What distinguishes this site from questions about the biblical texts on Christianity.SE?
Christianity.SE handles texts from specific Christian perspectives, using the given perspective as the key factor in interpreting the text, or explaining its typical interpretation as given by the named tradition. Here on BH.SE we apply hermeneutic principles to texts with the intent of understanding their intended meaning, or determining the valid range of interpretation in their original or intended interpretive contexts.
This site has traditionally allowed a wide variety of hermeneutical approaches and does not (explicitly) favor any religious belief. Is this a policy you'd be interested in changing? Why or why not?
I really value this aspect of BH.SE and have no interest in changing it. Each of us inevitably carries our own biases to every question, passage and subject, and many of these are invisible to us. As the KJV translators once wrote:
"A variety of translations is profitable for discerning the sense of the Scriptures."
This is true both of translations and interpreters. By taking a variety of views on a passage, we find more ways to question and test the different available readings of the biblical texts, and gain the best opportunity to discover where we may be mistaken.
Suppose there was a member of our community who writes good questions and answers, but who also shows a distinct lack of patience and respect for certain hermeneutical approaches. Perhaps they don't accept source criticism, or they reject traditional authorial ascriptions. Perhaps they can't stand esoteric or Kabbalistic approaches. Perhaps they oppose any Christological readings of the Hebrew Bible. They may not reach the line of objectively offensive, but they're quick to say that others are wrong or their posts are nonsense. What would you do with such a member (especially if you'd frequently agree that the posts they critique are nonsense)?
In the first instance, I'd need to consider my own inexperience in judging these types of issues, and discuss the case with another moderator if available. This would be my first time as a SE community moderator, and so I need to learn more about the tools and options available for such a case.
"He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in." - Edwin Markham
Every man and woman is the hero of their own story. I'd seek to engage with this user in the first instance with a view to affirming their contributions and encouraging them to join the community-forming spirit of the site, and to consider how they could improve their contributions to make others feel more welcome.
Beyond that, if they're not crossing any serious lines, I'd hope for downvoting to form some of that feedback which helps slowly reform their approach. If there were one or two particular users inflaming this behaviour, I may approach them to encourage them to engage with this user in a more helpful way.
Someone has asked a question that is off-topic, perhaps asking for what the Bible says about a topic, or looking for verses. It has already gotten several well received answers, has been put in the Hot Network Questions list, and has thousands of views. What do you, as a moderator, do? (Example question of exactly this situation.)
Due to the nature of what we're trying to do on BH and the academic standards we aspire to, we have historically struggled to get high numbers of views, questions and answers. I think in this case I'd view it on balance as a happy mistake, and let normal site processes take their action in the ordinary course of time - don't intervene as a moderator, let the user engagement happen, drop a comment on the Question encouraging the user to modify the question into a form fitting the site guidelines, and let the question be revised or closed in due time.
Do you agree with the principles outlined in these site distinctives? If not, where and why do you disagree?
I'm broadly in agreement with all the principles there, though 2) needs more nuance to it. Doing hermeneutics without any consideration of application is sort of assuming that the author did not intend the text to be applied - and so I would consider there to be an essential domain of application pertaining to the intended context and recipients.
I agree we should never have questions about how to apply texts today, but think it's valid to have Questions about intended application to the original audience, or for Answers to include such applications where appropriate.
How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?
This sort of loops back to Q3, though it sounds like they perhaps have a better handle on the site intent, whilst having a poorer grasp on appropriate personal conduct. The arguments and flags risk influencing the culture of the site and the new user experience, and so can be toxic to healthy site operation if not addressed.
It's important to communicate that the behaviour is not acceptable, and where the user fails to correct this behaviour then moderator tools such as suspension and account locking should be used to underline the seriousness of the behaviour and that it will not be tolerated over the long term.
How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
Behind closed doors - I'd approach the other moderator myself to respectfully talk about the question and the intervention approach, and figure out the best way forward. After such a discussion if we were collectively unsure on the best approach, it may be appropriate to consult another moderator or open a Meta question around the issue in question to get a feel for the community's lean on the best approach. If unable to reconcile our views, I'd defer to their judgement as that's their right and responsibility on the network - and where such action is necessary their contributions are invaluable, so individual cases shouldn't change the status quo between us.
Do you believe this site needs to significantly revise its stated purpose and/or distinctives given the reality of the types of questions and answers typically posted?
One lesser known fact about me is that I'm a big fan of the ante-nicene fathers as useful sources for testing the range of meaning for New Testament texts, and so I actually really appreciate the slight shift in emphasis over the past four years where we're now accepting a wider range of questions including near-contemporary sources which can have valid insights and input to exegesis of biblical texts. So these articles and underlying Meta answers fit very well with my own view of healthy approaches to BH as a discipline.
Do you feel like an evangelical Protestant Christian worldview1 and hermeneutical approaches are assumed in the majority of questions and answers on this site?
If so, are you OK with such unstated assumptions in
Why or why not?
I think that's both fair and inevitable based on the current user base, but that best practice should not leave such a viewpoint as an explicit assumption. As more experienced users on the site and especially as moderators, we ought to aim to set the best example in examining and declaring our own biases and leans, and especially in affirming users and useful contributions from outside this sphere, with a view to encouraging a variety of perspectives and guarding against the exclusion of other viewpoints.
In your opinion, what do moderators do?
It's in the name - we moderate, in a moderate way. It's primarily a position of service to the community, and much less a position of personal authority or leadership. We serve the needs of the community, occasionally enforcing known and agreed policies, but more often serving as a gentle nudge to keep the community sailing in the best direction, and encouraging the best aspects of the SE culture as well as BH's own unique subculture.
We're moderators, not extremists. We do our best to avoid taking sides or becoming embroiled in issues, but do our best to listen and value members of the community, both old and new. We help steer the culture of the community, assuring the safe space and freedom from influences which damage the culture or perceived value of contributions.