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Biblical Hermeneutics is a great SE site which has benefited many and will continue to do so. I have noticed, however, that a lot of energy is expended on trying to educate people about the true mission of the site and what hermeneutics really is. Many first time users post questions about the Bible which get flagged as off-topic, and many answers fall outside of the intended scope of the site which creates a lot of extra work for moderators and editors, and creates confusion about the true purpose here. From what I have observed from the editing queues, the problem has been increasing lately.

It has occurred to me that a possible solution for this would be to create a site that would be more suited for the questions that get rejected here and at the sister site, which would address people’s interest in more specifically practical applications of scripture to their daily lives. For example, a question like,

“What does it mean for a believer to take up their cross daily and follow Christ?”

would probably get closed on this site and on Christianity SE, as well, for not meeting statement of purpose criteria. I think a lot of people are interested in the practical application of scripture without wanting or being qualified to engage academically with a passage or approach it from the standpoint of a particular denomination.

There have been some concerns expressed on the site about sermonizing and our new moderator recently cautioned a new user about being too preachy, while recognizing that he himself has not been immune to the temptation. A user named Dan, in his answer to the following question,

The false dichotomy between "faith-based" hermeneutics and "let the text speak for itself" hermenuetics

made this suggestion:

“We can describe the original author's intent, even passionately—but we must not cross the line into preaching to BH.SE readers.”

There was just recently an involved discussion on Meta about whether a particular question should by closed, migrated, or modified. This looks like a well-masked theological question I think the right action was taken and the community seemed to be in strong agreement. The question would not have been appropriate for the sister site, and it wouldn’t be for the new proposed site either. But I have seen some questions migrated from one site that were then challenged as being appropriate at the new one.

The following question was recently migrated to Christianity SE.

"Scriptural support - Measuring our salvation, God's love and blessings". https://christianity.stackexchange.com/q/86716/54851

Technically it wasn't the best fit over there either because, for one, it doesn’t specify a particular denominational perspective. It could however be appropriate for the new site because it has a practical application raising questions like,

“Why would we be seeking the wealth of the world when the wealth of heaven is ours?”

I believe there would be a healthy demand for a site that would even welcome “sermons” that address the practical application of the Bible to daily living as long as they are well-reasoned and biblically supported. A possible description for the new site could be Biblical Homiletics, but a more universally appealing one might be better received. Other suggestions are welcome.

I believe that a site like that would expand the influence of the study of the Bible and Christianity because people would be able to ask more practical questions relevant to their daily lives that might get rejected on the current sites. It would also reduce the need for so much housekeeping - so a win-win solution. Bible Hermeneutics will be able to more fully devote itself to academic exegesis which was the original intent of the site.

I have even recently heard people lamenting the “good old days” when academic rigor was more prevalent on the site. People who are more attracted to understanding how to apply the Bible to their lives today will post on the alternative site and not bother to post borderline off-topic or more general, pragmatic questions on BH.

It’s just an idea I had that seems worth exploring and I would love to hear your feedback. Thanks!

