islamic Imam would be on the same playing field as a Jewish Rabbi even if both are contending over the meaning of a New Testament passage. A general religion site would need, but not have at hand, a set of standards that all (or most) could agree to. I doubt such a set truly exists. – Jon Ericson May 31 '11 at 17:18
20

Being the one who proposed the Hermeneutics site, I can't immediately think of any reason not to merge it with Christianity. Just as long as people understand that Hermeneutical questions deal with objective reading and not traditions or extra-canonical teachings.

  • 8
    As the proposer of the Christianity site, I wholeheartedly agree. Indeed, I am very keen on your caveat:that Hermeneutical questions are answered based on objective readng. – Kramii Reinstate Monica Jan 29 '11 at 22:02
  • 11
    We should also consider merging Orthodox Christianity, Evangelical Christianity, and Catholicism to Christianity. These proposals are becoming as fractured as Christianity itself! – Jaime Soto Jan 31 '11 at 21:46
  • @Jamie: I do agree. However, I also understand the tension between people who want to live out a particular interpretation of their faith because it is true and those who want to broaden their understanding about that interpretation. I'd like to think that both can co-exist in a single site... – Kramii Reinstate Monica Feb 1 '11 at 13:22
  • 3
    Instead of merging everything, isn't it wiser to let the proposals run their course? If one proposal does not get enough backing won't it die out anyways? I would love to have a separate area to discuss biblical hermaneutics and one for Christianity and one for religion and one for philosophy and one for metaphysics and one for each denomination and on – Joshua Robison Feb 20 '11 at 17:15
  • 2
    @Joshua: If the different sites are not merged, they will remain as small proposals supported by the people that have interest in the different fractions, instead of everyone supporting one common Christianity proposal. This will result in many small proposals where none of them makes it to a public site. If the proposals are merged, it might be a chance that the Cristianity site will make it to a public site. – awe Feb 22 '11 at 11:48
  • @Awe: I see what you mean. That makes sense. – Joshua Robison Feb 22 '11 at 18:16
  • 1
    @Jonathan: I totally agree with your answer. That is exactly the reason why it's not such a good idea to merge them. Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation of any text, often involving translation but not necessarily. Biblical Hermeneutics is an attempt to place the rules of hermeneutics on the Bible. This cuts out a lot of questions that would fall into the religion or Christianity category. Such as: "what do baptists believe about infant baptism?" – Joshua Robison Feb 22 '11 at 18:22
  • Objective reading? There's quite a presupposition there. Much (most?) of Biblical Hermeneutics denies the validity, or even possibility, of objective readings. – Ray Feb 24 '11 at 2:19
  • 2
    Ray, when thinking of "objective" and "subjective," we need to think of "more objective" and "less objective." Scholars in Biblical hermeneutics practically never deny that interpretations can be judged to be more and less objective. There are just as many reasons to judge that "The tomb was empty" does not mean: "I like peanut butter sandwiches" as to judge any other linguistic statement found within a rich context. – James Apr 18 '11 at 13:39
  • 1
    I would not commit to a generalized Christianity site, though I am interested in this topic. – Jon Ericson May 28 '11 at 0:20
21

I think the sites should not be merged

With the current definition limiting it to Christian Scriptures, the site is of interest to Christians and Jews alike.

If merged with Christianity:

  1. The substance of the exegesis will be fundamentally theological in nature and tied to a specific religious tradition
  2. There will be overlap between the Christianity site and the Judaism site on this topic

Disclaimer: I happen to be Jewish

  • 3
    @Amichai After seeing your point, I have to agree. Without Jewish interest, a lot of the Christian Scriptures would remain unintelligible. – Sampson Feb 14 '11 at 18:55
  • 3
    Furthermore, the chances of the BH site being Q&A focussed seem to be higher than for the general Christianity site. – Charles Stewart Feb 16 '11 at 9:24
  • With the current definition limiting it to Christian scriptures, I can't imagine that you'll get a lot of Jewish participation. How do you see that working? – Monica Cellio Jun 20 '11 at 0:38
  • 1
    @Monica, not only do the Christian scriptures include the Jewish books of the law and of the prophets, but much of the NT consists of references to Jewish religious writings. I can't see any reason for Jews to feel excluded from discussions about these. – Ben Voigt Jul 1 '11 at 0:04
  • 2
    @Beb Voigt, wouldn't the different "givens", including acceptable and unacceptable sources, hinder this greatly? Every time I've encountered inter-faith bible study it's fallen down on assumptions about predictors of Jesus in the Tanakh. I'm not trying to be a nay-sayer here; I just want to understand how this would work here. Can you, for instance, point me to a forum where Christians and Jews (and Muslims if you like) discuss the Tanakh without one group dominating? – Monica Cellio Jul 3 '11 at 21:55
  • 1
    As it turns out, on BH it is somewhere between very hard & impossible for evangelical Christians to set aside their doctrinal presumptions & religious imperative to convert people and just focus on the text. (They may not, in general, have been taught rigorous analytical skills like some other groups are; folks w/academic backgrounds do fine regardless of their faith.) It's very hard for Jews, scientists, & even orthodox Christians to participate there without getting bombarded by assertions of faith where answers should be. It is, in the end, a Christian site and should be labeled as such. – Monica Cellio May 9 '14 at 13:57
9

As someone involved in planning sites for virtual communities (and a Christian), I think it's more likely for a more-specific site on Biblical hermeneutics to succeed than a more general one about Christianity.

