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It seems to be the case that many of our active contributors hail from Protestant traditions and perspectives. Several folk have expressed concern about this:

The questions arise:

  • whether this is (still) a problem?
    and
  • if it is, whether we can help by actively promoting other perspectives here with positive discrimination.
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No, we should not positively discriminate in favour of all non-Protestant perspectives


  1. Our site aim to welcome Jewish, Christian, Atheist and other viewpoints as long as they take seriously the process of understanding the Biblical texts should not be understood as an aim that we end up with an equal mix of participants of each group1. Rather it should be understood that as a site, we are about the 'Biblical texts' and not concerned with religious beliefs2 and traditions per se, but only insofar as they intersect with the Biblical texts and their interpretation

  2. Protestants are probably highly represented here because of the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. This does not mean that other traditions do not care deeply about the texts and their interpretation, however there is a strand of Protestantism that elevates the texts above everything else, and a site that is explicitly about the texts and nothing else is likely to be especially attractive to those folk. In other words, Protestants are by and large going to be attracted here for the right reasons: ie that "they take seriously the process of understanding the Biblical texts". Therefore to embark on a policy of discriminating against them just for being Protestant would undermine the foundation of the site.

I'm not at all arguing against promoting the site to particular individuals or groups. I am personally very excited when someone from an unfamiliar perspective starts contributing and saddened if they leave. However positive discrimination should not be site policy. The correct and well established approach is to continue to affirm that contributions should show enough of their working to make them useful to folk who don't necessarily agree with their conclusions.


1 however you choose to delineate groups!
2 or religiously loaded words

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  • Yes, indeed! Protestants are also 'not afraid' to vociferously air their views without the slightest concern for their audience.....(hmmm). It just so happens that Protestants occupy more Bible schools, and have textual questions regarding what they're studying. The question is valid, and your answer is correct...sometimes we have to remember to 'play nice' with the other children :>) – Tau Apr 25 '14 at 13:49
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    Your #2 is, in my mind, without doubt why there is a leaning of that group as majority participants on this site. – ScottS Apr 25 '14 at 19:56
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No, we should not positively discriminate in favor of all non-Protestant perspectives. However, we should be respectful of others' beliefs by speaking descriptively rather than prescriptively about our beliefs.

  1. We should avoid the fallacy that we can somehow require diversity. We certainly welcome diverse perspectives, but what if some questions only have Protestant Christian perspectives? We can't control whether or not Jewish, atheist, and other contributors post answers or not. Neither should we expect every OP to find every perspective useful. The key is they we are respectful of other perspectives and acknowledge that other users may find them to be useful answers—even if we don't.

  2. It is undesirable to speak prescriptively about the text in such a way that it implies norms that are expressed as binding on readers. The OP can make the exact same points making it clear that s/he is talking about him/herself without imposing beliefs upon the reader. As another user has helpfully pointed out:

    • This is sometime stated in terms of "descriptive" versus "normative", especially in Brevard Childs's well-known essay on theological commentary. If something is being prescribed for readers of BH.SE, or if the Q&A in some measure is implying norms binding on readers here ... that's a problem. On the other hand, if a Q&A is describing the linguistic, literary, or theological dimensions of the text as it was understood by its authors and reading community in antiquity, then we'll be on safe ground.

  3. Speaking descriptively fosters a diverse community where Christian, Jewish, atheist, and other perspectives actually feel welcomed. Like it or not, people don't feel welcome when prescriptive language is used. Here's a few examples from different users in chat:

I don't want to see positive discrimination towards a specific religious tradition. But I do want all perspectives to be welcomed, and that will require all of us to bracket our beliefs to some extent and step outside of our comfort zones. Speaking descriptively rather than prescriptively is not a difficult burden and will help us work toward making this a reality.