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    Please link the posts and quote the comments you refer to. They would benefit readers and improve the value of your OP. And, for the record, I am certain that I am the new mod that got mentioned. :-) Cheers all! Nov 4, 2021 at 7:25
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    @JesseSteele Thanks for the suggestion. The links are an improvement. I hadn't planned to single you out by linking your name to the Meta discussion, but it was a good discussion and highlights some of the points I brought up. I saw the sermon comments in your remarks to a new user but I don't remember which question it was. If you can find it, I'll be happy to add it. Cheers! Nov 4, 2021 at 8:11
  • One think I wonder, what would a BHD.SE Question look like? I can’t think of one example. Can you give any examples of what kind of Questions might be found there? Nov 4, 2021 at 17:25
  • @Jesse Steel The questions would be practical application ones and several would be asked in the development of the site. Hopefully, people here will contribute some. Apart from the ones I listed above, some others might be, "How can we pray without ceasing?: or "Does Revelation give us any insight on when to expect the rapture?" Even more general questions could be considered like, "What does the Bible say about (topic)?" because it can be answered with specific scriptures. Nov 4, 2021 at 19:51
  • This! I voted for you, Martin, precisely because I felt you would be more understanding of the breadth of possibilities in asking questions. But it appears that this site's moderators want to keep it strict. Perhaps your suggestion is exactly what is needed--and you could be the first moderator of the new site. I would participate there.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 5, 2021 at 22:48
  • Thanks for your support, @Polyhat! In the definition stage, we just need 5 people to commit to following the site, and it looks like we might have that already. I don't want to draw away anyone from C or BH who are contributing meaningfully to those sites though initial support helps. I would want to contribute on all 3 because there are different things I can discuss at each. I have seen people raise some concerns similar to what you expressed and some express the desire to stop participating altogether. Some take extended breaks. I think the new site will help alleviate that problem as well. Nov 5, 2021 at 23:49
  • @Polyhat I also want to say this about Jesse. I felt he showed integrity by sharing his intention through a question to try to raise academic standards on the site before the election and not after. That way people knew where he stood and could vote accordingly. I think he and I were tied in the first round but Ken was ahead of us both which shows that people do want this site to have high standards which is fine. But I also think there is a big demand for a site with lower scholarly standards which focuses on practical aspects not addressed on C or BH. Nov 6, 2021 at 23:42
  • Hi @Poyhat, I am putting together a list of people who would like to be early followers of the proposal we have been discussing. Please let me know if I can add you to the list and if you know of others who would like to participate in the early stages. Thanks! Nov 7, 2021 at 22:34
  • @MartinHemsley Feel free to list me as an "early follower." I would be happy to participate there.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 9, 2021 at 11:27
  • Stack Exchange (SE) is a place for Q&A. It exists to “build libraries of high-quality questions and answers….” SE states that sites should “Avoid questions that are primarily opinion-based, or that are likely to generate discussion rather than answers.” Maybe you’re looking for something more community-focused and less content-focused. There are alternatives out there, even focused on Christianity (or you could propose amd start something different).
    – Dan
    Nov 10, 2021 at 4:40
  • Thanks, @Dan, for the the feedback and the suggested resources. When it comes down to it, who doesn't have an opinion, even if it's an educated one? Perhaps facts inform opinions, but people with access to the same facts can end up with two different conclusions or opinions. For the proposed new site, I think the answers would be just as strongly rooted in biblical truth as at BH, for example. They are not opinions drawn out of thin air. A high quality answer will have strong biblical support. What would distinguish it mostly from the existing 2 sites is an emphasis on practical application. Nov 10, 2021 at 5:32
  • I think the only way we will be able to know if the site would fill a useful niche and be a benefit to C and BH would be to put it out there and see if it flies. I can draw on my own community but I would prefer to get a few more backers from these sites to facilitate mutual support and cooperation. I think I owe it to the people who have invested time and energy into this idea to at least give it a try and see what happens before exploring other options. Even if it doesn’t get off the ground, we will have learned something important. Surely there are some faith-filled risk takers here. :) Nov 10, 2021 at 5:43
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    @Polyhat I wanted you to be one of the first to know that we have launched the new Bible Applications site! area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/126301/… Nov 20, 2021 at 19:18

6 Answers 6

5

Yes, a third site can fill the needs for visitors whose questions cannot be answered in Christianity.SE and Biblical Hermeneutics.SE because of the established on-topic and scoping rules that have been developed by both communities in the past 10 years.

From my personal observation, it seems Christianity.SE is best called Christian Studies which includes all things about Christianity that goes into a History of Christianity book which necessarily includes: theology, important people, church development, scripture development, creed development, denominations, practices, etc. That is why objectivity (being the main trait of the historical discipline) goes hand in hand with the site but personal application is out. The goal of the site is the assist believers to have the facts to make their own personal decision on which denomination to choose, and then to assist them in studying their own faith in more detail.

Similarly, BH.SE is about responsible interpretation (which is largely objective within a set of hermeneutical pre-commitments) which for most Christian denominations should precede personal applications.

In my opinion, to ensure that the new site has a chance of launching from Area 51 the 3rd site needs to have

  • a large enough boundary (to ensure enough interest)

  • a very clear reason-for-existence (to distinguish it from C.SE and BH.SE). Sample formula:

    Exegesis (BH.SE) + Theology (C.SE) ---> Application (BA.SE)

  • a certain measure of objectivity (to ensure high signal-to-noise ratio, which is the key benefit of all Stack-Exchange family of sites compared to Reddit)

So far, Biblical Applications seems to be the predominant interest. Personally, I would like to see theological criteria to be included so the basis for the application can be both Bible and/or doctrine. This will then be more comfortable for Catholics and LDS who have additional source of authority apart from the Bible. The name could then be Christian Applications or Christian Living.

