Proposal: Bible Applications is already covered by

How does this proposal aim to be any different or worthy of its own site?


Before the Christianity site opened, I argued:

I believe that either the site would need to establish a framework for answering questions or the questioner must provide a framework that they would agree to. For instance, the Greater Catechism asks:

Q: How know you [the Bible] to be the word of God?

A: By the testimony of God’s Spirit, working faith in my heart to close with that heavenly majesty, and clear divine truth, that shineth in them.

For some, the authority that answer appeals to is valid and for others, it isn't. But within it's own framework, it's a valid answer.

That community eventually agreed that questions should indicate what doctrinal tradition they are asking about. Because there are traditions that look toward the Bible alone for answers, the community created a [biblical-basis] tag. I believe the example questions here could be asked under that tag.

I decided to verify my assumption by looking to see if these questions have already been asked. I did find Where does the Bible say to read itself? which was closed as off-topic. Part of the problem is that it was part of the verse ID problem:

Generally, I think that questions that are asking us to either prove something doesn't exist OR simply provide a link to the fact that it does exist are not very good questions and should probably be heavily discouraged.

It seems to me this proposed site would take the other solution I suggested: "establish a framework for answering questions". There wouldn't be a [biblical-basis] tag because all questions would fall into that category. And yet, I believe that's not enough. Years of experience with the [biblical-basis] tag led me to assert:

I used to think there was some utility in asking Bible questions here if you wanted to know the Christian interpretation. But then I started reading questions and answers tagged [bible] and [biblical-basis]. I find far more diversity in answers than I expected. And, laying the cards on the table, I find that many of the answers are lined up against millenia of scholarship of the Scripture. Since many of these answers don't cite sources, I gotta assume they are personal interpretations. The exceptions are usually: a) Catholic answers or b) from people I recognize on the Biblical Hermeneutics site.

Not long ago I saw a video of a politician arguing for change in voting laws. As an aside, they quoted 2 Peter 1:10:

Therefore, brothers, be zealous even more to make your calling and election secure, because if you do these things, you will never ever stumble.

The politician followed up:

Isn't it wonderful that the Bible tells us to "make our elections secure"?

(This is paraphrased because I can't find the video anymore.)

If this proposal becomes a site, how would this sort of interpretation be handled? The Biblical Hermeneutics community would point out that "election" doesn't mean a democratic process in this context, but a divine choosing of specific people. The Christianity site would want to know which tradition interprets that passage to be about democracy. (The Judaism site would have nothing to say about this passage, but if it did, it would under the [purim-torah-in-jest] tag.)

In my opinion, either questions that would be on-topic for this proposal would also be on-topic on one of the other sites about the Bible or would be very poor questions for a Stack Exchange site.

  • 2
    I'm a little ambivalent as to whether this site should exist because I generally see the "Bible Questions" as subjective kludgefests that I have to over-moderate and spend hours explaining why the Truth is your opinion without belying my Catholic sensibilities. I see this site as the outlet for those questions, they come with such rapidity that I can't help but think they need an outlet. If this site is is sola scriptura.se then I'd be as much in favor of it as that Catholic Culture site you though I should start ages ago. But if it's anything else, I don't much care if we close it. Nov 24 at 19:07
  • "Because there are traditions that look toward the Bible alone for answers, the community created a [biblical-basis] tag." That's not really the purpose of the Biblical basis tag... the biggest co-tag with biblical-basis is Catholicism after all! Nov 24 at 23:45
  • Hi Jon As a battle-scarred and honored veteran of the faith in the cyber arena, your opinions are greatly respected. I responded in a separate answer. Nov 25 at 7:48

I help moderate Christianity.SE and I've been on there as long as you have Warren. I think you know that these questions are the kinds we uniformly close. This site is more like Mi Yodea for Protestants where the Bible + Intellect takes the place of the Talmud.

The real problem is, who are the experts? (I don't think you're required to say this in the tagline on area51, so I'd leave it out)

So I'd think of this site more as a duplicate for Interpersonal Skills, Parenting, Worldbuilding or Lifehacks with a Protestant Christian worldview.

If the title can be changed, I's change it to:

Christian Scripture Study

Proposed Q&A site for people interested how Biblical principles can be applied to everyday life.

and leave it at that. We know that every single one of those questions is off topic at Christianity.SE and BH.SE, it doesn't necessarily need to include Jewish questions because many practical questions are topical on Mi Yodea.

I did try starting a site like this for Catholics a few years ago and it didn't take off (it also didn't get scrutinized very much).

Robert Cartiano (of happy memory) put the kibosh on all future religion sites a long time ago, but since he's not around any more I guess this one might have some legs? I certainly hope so. It would reduce the effort for Christianity.SE mods while giving people with real, practical questions a place to go ask them.

If possible, I'd like to see this opened to Catholics and Orthodox as well. The problem with sola scriptura religions is that we believe that only authentic interpretations coming from the top are worth listening to, it doesn't mean we don't need advice. If it were opened to inspiration from the the lives of the saints and modern thinkers (i.e. C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton) I would be even more emphatically on board.

  • 2
    You're right that this site proposal is much more like interpersonal skills or parenting - most of the questions will be subjective, and not attempting to find objectivity like the other Bible sites. Now subjectivity has its audience, as seen by the success of those sites. I can barely stand them personally though, haha. Nov 24 at 23:49
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    But I think this site will be very different from them: people on the other subjective sites, even when there are different approaches, don't come to them in preestablished and antagonistic camps. What I think is missing in this proposal so far is any awareness of how many conflicts there will be, and what should be done to keep the peace. Nov 24 at 23:50
  • Hi Peter, GratefulDisciple brought you to my attention early in the process and it is a huge boon to have someone with your experience and expertise (one of the original “rocks” upon which Christianity.SE was built :) helping to launch this. To not clutter up the comments section, I'll answer separately. 2 days ago
  • Purely subjective/speculative questions should be closed in general ... because they can't really be "answered" (they can be opined over, but that's different). Tagging a "Biblical Application" question appropriately on Christianity.SE (because the way a Catholic would answer vs a Methodist is often going to be different) isn't especially difficult...is it?
    – warren
    2 days ago
  • @warren It's hard to argue that point without a specific example. You may consider someone's burning question to be subjective when all they want to know is what the Bible says on something. Certainly the answers must be based on objective biblical truth. What about the masses that don't care how a Catholic or a Methodist or a Pentecostal would answer their question. What are you willing to offer them? They just want someone with some education and experience with the Bible to utilize reason, scripture, and hopefully divine inspiration to give a reason for the hope that is in them. 1 Pe. 3:15 yesterday

The question here takes for granted that the Bible space is already fully divided up, with no orphaned pieces of the pie waiting to be taken up by one site or another. But this is not actually the case.

Biblical Hermeneutics (BH) specifically disallows two types of questions which Bible Applications (BA) would accept:

1) Questions looking for a present-day application of scripture.

  • To BH, any modern-day application is considered out-of-scope and off-topic. Many questioners have, for this reason, been disappointed when their questions, instead of finding answers, get closed, even when they have asked sincerely, courteously, and in proper grammatical form.

  • To Christianity, the application need not be scriptural at all--it merely needs to conform to the traditions or creed of a particular denomination.

  • To the Judaism site (Mi Yodeya), applications are very specific to what the Jewish tradition will accept, and this may not be what the questioner seeks.

2) Questions that may be seeking for a particular Bible passage.

  • BH requires that the question already include the passage. I have, personally, answered or attempted to answer many questions not posed with a particular passage in context, and had the question closed and my answer scolded for not conforming to the rules of BH.

  • Christianity, being more of a kaleidoscope of different faiths and traditions, may or may not give an acceptable answer to a question of this type.

  • Judaism, again, will focus specifically on the Jewish tradition, which excludes many of the scriptures accepted by Christians.

There are other categories of questions which BA could accept that would be a poor fit for the other sites and would be merely closed at present (or even deleted), but to my view, these two question types stand out as especially deserving of a space of their own.

NOTE: There are four sites for math in the SE network:

  • MathOverflow: Q&A for professional mathematicians

  • Mathematics: Q&A for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields

  • Mathematics Educators: Q&A for those involved in the field of teaching mathematics

  • Mathematica: Q&A for users of Wolfram Mathematica

Yes, the last one is more specific to a mathematical software, but the first three show barely any distinction among them--unless, of course, one assumes that math educators are not "professionals." (I think they would raise their voices in unison against such an allegation.)

The mathematics example serves to illustrate an important point relative to Stack Exchange sites: content is not the only distinction among them; community is a significant part of the equation.