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  • I guess your definition of welcoming all perspectives has some overlap with my definition of positive discrimination. – Jack Douglas Apr 25 '14 at 14:57
  • Positive discrimination would mean giving minority groups preferential treatment over majority ones. I believe that asking folks to respect others' by not prescribing their beliefs to them is not targeting any specific group. This would be equally expected of Christians, Jews, atheists, and all participants. – Dan Apr 25 '14 at 15:05
  • I didn't say it overlapped with your definition of positive discrimination. The group you are particularly positively discriminating towards are those who already accept your definitions of 'respect' and 'prescribing their beliefs'. – Jack Douglas Apr 25 '14 at 15:34
  • @JackDouglas and that group consists of Christians (including Protestants), Jews, and atheists - the groups we explicitly welcome. So by definition, it would not be positive discrimination if they were all held to the same standard. But I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree. – Dan Apr 25 '14 at 16:39
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    I think it is positive discrimination towards the secular or traditions of academia. – Jack Douglas Apr 25 '14 at 17:09
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    I basically agree, Daи, but I also agree there is a danger as @JackDouglas stated, "discrimination towards the secular or traditions of academia," by being too dogmatic on no "doctrine." This site will forever be teetering on a twine over a tempestuous torrent with respect to the balance. But generally not explicitly prescribing is best. Let the text itself prescribe for the reader when valid. It would be hard to not read my descriptive answer here, and walk away without feeling prescribed to. – ScottS Apr 25 '14 at 20:09
  • @ScottS I just upvoted that answer. That post does not fail this test of speaking descriptively. The text is often prescriptive, and that's fine. The goal is to keep in mind it was prescribing something to its original audience in antiquity. The trick is to not explicitly conflate the audience of antiquity with the modern reader of the answer. It will happen all the time implicitly, and that can't be avoided. – Dan Apr 25 '14 at 21:04
  • And ScottS and @JackDouglas there are academic folks in Protestantism as well, so that is a false distinction. The point of your meta post was positive discrimination in favor of non-Protestants. This is not an example of that. – Dan Apr 25 '14 at 21:08
  • Respecting others' beliefs by speaking descriptively is not a discrimination issue, it's a behavior issue. Folks from all perspectives can do this, some folks choose not to. No one is discriminated against by this sort of guideline any more than saying that it is discrimination for participants to be required to 'show their work'. – Dan Apr 25 '14 at 22:19
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    I agree "to not explicitly conflate the audience ... [&] modern reader." I believe for @JackDouglas (at least, for me how I take it) "or traditions of academia" was a descriptor of "secular" (i.e. academia often dismisses the "religious" even when dealing with "religious" texts). He (nor I) would not want to see the site go so far that direction that it loses the ability to express "religious tradition" at all. Also, for evangelical Christians, it actually is discrimination to not let them "preach" the good news. So again, there is no "neutral" point. (cont.) – ScottS Apr 25 '14 at 22:33
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    (cont.) But I think that (not "preaching") is one discrimination that should be in place for this site, because it can overpower the voices of those that do not have such a "tradition" in their religion. And, as we noted, one can do it by just expounding the text on many texts. – ScottS Apr 25 '14 at 22:33
  • @ScottS I'd love to hear your definition of what 'preaching' means and what standards/metrics could be used to determine when language is 'preachy' vs. <insert word meaning 'not preachy' here>. – Dan Apr 26 '14 at 3:37
  • @Scott I really don't like the site being used as a platform for crudely lambasting the other users with someone's views: but I'm almost loath to say so in case Dan quotes me in support of cracking down on anyone who writes anything that isn't couched in secular-PC-speak. The means I suggest for preventing it is to not define 'preachy' at all but insist that posts show their work: that has the excellent side-effect of denying egregious offenders a platform. Most cases of crude preaching here get down-voted into oblivion very quickly already, so for me there is not a problem... – Jack Douglas Apr 26 '14 at 5:00
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    @Daи In short "preaching" is both exposition and exhortation (in this case as a call to action to change one's behavior). So basically, the 1st person plural, 2nd person sing/plural urging response. – ScottS Apr 26 '14 at 9:27
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    @ScottS that seems plain as day to me as well, and is a straightforward definition. The thing is, I'll sometimes even tolerate a little preaching if surrounded by outstanding exposition. The problem is when folks primarily exhort without expounding the text (and show complete ignorance of the historical, linguistic, and literary aspects/context of the text). But I think the 1st person plural/2nd person sing/plural urging response test is a good one, and I agree that being consistent (no preaching) would be the best way forward. – Dan Apr 26 '14 at 12:45

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