But if applications is the focus which necessarily includes an element of advice and opinion, the new site will need to sacrifice some objectivity. A side effect would be that each answer would be voted more for its usefulness rather than its correctness unless the site makes it clear that "correctness" is defined as the voter judging whether Biblical quotations or Christian doctrines in the answer has been "rightly applied" to the question. A new "versioning feature" can very well solve this issue !

@Bach's idea of Bible.SE is interesting, considering the 3 sample questions in the areas of Biblical cosmology, Bible translation, and Bible archaeology that don't find a comfortable place in C.SE and BH.SE. But in my opinion, all 3 could have been officially accommodated in BH.SE as ancillary topics. Since applications cannot be in scope for Bible.SE I'm afraid the proposed site is not going to be big enough to be able to survive Area 51 launch criteria.

Site Name

As for the naming, I agree with curiousdannii that 'Christian Theology' is not a good name, since that's what Christianity.SE covers in addition to Church history, etc. Suggested names so far:

User Name
Jesse Steele Biblical Homily & Devotionals
Martin Hemsley Bible for Life
Bible Applications
Polyhat
Steve Taylor
Biblical Application(s)
Peter Turner
GratefulDisciple
Christian Living

Side by side comparison

Note: the chart is meant for highlighting the differences to make the case for the new site. Of course, the criteria under the 4th (BA) column is open to discussion; it's meant for initial idea.

Aspect Christianity Biblical Hermeneutics Biblical Applications
Single Keyword Differentiator Theology Exegesis Application
Main audience Christians / scholars familiar with theology Christians / scholars familiar with exegesis Christians of all stripes focusing on applications,
Christians new to formal
study of theology / exegesis,
Non-Christians curious about Christianity
Main purpose Precise theological study prior to application Precise exegetical study prior to application Introduction and Application
On-topic Theology (scoped)
Church doctrine
Biblical basis
Church history
Christian studies
Christian Philosophy
Resources and Facts
Exegesis
Hermeneutics
Manuscript
Critical approaches
Common questions from new/non- Christians
Introductory inquiry
Biblical application
Theological application
Discipleship & Spirituality
Apologetics
Off topics Personal Advice
Why God ...
General Philosophy
Truth questions
No Bible text
Non Bible books
Personal Advice
Non-Christian topics
Style Academic Academic Pastoral
Question Scope Denomination Text None or larger groups a
Opinion No No Yes
Answer
acceptance
According to scope,
supported by citation
Plausible interpretation,
supported by citation
Plausible biblical application,
supported by existing practice
Answer voting Most correct Most correct Most useful or
Most "correct" b
Measure of
"correctness"
What does this theology teach about X? What does text X supposed to mean? What does the Bible teach about X?

a : Scope can be larger groups than in Christianity.SE, and overlapping. Such as: Mainstream (Nicene) Christianity, LDS, JW, Unitarian, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, etc.

b : "correctness" can be defined as the voter judging whether Biblical quotations in the answer has been "rightly applied" to the question, although this evaluation by necessity is more subjective than in C.SE

Sample accepted questions

  1. “What does it mean for a believer take up their cross daily and follow Christ?”

  2. “Why would we be seeking the wealth of the world when the wealth of heaven is ours?”

  3. “How can we pray without ceasing?”

  4. “Does Revelation give us any insight on when to expect the rapture?”

  5. “What does the Bible say about (topic)?”

    • C.SE : What does (theology/denomination) say about (topic)?
    • BH.SE : What does (bible verse) say about (topic)?
    • BA.SE : “What does the Bible say about (topic)?”
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    Thanks, GratefulDisciple. You bring up some excellent points and the chart is very helpful for visualizing the distinctions between the sites. As to the scope of the site, I don't think Questions from new Christians would be a consideration since a more veteran Christian may want to discuss discipleship, spirituality, and apologetics, for example. As to question scope, I like your earlier "Anything Bible related" since it doesn't matter which group is asking it. Finally, with voting, utility will be a factor, but correctness also could count as people judge the Word being "rightly applied". Nov 5, 2021 at 17:37
  • Yes, I thought that might be your reasoning and weighed that against people thinking how viable a site would be that just focuses on new believers. I like what you did with the distinguishing questions! As to the name, I was hoping to come up with something, say for the new people, like "Bible for Life" or "Bible Applications". To hijack Jesse's own argument, a lot of new Christians might not even know what Homily is. Nov 5, 2021 at 18:00
  • @MartinHemsley Edited the answer accordingly. Nov 5, 2021 at 18:05
  • Hi @GratefulDisciple, thanks in large part to your assistance, the idea seems to be gaining some traction. I want to extend the invitation for you to be part of the early contributors if you would like to follow the proposal. Cheers! Nov 7, 2021 at 22:33
  • @MartinHemsley I may not have enough bandwidth to initiate / moderate the new site, but when a beta site is launched I will definitely contribute. In the meantime, I'll participate in the discussion of scope. Nov 8, 2021 at 5:49
  • I totally get that, and thanks again for your important contributions. The discussion on scope so far has been very useful and enlightening. No need to rush things, but at some point we will just have to start answering and asking questions to see how the site will really develop. Bach's suggestion is simply Bible.SE. Nov 8, 2021 at 5:59
  • My input on "Christian Living" is that it is a good title which would describe what a lot of people come to the site to discuss, but I'm wondering if "Bible" might represent less of a barrier to the seekers than "Christian". Jews and Muslims, for example, might be more interested in what the Bible says about something practical than in hearing about how to live as a Christian. Nov 8, 2021 at 6:15
  • @MartinHemsley I'm open to both. Personally I am not that conversant with non-Christians's perception of Christianity / Bible (in their aversion with terminology) other than their objections to Christianity itself. Nov 8, 2021 at 6:20
  • Regarding "Bible Translation," I believe that should fit well with BH. Does BH reject such questions now? Are there limitations with an "English only" restriction or something? Understanding Biblical Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic enough to translate it to another language is all about hermeneutics as I understand the term.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 9, 2021 at 5:09
  • Hi @GratefulDisciple. I wanted you to be one of the first to know that we have launched the new Bible Applications site! area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/126301/… Nov 20, 2021 at 19:20
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    @MartinHemsley Great. Just followed it. I'll come up with more proposal questions. Nov 20, 2021 at 19:27
  • I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but many examples in BA.SE are not Application, Homily, nor Devotional, but are Systematic Theology. This sprawls the scope of the proposed third site, not refining it. Yet, it is good to have in the discussion and the ambiguity may be merely because we are in the early stages of that discussion. Nov 24, 2021 at 17:33
  • Perhaps switch the order of columns in the site comparison chart? The logical progression is Hermeneutics (to provide the facts), Christianity (to turn those facts into doctrines), and then Applications (to apply those doctrines). Nov 25, 2021 at 14:57
  • Just saw your comment, @Jesse. Rain brings life, so I do appreciate any blessings you can shower us with. You were open early on to the idea and I think you have good insights to offer. Your observation about systematic theology is on the money. It is what the Bible says systematically and comprehensively about a topic which leads right in to practical theology and how it can be applied today. It is distinct from the biblical theology of BH and the doctrinal and historical developments covered in C.SE. I would love to see you post an example of a good homiletic and/or devotional question. Dec 4, 2021 at 3:41
2

Thanks for that thoughtful input, @Steve Taylor. A name like Christian Theology might have the same type of intimidating effect for the type of users we might attract as Homiletics. I like the initials though. Maybe Christianity Today would work. People who are attracted to theology will probably be more interested in the existing sites. It could be more difficult to distinguish theology questions from hermeneutic and doctrinal ones than from homiletic ones. Most question about the nature of God, or Christology would be better suited for hermeneutics than homiletics.

I’m sure you know I agree with you about the new user experience and the fact that “people often have real questions and no place to have them answered”. What happens to these people is that they get discouraged and disappear, never to return. You see that by number of people who remain with a 1 or some low number beside their name. If we can provide a site that is more suited to their needs, I think the other sites will benefit as well since there will be a larger group of people on the site who are interested in Christianity and Bible Study in its different forms. That attracts attention from outside to all the sites. It should also alleviate the problem of lower tier questions without a useful answer. It sounds like there are not a few on this site and probably on Christianity SE as well who would appreciate having a place to send the preachers. :)

The difference between the proposed site and a Life Advice site is the commitment to a unique, agreed upon source of truth. We would not be looking for relativistic opinions, but facts and reasoning based on what the Bible says. On a site where God is honored, there should be order. I notice that you have done some good work yourself avoiding wars on BH. The shared criteria for evaluating answers would be which ones are most biblically based, not opinion or historic doctrine based.

There may not be many questions coming from a CT type site to BH, but that’s the point. They don’t meet the requirements. But if someone asked a question about the intent or meaning of a particular text that had no practical application, or if they had translations questions, or an interest in historical context, those questions could be directed to BH. I would try to give them some guidance about how to best ask those questions here so that they would have a better chance for success.

As I mentioned before, I believe the new site would draw people that may not feel comfortable participating on either C or BH. When they try, it usually doesn’t turn out well and they often get greeted with a curt, “This question has been closed” notice or "Please take a site tour". Most of them will never get the hang of hermeneutics. They don’t know much about Christian history, doctrine, or exegesis, but they do know their Bible, because they read it every day with devotion.

I think it would be a great testimony and a benefit to a wide range of people if Bible Hermeneutics and Christianity would work together to support a new site like this. It would increase the Christian presence on SE and be a powerful demonstration of Christians working together in their different capacities to spread the Good News while helping people grow in knowledge, faith, and practice. BH will not be losing people that they can’t retain, but directing them to a place where they can serve and be served.

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    I actually love this idea, and I encourage you to pursue it.
    – Bach
    Nov 4, 2021 at 19:55
  • Thanks, @Bach, I really appreciate your vote of support! I think that there are a lot of people like you who could make valuable contributions on all three sites. Nov 4, 2021 at 20:05
  • I agree that 'Christian Theology' is not a good name, since that's what Christianity.SE covers in addition to Church history, etc. I also agree that another site should be good for questions that cannot be covered under on-topic rules of the existing 2 sites, because the rules emphasize objectivity. The new site will need to sacrifice objectivity to fulfill the needs of the visitors, meaning that each answer would be voted for its usefulness instead of its correctness. As for the name for the new site, I vote for Jesse's title: Biblical Homily & Devotionals. Nov 5, 2021 at 16:17
  • Yes, I think "Biblical Application" may be a worthwhile consideration, as I noted in my comment to Jesse above.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 5, 2021 at 22:57
  • @Polyhat Do you distinguish between Application and Applications? Nov 5, 2021 at 23:52
  • In this case, "Application" isn't required to be plural, as "Mathematics" would be (there is no such word as "mathematic"). I just intend to use the word as the general noun for applying (gerund form). But if people thought the plural form looked or sounded better, I am open to that. I'm even open to other suggestions--but I don't favor the double-term names that some have suggested which seem to complicate things. Ultimately, while it is important to people's perception of what the site is for/about, the most important part to me is the site's open/accepting culture and Biblical focus.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 6, 2021 at 0:00
  • What I think is needed is a site where the "rules" are based on genuine Christian principles: respect for one another, love to God and to one's neighbor, and a search for the kingdom of God, seeking with one's whole heart and rightly dividing the word of truth. When we are true Christians, we will seek to establish truth on the great principle of "the Bible, and the Bible only." Any application made which is reasonably supported upon a "thus saith the Lord" should be welcome, and no sincere question relative to the pilgrim's journey toward eternal life should be unwelcome. My thoughts.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 6, 2021 at 0:12
  • 1
    @Polyhat That was part of my interest in proposing the new site. There has been a lot of frustration expressed by people who may be trying to force a square peg into a round hole. A question or answer that would fit well on the Biblical Applications site might need a lot of tweaking to meet BH or C requirements. Sometimes the changes alter the original intent of the question. Sometimes people give up and stop asking or answering. I remember the ordeal it was to get one of my questions reopened. I understand the moderators are trying to maintain the integrity of the community defined vision. Nov 6, 2021 at 2:26
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    The proposed BA site will alleviate that problem. People can ask their clear Christianity or Hermeneutical questions on those sites and they can ask their application questions on the BA site. I think there will be a lot less flags, edits, closures, and heated wrangling. Each site can focus more clearly on what it is designed to provide. I think it will lift the morale and spirit of cooperation on all sites to offer this alternative with a distinct but unified purpose. Again, I want to emphasize that this is not a competitive site for the disgruntled but a way to increase harmony and focus. Nov 6, 2021 at 2:34
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    I don't see that Christianity would be in competition with BA--it could focus more on faith-based (denominational) perspectives. And BH has certainly focused away from applications. Therefore, to maintain a non-denominational, Bible-based answers site that takes up the slack left by BH would fill a void in the current paradigm. Those questions that now fall through the cracks or leave people, especially first-time posters, disillusioned or even disgruntled could be handled at BA. While some overlap is possible (there are always edge cases), the three would each have their own piece of the pie.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 6, 2021 at 13:26
  • @Bach We're making some encouraging progress. Please let me know if you would like to be one of the early followers of the proposal. Thanks! I don't anticipate a huge time commitment and all who wish to participate even at a minimal level in this are welcome. Nov 7, 2021 at 22:31
  • @MartinHemsley to be honest, I don't think I'll be able to add much to BA. The reason I encourage you to launch this new site is because I believe it will be beneficial to BH, as in your own words "Bible Hermeneutics will be able to more fully devote itself to academic exegesis which was the original intent of the site." It also depends what kind of crowd this new site will attract. I have very little interest in discussing biblical theology or spirituality. Neither am I interested in participating if the site becomes overtly Christian.
    – Bach
    Nov 8, 2021 at 1:05
  • But I would be interested if the site is mostly focused on bible related topics, to discuss them objectively, and from all points of view.
    – Bach
    Nov 8, 2021 at 1:05
  • Also I think the name "biblical application" is too cumbersome. Why not just plain "bible SE". Any bible related topic is welcome on this new bible SE. Topics ranging from archaeology, biblical geography, history, theology, biblical figures, significance of biblical narratives, are all welcome on B SE. While BH is focused on a specific niche, hermeneutics, philology and textual analysis, bible SE would be much broader than that encompassing many different fields related to the bible. I think it would be a hit, and I think I may be able to add something there (if it works out).
    – Bach
    Nov 8, 2021 at 1:08
  • Interesting suggestion, @Bach! The point of this discussion is to work out these issues before we even try to launch to see what people are interested in as a 3rd option. I think there is a pretty good consensus that a 3rd option would benefit the existing sites and that there is a niche out there that is not currently being served. I see you have just posted your proposal so I hope we get helpful feedback. Let's keep talking and see what we can work out. I actually do prefer Bible to Biblical because something could be based on the Bible and not be biblical. Nov 8, 2021 at 1:44
2

To me, the missing scope would probably be something like Biblical Application.

Where it all begins

New SE sites are born from a single womb:

https://area51.stackexchange.com/

Area 51 is where users build proposals for new SE sites, working to get buy-in from like-minded users and clearly defining the site scope, until the point where a new SE site can be birthed into 'Beta' mode. You could certainly begin building a proposal there and find a sufficient number users from BH.SE and other places to come on-board as willing to support the proposal as a new site in its Beta, which takes a lot of care and attention.

Likely Challenges

The given reason for closing many questions on the site is "Off-Topic", but the reason the On-Topic rules were crafted in the first place were to make questions answerable and avoid opinion-based answers. Over many years the BH.SE user community and previous moderators crafted the On-Topic guidance to ensure higher quality questions.

I sympathise with the new-user experience and the fact that people often have real questions and no place to have them answered - but from a site perspective, one danger to beware is trying to rescue off-topic questions and squeeze them until they fit the BH.SE mould. Sometimes all we end up doing is creating a tier of lower quality questions that feel a bit fluffy and don't have a clear answer, when it's perfectly okay to just say "this isn't the place for that type of question".

One of the challenges with creating a SE site is creating a sensible scope that means answers have some kind of objective qualitative value - please see Real Questions Have Answers for more thoughts there!

There are some SE sites which are more like advice-giving sites rather than cited answer sites (I've read concerns from some of their moderators, but can't recall which sites specifically... is there a Life Advice site or something?) where you could have more relativistic answers as you're suggesting above, but to me that would be inviting several different manifestations of chaos:

  1. For BH.SE, our usual measure for success is "what is the text supposed to mean?" and so this helps us avoid wars between different theological viewpoints. For BA.SE you may have a theological question that erupts into a war between different theological camps, I struggle to see shared criteria for which is better, besides the number of voters you have from those camps. (which we have occasionally struggled with here)

  2. It would take a lot of work to carve out the scope to be clearly and meaningfully different from BH.SE - it's easy to conceive of shifting off-topic questions into the BA.SE site, but I struggle to think what the exact criteria would be for shifting content the other way. i.e. at what stage do you say "this isn't fundamentally a Biblical Application question, it's a question about the intent or meaning of a passage." and migrate it over?

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    Christian theology is already thoroughly on-topic at Christianity. Indeed, it's the biggest part of the site!
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Nov 5, 2021 at 8:16
  • Hi Steve, the current requirements for launching a new site on Area 51 are 5 example questions, 5 users who are willing to 'follow' the proposal, and the name of a website or organization that is sponsoring the launch. I don’t know if it is possible, but what do you think about the idea of BH sponsoring the new site? I can’t think of a better group since it is well-versed in the study of scripture and familiar with the art of good questions and answers. It would be nice to have the sister site be sponsored by one of the “big sisters” to emphasize the unity of purpose and mutual support. Nov 7, 2021 at 5:24
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    @MartinHemsley - in principle I'd be supportive of a third site on the condition that we could agree a sensible scope to differentiate it from the other two sites. However, BH.SE has barely got enough active experienced users participating in its review queues etc right now, and so doesn't really have any obvious administrative energy to spare. I could see the site sponsoring in the future but probably not today, sorry.
    – Steve Taylor Mod
    Nov 7, 2021 at 8:14
  • No worries, Steve, I can find other sites to sponsor. I just wanted to give you the first opportunity, precisely because you have been supportive. I don't want you to spend any administrative energy on the site since you have enough on your plate already. In fact, I'm anticipating that the new site would reduce the burden of administrative tasks here. I'm thinking I should wait to get a few more people to commit to at least following the proposal before I forge ahead. Nov 11, 2021 at 5:57
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    This proposed new site would quickly become popular but I share your reservations (point 1). There would have to be clarity as to what type of Qs were allowed, and what were disallowed, if the new site would avoid degenerating into personal opinions and personal advice. There's also a tendency for Qs that promote a personal belief, then giving the PO the opportunity to launch into arguments against answers not in accord with his/her religious stance. Moderators would have to swiftly disallow that in 'Comments' - so, no change there!
    – Anne
    Nov 14, 2021 at 14:43
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    Hi @Anne, I returned to review Steve’s points to consider and saw your comment. Wars can erupt over any discussion of the Bible, just as easily over “What is this text supposed to mean as discovered through the use of hermeneutical principles?” as “What does the Bible say about this topic according to what I understand God to be saying in his Word?” Moderators on any Bible-based site will have to work hard to encourage people to express their views while giving others freedom to hold and share opposing ones. Even learned Bible scholars have diametrically opposing views on many issues. Nov 15, 2021 at 6:59
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    I would like to work to establish guidelines that will foster an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect, in short Christian love, in how people relate and respond to each other. From reading some of your answers, I believe we share that value and any input you can provide to help us achieve that goal, if we are able to launch, would be appreciated. Btw, I realize that you are making quality contributions on BH and C, so I wouldn’t expect you to have much time, if any, to devote to the new site. Nov 15, 2021 at 7:02
  • As to your second point Steve, I looked at a couple of recent questions on BH which would very likely be migrated from a BA site because they don’t have much practical application to modern life. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/66077/44735 hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/70580/44735 hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/71140/44735 Some obvious candidates would be questions that require an understanding of the original languages, deeper understanding of historical context, and textual criticism, for example. Nov 15, 2021 at 7:35
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    @Martin Hemsley Your points noted. Yes, it takes many hours to prepare in-depth answers to most Qs on here. Even more ‘light-weight’ Qs still take some time. Other social media sites engender debates, whereas Stack is different. It’s for serious Qs that require serious As, whether or not others agree with the postings. I would consider contributing to any new site. It would be worth a try, to see how it goes.
    – Anne
    Nov 15, 2021 at 16:46
  • Hi Steve and @Anne, I wanted you to be one of the first to know that we have launched the new Bible Applications site! area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/126301/… Nov 20, 2021 at 19:21
2

Some of the picture I see for the potential new site.

Biblical Applications

Purpose: To address questions related to the Bible, its languages and cultures, Biblical archeology, or applications of these as may be supported by Biblical or historical evidence.

Question etiquette:

Question Characteristic Acceptability Textual Rationale/Support (KJV)
Sincere Desirable That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. (Philippians 2:10)
Seeking Biblical support Desirable Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:39)
Joking, jesting, sarcasm, mocking, cynicism Unwelcome Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. (Ephesians 5:4)
Plain/simple (uncomplicated) Desirable Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: (2 Corinthians 3:12)
Focused on Christ and the Gospel Desirable For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)
Mining deeper truths Desirable But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10)
Ignorant question Allowed And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: (Acts 17:30)

And it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance. (Numbers 15:26)
Questions of a contentious, provocative nature Disallowed The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with. (Proverbs 17:4)

Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:26)

(I may update the list as I think of additional Biblically supported points.)

