Several users have expressed dissatisfaction with 'preaching' on BH.SE:

At the same time, sometimes the text itself is urging readers on towards a change in behavior or thinking, and this is simply the reality. Given the fact that some users don't appreciate feeling 'preached at' but at the same time recognizing the reality that sometimes the text urges change in the reader, I have two questions:

  1. What is 'preaching'?
  2. Should 'preaching' be tolerated in questions and/or answers at BH.SE? If yes, under what circumstances?
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    The user who posted the first and third comments was very sensitive, not just here but on other sites too. He's quit or threatened to quit multiple times and finally left even Ch.SE where iirc he was a well-established user. – Jack Douglas Apr 29 '14 at 7:10
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    I'm not sure it is helpful to ask "what is preaching" and "should 'preaching' be tolerated" in the same question. It seems to be a question searching for a problem to solve. – Jack Douglas Apr 29 '14 at 12:58
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    Jack noted that there are extenuating circumstances with one of your two sources here. Unfortunately I think your second source bears even less weight as it is quoted out of context here. That user has a tendency to ramble about topics whenever and wherever they come up, and while he may be complaining about Christian's generally having a habit of being preachy, he does not connect it to anything on BH and using that as a source to say a user is dissatisfied with BH over that issue is quite a stretch. – Caleb May 5 '14 at 12:08
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    I don't doubt that there are real instances of this but this is a rather poor choice of examples and hence it's not readily apparent to me how to respond. Are we fighting imaginary dragons? At the very least I would agree that Jacks other comment in that combining definition of a term and an action point for the site in the same meta post is asking for a mess. As each answer will have a local definition of terms it will be impossible to judge community consensus on the issue if there is one. – Caleb May 5 '14 at 12:08
  • @All I think this is a tempest in a teapot: if site rules are enforced(and they are), then we are just chasing the whims of a few disgruntled users. I upvoted this question, however, as it is a reminder to 'drive within the lines' and not take liberties which may turn a potential 'seeker' away. – Tau May 7 '14 at 4:53
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    @All Something To Ponder.... Site rules state we welcome all views-even atheists. I am not contesting that, but my question to the particular individual was "Do they take the Bible seriously?" Most atheists don't, and I can count on 1 hand those that don't ridicule the Bible. We come here for all sorts of reasons, but we are in agreement that we take the Bible seriously. If that is a hard pill to swallow.....? – Tau May 7 '14 at 4:59
  • @user2479 atheists and theists alike who are not willing to treat the texts with respect are not welcome to contribute here. The point is that we do not discriminate on the grounds of religion (or lack thereof) directly, but on attitude towards the texts. – Jack Douglas May 9 '14 at 8:39

"Preaching" involves both exposition and exhortation. The latter part includes a call to belief or action. This latter aspect is fundamentally rhetoric and passionate, designed to persuade by appealing to people's emotions based upon the logic of the argument presented. It is an expansion of the approach of laying out a logical argument (showing your work) and persuading people by reason only. As stated in the site distinctives, "we prefer lectures over sermons."

As a motivating appeal, preaching is characterized by first-personal-plural and second-person language (e.g. "brothers, we must do X" or "therefore you must do Y").1 Going from a question about the original context of a passage (i.e. discussing an exhortation made to the audience of antiquity) to what you should personally do in your life is a shift from description to prescription.

This shift from descriptive to the prescriptive in preaching is to elicit a response from the reader—typically a change in behavior. This latter aspect of preaching is not necessary to answer the questions that are on-topic on this site. In the interests of welcoming all perspectives (which is our stated goal), we should not tolerate it. It has already driven several users away (some of whom are represented in the quotes in this question). This will rarely mean closing/deleting posts. Most posts can be easily edited to change prescriptive language to descriptive language. This is generally just part of showing work.

However, sometimes the text itself "preaches." That does not mean we cannot ask and answer questions about that text. We just have to remember that what the original author said to the original audience in antiquity is not automatically connected to today's audience, and even if one deems it to be, it is not the purpose of this site to explicitly point that out. We can describe the original author's intent, even passionately—but we must not cross the line into preaching to BH.SE readers.

1 At the same time, this doesn't mean that all instances of these grammatical features indicate 'preaching.' There is subjectivity when deciding whether language is 'preachy' or not.

  • It might help to have an example of an answer on the site that fits this definition that has not been downvoted into oblivion. – Jack Douglas Apr 29 '14 at 7:14
  • Example of answer that preaches: this one (and many others by this user). And this user generally receives several upvotes on their answers. – Dan May 6 '14 at 15:38

This is kind of a long comment seeking clarification. The first and third quotes you offer are from the same user. As far as I know, he posted three questions during his time here:

Sadly the user is now gone, but it'd be helpful to know which parts of the answers to his questions could be considered preaching. There may be deleted comment history that I can't see, but I remember at the time he quit being a bit baffled trying to figure out what he was referring to.

If we're addressing an issue brought to light by the users in your question, it'd be good to have examples that show what is objectionable rather than just discussing "preaching" in the abstract.

On the link below with further quotes, one is from a user complaining about this question and answer. While not described as "preachy" per se, it is referred to as rejecting history and literary criticism.

What significance does John perceive in the piercing of Christ's side and the flow of blood and water?

  • unfortunately I'm not totally sure which specific examples the user was referring to. I gave a couple more quotes in an answer to another question, but I was merely going off of what these users had said from a cursory search. I didn't have time nor the desire to go on a hunt for prescriptive language. It pops up fairly regularly, but a lot of it is usually easy to fix with simple edits. I haven't been making those edits in most cases because as of yet, we have no established reasons to do so. – Dan Apr 29 '14 at 1:06
  • I did give some related example in this question, but this is slightly different so while there is a lot of overlap, there may be cases of audience conflation that are not 'preachy'. – Dan Apr 29 '14 at 1:07
  • But part of this question is to define it, so that is also up for discussion. – Dan Apr 29 '14 at 1:09
  • I've commented on the question about Helios/Ameratsu, but it's just as relevant here. – Jack Douglas Apr 29 '14 at 7:13

Preaching DOES require exposition and exhortation; and none of that will happen within a couple hours(except maybe on a weekend or holiday) without Uncle Dan's Silver Hammer coming down on one's head!

Perception is 9/10's of the reality that most people walk in, if the question begins with, "What was Jesus's answer to the woman at the well..." we would instantly assume it's Protestant; if the question says, "Where in the Tanach does it say..." we would assume it addresses a Jewish audience; if the question says, "What is the ethos of the author...." we would assume "post modernist/higher criticism...."

IF=One Takes Scripture(The Text) Seriously; THEN=One Must Be Open To What The Text Says, This is not preaching! However, when one goes beyond WHAT the Text says, and takes it upon themselves to p_r_o_s_c_r_i_b_e what someone should do with it, then we have "Crossed A Line" which we may have God's Blessing and favor upon, but not Uncle Dan's!

(Hint:All You Evangelical's-You Can PRAY for Your Audience-Really!) If you exposit the truth, then it Will set people free. And I see nothing in the site guidelines that forbid us to pray for individuals. Otherwise, "Proscribing what someone might do with the answer you gave is beyond the scope of this site, and may get you time in the Penalty Box if you persistantly refuse to heed counsel".

Just a personal note...I am all for evangelism, street witnessing, power encounters, going up to total strangers and asking"...if you died today, where would you go?" "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto Salvation for all who believe.."(Rom. 1:16) But there are 'overt' and 'covert' ways, and those that laid out the guidelines to this site believed that 'questions from and about the text' make for the widest audience participation, and allow those to ask questions and receive answers in a non-partisan environment.

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    Whatever point you are trying to make here, the way you argue it is such poor form that I must DV as not useful or representative of the way I want to see this site progress. ① You lead off with an ad-homnem attack as if it was Dan's fault that 'preaching' is off limits when that was a well established guideline here long before he even entered the scene. As a moderator he is responsible for enforcing site guidelines even if he does not agree with them, and posts of this tone don't help work out how guidelines are to be implemented. – Caleb May 5 '14 at 10:46
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    ② This post implies anybody that doesn't use their posts on this site as a platform to preach is somehow ashamed of the Gospel. As a Reformed pastor who believes strongly in declaring the Word in season and out of season who has gone to great lengths in my own life to make this happen (to the point of living in a 99% majority Muslim country specifically so God's glory would shine brighter through daily declaration of the Gospel) the suggestion that people who ignore the differences between venues are somehow deficient strikes me as both discourteous and ignorant. – Caleb May 5 '14 at 10:47
  • ③ Perhaps #2 is not something you actually believe (I'm not trying to make this a personal dispute) so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one, but you say in this post that perception is 9/10's of reality, so I am telling you how I perceive the argument in this post in the hopes that you will consider taking a different approach at explaining your point, whatever that may be. – Caleb May 5 '14 at 10:47
  • ④ Even trying to ignore the above issues, I can't make out what your argument is here. Are you trying to suggest that prescription based on exposition should be allowed? Should not be allowed? How would you define 'preaching' vs. 'exegesis'? Is all prescription preaching? Is explaining how others prescribe something based on a text preaching? – Caleb May 5 '14 at 10:47
  • @Caleb Hi Caleb. As you may have guessed from my tone, I was a little facetious in my answer-I do that sometimes in Meta. 1) My argument, simply stated is a)Don't preach-it's against the guidelines, and whether it's Dan's or your hammer it will come down. To use the "I obey God rather than man" argument here doesn't apply. 2) The 'perception is 9/10ths reality' is an old saw to basically say what people 'see' at any given moment of time is how they judge reality. – Tau May 5 '14 at 11:22
  • @Caleb (cont.)Therefore, even if we 'say' we accept all the guidelines and put them in effect-someone(you for example) will mis-interpret a remark and 'perceive' an intention not meant, based on their 'reality'. We cannot 'police' people's perceptions, those are their subjective views and we have no control on how they got them. So, if they see 5 "Jesus questions" in a row, they conclude it's a Protestant Bible camp and move on. If they saw 5 "Torah Questions"....whatever. People will make whatever reason based on their 'reality' for accepting or rejecting this site, we can't control that. – Tau May 5 '14 at 11:36
  • @Caleb (Final Thought-really) The admonition here is really towards "Protestant Evangelicals" of which I am one. If we are 'sincere' in our desire to "win the world for Jesus" on this site, we can 1)Pray, 2)Craft our responses to point to the truth, and trust God would use them to impact lives, in other words 'covert' evangelism. – Tau May 5 '14 at 11:43

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