One profound difference between Stackoverflow (Programming) and a site about Christianity is the great deal of advocacy around Christian topics. We could end up being a "walled garden" of a few bickering users from various viewpoints. As an Anglican, I see how, e.g., at Wikipedia, many Anglican articles are of very low quality, due largely to the intense advocacy around issues in the Communion around sex issues. As a result, many of the Wikipedia articles on contemporary Anglican issues are highly misleading, and those who are well-informed about contemporary Anglican issues don't seem to be contributing much.

On the other hand, Wikipedia does have quite a few articles which are of good quality for Christianity in general; so my remark here must be qualified.

An advantage of Biblical hermeneutics is we have some good potential guidelines. E.g., "We are discussing primarily what the Bible says, and not primarily whether or not it is true." Atheists and persons from other religions are warmly encouraged to take part; but on this limited issue (and thus, temporarily putting aside the question: "is the Bible relevant to us today, should we take it seriously?").

If we are to succeed with the site, we need to draw quite a few well-informed "experts" who have been dealing with these topics for decades, and are willing to invest time in writing answers. I think we're more likely to attract them if the topic here is narrower; and that we're more likely to have bickering-type threads, dissuading everyone except for the die-hard activists.

It's also worth having a look at what user @mfg had to say in his participation on the Atheism Q&A - he noted that people in Atheism were often distracted by commenting a lot on hot-button questions: "Without clear, concise questions that yield answers, and people participating via answers rather than comments (where bad responses can be voted on their merits), the site will stall half way through beta" (from Christianity: Are Rational Questions Allowed?). I'm not so worried about not having enough questions ... I'm more worried about the quality of the questions. I think this might result in a site with enough traffic to get through the beta, but where few are really happy about the resulting site. For a topic as big as Christianity ... it's worth having this site done well, a good resource for all parties concerned ("for," "against," and neutral).

It's possible that a general Christianity site could succeed, at a later stage - but only after we have a good, quality site on Biblical hermeneutics, which helps establish our reputation amongst Christians who are both articulate and informed. If we don't first establish ourselves somehow, I think we'd likely end up becoming something like christianity.about.com - not very significant, with mostly rather polarized views that aren't interacting very much (my rather uninformed perception of christianity.about.com).

What Amichai here says is also interesting - that Biblical hermeneutics would be interesting to Jewish users. The Bible is one of the most important instruments of ecumenism, holding Trinitarian Christian churches together - all Trinitarian Christian churches uphold a high sense of its authority (e.g., Anglicans uphold it as the rule and ultimate standard of faith). Only in the last 50 years or so have different churches been rather intensely engaging one another on their understandings of scripture, which has generally had positive effects on ecumenism and Christian unity. E.g., we see Catholic theologians intensely interested in N.T. Wright.

As someone who has been informally teaching Biblical hermeneutics for many years (by leading Bible studies where the issue of interpretation is always a high priority, where we sometimes discuss the influences on hermeneutics of people like Schleiermacher and Gadamer), when I visit Web 2.0-style sites with lots of user-submitted content, I frequently think: "There are quite a few people here who don't know the topic as well as they think they do," and I go somewhere else. Having a more specific topic here, I think, would help cultivate the better-informed users, and provide a better basis for voting on questions and answers.

So I think it makes sense that the first site StackExchange does on Christianity would center on specific discussion of the Bible. This is, after all, when it comes to Christian theology and practice, where it all comes from (tradition and reason of course given their appropriate roles - but then again, in interaction with Scripture). If we are able to attract users who are highly knowledgeable about the Scripture - probably first amongst those who believe in the authority of Scripture - we may also eventually be able to attract quality interpreters of the Bible who do not believe in the authority of Scripture, and are able to provide a meaningful and well-reasoned counter-point.

5

I lead a small Bible study that uses the inductive method and I find that non-Christians, marginal Christians, and even skeptics are interested in understanding what the Bible says quite apart from what Christians over the years believe that it says. In other words, people often search for meaning in the scriptures before they search for meaning in the Church if ever. (I should point out that Church tradition and the Bible usually agree.)

Biblical Hermeneutics, as I've come to understand, turns out to be a very technical topic not dissimilar from programming (at least the debugging side) or historical research. As James pointed out, serious study topics tend to work out better for Q&A sites than broad topics. There's a stark difference between, for instance, blogs that cover textual criticism on the one hand, and general Christianity on the other. I suspect that a Christianity site would break down into sloppy appeals to authority (which no two people agree on), random flames (from all sides), non-sequitur comments, and so on. No thanks!

Now I know this style will drive away a lot of people. (My Bible study stays small for a reason.) Even so, those who stick around will be more actively engaged asking and answering good questions than in some sort of free-for-all. Personally, I look forward to hearing dissenting viewpoints since often they either a) refine the position I already hold, or b) bring me around to another, better understanding of a passage. I'd love to ask questions on a Hermeneutics site in addition to answering them.

3

With the current definition limiting it to Christian Scriptures, it should. But if the definition were changed, it could involve other faiths, such as Judaism and Islam, in the discussions. Then it wouldn't be part of Christianity.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .