Academics vs. Faith
The Standard Model of success for the SE Community is the Academic Model: A question, which meets the standards of the topic discussed, is posed, and "experts", either those who have qualifications in the field discussed, or interested individuals with specific references to the question posed supply the answers. The "Community" and the individual asking the question votes "up or down" on the answer, depending on a variety of factors which can be listed by:
Did the answer respond to the specific question? A plethora of information may display an author's array of knowledge, yet inconclusive results may not satisfy the query. An answer to a question not asked will also not bring satisfaction to the asker.
Was the answer supported with enough "clear and convincing evidence" to make their conclusion valid? "I think so", and "this is what I feel" answers aren't credible in this format—even if the answerer is a ThD. This also includes "I have come to believe...", "I have specific revelation of this...", "I prayed about this, and this is what God showed me..." Is the evidence "Objective" or "Subjective"? I can talk about "Subjective" revelation all day long, and you may agree or disagree that I have a revelation. But, for the purpose of answering the question I had better have some "Objective" sources to back my interpretation or I have not answered the question—I've merely fueled a discussion.
Are my sources/evidence credible? On this particular question a wide range of responses can be expected. Depending on our POV, and background, we may singularly reject sources that don't follow our theological, ecclesiastical, moral, hermeneutical, socio-ethnocentric, philosophic view. It is in this category that the widest range of debate can occur. And here's where the single most important piece of evidence must have priority—The Bible.
The Bible (viewed in it's Original Languages) is the singular common denominator of all sources; it holds precedence over any other source. Used properly, it is source of life; used improperly, it is a source of deception. Both God and the devil are quoted in the Bible, how do we insure that we accurately represent both? This is where the Academic Model falls short; while it is possible to answer questions concerning the specificity of various events recorded in the Bible from a purely Academic Model, questions of life and death, Heaven and Hell, God and the devil cannot be proven (or disproved) from empirical means. Therefore, it is incumbent on one's faith to inform one in these matters, the Academic can accurately decipher the original language, but without faith it is impossible to decipher the original intent. Unlike the physics problem which can be solved from known quantities to find the unknown ones, the only "known quantity" we have are the Scriptures, which by faith must be accepted to find out about the "unknown" ones.
Faith and the Public Discourse
Having therefore established that the "Academic Model" is inadequate for discussing matters of faith, how do we hold a public discourse in which all are invited to participate, no particular 'theological' persuasion is left out, and individuals are free to answer questions that cross over into areas of faith without fear of retaliation towards their theological persuasion.
Moderation—Enforcing Site Directives
I can't tell an individual they are going to Hell in a handbasket, nor can I tell them their theological persuasion is the tool of the devil. All I can say is their conclusions are or aren't supported by the Bible, and I had better bring sound evidence to state my conclusions. Our Faith informs our understanding, our Academics inform our audience.
Be conscious of points of disagreement
I am not (unless specifically asked) going to quote a NT source to a Jewish person—it's that simple. I won't expound on a theology of God to an atheist (on this site) unless specifically asked. I won't expound on infant baptism to a Free Will Baptist, or the merits of Calvinism to an Arminian. OF COURSE—if they ask the question, or "open the door", that's different. But I don't need to "fan the flames of dissent", there's plenty of fire to go around without adding to it.
Engage in a Courteous Dialogue
Officer Joe Friday engaged the help and entrance of his fellow citizens by simply respecting their rights as individuals. He said, "Sir" and "Maam", presenting his credentials and gained their confidence in helping him catch the bad guys. We may not hold to the view of others who participate on this site, but we must respect the right for them to have that view (as long as they don't inflict it on others—that's where moderation steps in). The "Truth" of what we say will carry a far greater weight than the "force" of our convictions, even if we are "clearly in the right" and they are "clearly in the wrong".
Can we be true to our convictions and engage in a Public Discourse?
Yes—our faith informs our understanding. But our ability to use the "tools" of Academic research gives us the ability to "share" our understanding over a wide range of viewers, increasing our opportunities to express our understanding, providing we understand and follow the rules of Public Discourse.