My Vision for Bible Applications

Bible Applications seeks to address a community that has been under-served; a community that sincerely seeks answers of a Biblical or religious nature, but may not have the professional finesse to be able to format its questions in a manner that will pass the criteria of the existing Bible/religious sites. This community may include older individuals who have limited understanding of the common online etiquette du jour. It may even include children. Professionals, educators, scholars, language learners, students, old or young, theologians and laity--all will be welcome to seek answers to their sincere Bible questions at BA.

The final direction of Bible Applications will be determined by its community of participants. This post represents, in part, only the vision of one member of this new and growing community.

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  • 2
    Minor nit pick. MathOverflow really is for professionals. The questions are posed by professors, etc. about their own current original research. Nov 25 at 15:53
  • @RayButterworth Yes, and I don't question that at all. But the next one in the list also happens to address itself to "professionals" and, as you allude, professors/educators in the field should be professionals, too, despite that category not specifying this term. So we have at least three math sites which should appeal to professionals.
    – Polyhat
    2 days ago

In answer to @Peter's question.

There will potentially be a larger pool of experts to answer questions at BA since there are a lot of pastors, priests, counselors, etc. that would be interested in answering practical questions that wouldn’t necessarily be attracted to scholarly sites discussing exegesis or doctrine. I agree with you that Rabbi's would be more likely to post on Mi Yodeya, though they would be welcome to contribute. We will soon be inviting more experts in practical theology to participate, so we’ll see what kind of response we get. Many faithful Bible readers/experts tend to be motivated to get the Word out.

There were different titles discussed, even one of yours, “Christian Living”. In thinking about our audience, we decided the term “Bible” might be most appealing and descriptive. I had considered something simple like “Bible for Life” but others seemed to prefer a descriptor related to application. We are still doing some polling on Applications vs. Application.

I don’t see why this site would want to exclude Catholics or Orthodox, or anyone interested in what the Bible says about practical issues for that matter. But because of the weight that some put on Church doctrine and tradition, and even extra-biblical revelation, they may not be so interested in just what the Bible has to say. If they are interested in what the Catholic Church, for example, says about a particular practice, then that question would better be asked on Christianity.SE. From what I’ve seen, such questions are not routinely rejected there.

I had a discussion with a Catholic member on C.SE not long ago, and it seemed that he valued Catholic dogma and even the Magisterium over the Bible. There would be little point in someone with that strong a conviction in posting a question on a Bible Application site unless out of curiosity. We certainly wouldn’t want to design a site to appeal to people who would be unlikely to participate regularly.

I am certainly open to inspiration from other sources, in fact, I’ve answered questions from the deuterocanonicals https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/69713/44735 https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/71085/44735 and have quoted from C.S. Lewis, who was heavily influenced by G.K. Chesterton. https://christianity.stackexchange.com/a/86919/54851

It’s just that if there are any contradictions among these sources, we defer to the Council of Rome canon. This is not so much from a theological standpoint but from a practical one, in that it is most likely to give the site the best opportunity for success, and reach the widest audience possible.

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  • Thanks for the feedback and yes, this highlights exactly the distinction that makes this site make sense. I don't personally understand the worldview, but I see it in tons of answers on Christianity.SE and it's rather painful to close them as "opinion based" since they're mainly composed of scripture. 2 days ago
  • 1
    I don't think that's coming across very well in the description of the site, otherwise the question I wrote "How should husbands love their wives" would be get votes. The question is really "According to the Bible, how should husbands love their wives", every question implicitly assumes the answer will be in the bible. 2 days ago
  • 1
    Your question about husbands is a very good one and completely relevant for the site. I wouldn't want to require an "according to the Bible" descriptor for every question because it is cumbersome and should not be necessary. As you said "every question implicitly assumes the answer will be in the bible". The title and description make that pretty clear. I think your question will get more votes as the site gets more traffic - especially from wives. yesterday

@Jon As I was contemplating and later developing the plan of proposing a new Bible-related site, I came across some of your posts related to helping start, shape, and grow the two existing Christian-related sites. I was inspired by your passion and I think I even quoted you in one of my presentations where you were defending the idea of keeping Biblical Hermeneutics as a separate site from Christianity.

"And my personal discovery is that the relationship between sites on StackExchange is not a zero-sum game. A little cross-site activity can be worth more than the sum of the parts. We've had posts that link to related posts on Jewish Life and Learning and the other direction. Each time, both sites have benefited from the other's perspective. Please reconsider the desire to pit one group against another. Rather, not think of how we can help both communities together?" https://area51.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1817/216376

I affirm the catechistic quote on scripture, but on the new site there would be no doctrinal qualifiers required. It is interesting that an example question on BA was closed on C.SE.

I love the political anecdote and I'm hoping BA would help address the biblical illiteracy among those who still believe politicians. :) If a question like that came up such as “My politician showed me this verse and asked me to help him commit election fraud, is that a valid interpretation? We could refer them to BH which they probably would not appreciate, or we could show them what election really means in scripture.

In my opinion, questions that are on-topic at BA would often be answered differently and would be appreciated by a different audience than if they are written to be on topic at the other sites.

I am seeing some great questions proposed that fit very well on an SE site. In sum, one thing that has become very clear to me through these discussions on scope is the importance of keeping in mind the differences in the audience each site is attempting to serve.

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Thanks for the question, Warren. It's a valid and important one. Yes, there will be some overlap just as there is on some computer science and mathematics sites. We had a long discussion among participants at BH and C about how the new site would be differentiated from the existing ones. @GratefulDisciple designed a useful chart to illustrate the differences between the 3 OT/NT sites. https://hermeneutics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3858/44735

Here are the descriptions for the sites you mentioned. Biblical Hermeneutics is a question and answer site for anyone who wants to know what a Biblical text means (exegesis) using the techniques or rules of interpretation (hermeneutics). Christianity Stack Exchange is for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. In short, BH is more for scholarly research, C for doctrinal theology, and MY for those interested in Judaism. BA is for those interested in the practical application of the Bible to modern life. It is not focused on the scholars or the churched.

What gave me the idea for the site was seeing how many questions were being closed on the existing sites and how many people were posting just once and never returning. I believe there is a vast audience out there that is not being served. They might feel intimidated by the depth of background and knowledge required at the other sites. There are also experts like pastors, priests, teachers , etc. who just want to expound on the practical aspects of the Bible without the scholarship requirements.

The purpose of this early stage is to define the site by submitting questions that might not fit well elsewhere. Thanks for signing up! I’ll be looking forward to seeing some questions from you that will help define the site.

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  • 4
    Everything you just described makes this a bad fit for Stack Exchange - if you want answers "without the scholarship", you're going to get random opinions, none of which is any better than another, or the questions will be so simple that you could point to a single text or two and be done.
    – warren
    Nov 23 at 13:53
  • Random opinions would not be permitted on this site any more than on any other SE site. Answers will be backed up by a solid knowledge of what the scriptures say, but advanced studies in theology, religious history, or biblical languages would not be required in questions or answers. It's not an academic site. Nevertheless, many experts who answer will have that background. The best answers will be the ones that present the most reasoned proof of validity. It doesn't matter if the questions are simple or complicated but rather if they address the practical application of the Bible. Nov 23 at 20:01
  • 1
    @Warren I don’t know how many questions could be answered well and succinctly with a single scripture. Often stronger cases would be made by reference to different passages. As to the fit on Stack Exchange, it is a site that has developed and evolved a lot over the years. People come to SE to get answers from the knowledgeable about things that are important to them. BA may attract a new audience to the site which should be a positive thing. Nov 23 at 20:05
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    no "advanced studies in theology, religious history, or biblical languages" are necessary to answer on Christianity.SE, Judaism.SE, or Hermeneutics.SE. I don't know why you're so hung up on this. ALL of the sample questions posted so far handily fit on one of those three existing sites. You've yet to define how a new one would be useful :)
    – warren
    Nov 23 at 21:01
  • 1
    @Warren The moderators apparently disagree with you and we have been discussing this on Meta. Christianity.SE likes questions to revolve around specific denominational beliefs or ask for an overview. BH.SE requests that a particular verse to be presented for exegetical analysis. None of the questions here fit those criteria. Nov 23 at 21:57
  • all of the proposed questions so far can either be worded quite simply to fit one of those three other sites, or are one-and-done things.
    – warren
    Nov 24 at 13:48
  • @warren Sure, most questions can be reworded or reworked to fit on another Bible site. But there is a reason that there is a C.SE and BH.SE - they serve different audiences. I'm glad they are not one site because I appreciate the focus of each one and use them for different purposes. The vast audience I would like to tap into would not feel their needs were being met on those two sites, not being interested in dogmatics or deep exegesis. They would feel much more at home on the BA site, . There is also large class of experts who I believe would be interested in supplying knowledgeable answers. Nov 24 at 17:36
  • thanks for noting that you could just ask these sample questions elsewhere with minor tweaks :)
    – warren
    Nov 24 at 18:12

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