Essentially, the entire new site should be governed on the basis of Biblical principle; on a "thus saith the Lord." If there is not a good principle upon which to accept or reject a person's contribution, it is better to err on the side of that person, thus acceptance would be the default action. We should seek to be as uncritical and unjudgmental of others as possible, and to err on the side of mercy. That said, there are limits, and the Bible can help us to define those.

It would be expected that answers would be ranked according to their quality and Biblical support by the votes of other participants.

In the event that a question sought denominational perspectives, it should be transferred to Christianity, Judaism, or wherever it may best be addressed. If the question was strictly hermeneutical in nature, it should be moved to BH.SE. But no question should be lightly moved or transferred that could foreseeably be rejected outright at the destination platform.

Because critics and objectors naturally tend to elevate their voices above others, I feel it would be appropriate to raise the bar for close votes above the number required to reopen; e.g. 6 votes to close, 4 votes to reopen--or something like this. A moderator should still be able to close a question without the help of other members.

6
  • Thanks, Polyhat. These are all excellent biblical principles to keep in mind throughout the development and maintenance of the site. The only category I might push back on is ignorance. According to your citation, God is no longer winking at ignorance and hopefully the site will help educate people out of it. It seems like everyone who is exploring this idea with me has a little different approach and interest in what they would like the site to resemble. I like your John 5 quote. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. Nov 9, 2021 at 6:02
  • What greater goal could there be in studying scripture than finding eternal life, right? I think you know that I am sensitive to the closure issue. I would like us to work to help people get their questions answered in accordance with the guidelines and migrate them when appropriate. In any case, as I have said to others, the vision will be defined by the questions and answers in the early stages. I think it is important at this stage to find a few people from C and BH who are willing to commit to following the launch and contributing to the definition of the scope. Are you able to help? Nov 9, 2021 at 6:19
  • @MartinHemsley I'm interested. One reason I don't participate more in the moderation of BH is that, frankly, I haven't resonated with its strict and narrow scope which in many cases, when applied, seems harsh and unChristlike. I desire to be a Christian first and foremost, and follow the principle of Acts 5:29 above any rules of etiquette which may be in vogue here.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 9, 2021 at 7:44
  • What greater goal could there be in studying scripture than finding eternal life, right? The science of salvation is the science of all sciences.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 9, 2021 at 11:30
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    A hearty welcome! You are the first pioneer from the sister sites to sign on. A few more who catch the vision and we’ll be on our way! Meanwhile, I want to address some of the concerns you raised. Stack was developed to serve no-nonsense secular programmers and the black and white boolean logic tends to influence many of the subsequent unrelated sites. Either a question meets the criteria of the site or not. I’m in agreement with you that I would like to see a different ethos prevail on the new site that is perhaps a little more tolerant of the gray areas and more patient with the newbies. Nov 9, 2021 at 15:55
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    There has been a lot of frustration over the fact that many questions are asked which don’t fit well on the existing sites and this could be alleviated by the 3rd option. I have observed some positive changes more recently and awareness has been raised regarding new user experience. I also noticed that Steve was willing to engage in discussion with you about your concerns. It is my hope that what happens on the new site will be a rising tide that lifts all boats. it will certainly be a learning and growing experience. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Nov 9, 2021 at 16:05
1

Biblical Homily & Devotionals

The name

The biggest problem—albeit quite small—is that the name "Biblical Homiletics" sounds too similar to "Biblical Hermeneutics". Secondly, that people who stand to learn the most from answers are less likely to know the difference between "hermeneutics" and "homiletics" and could get them confused on a freshman vocabulary quiz. The initials would also be "BH".

But, a three-word name, such as ELU and ELL, with both being similar, the second likely created for similar reasons, and sharing the first two letters, this works well: BH and BHD (Biblical Hermeneutics and Biblical Homily & Devotionals).

I argue for "Devotionals" in the plural in order to be utterly clear. Everyone would know the purpose of the site, merely by the name. The plural is also a little more open to a plurality of methods and ideas, which seems to be part of your aim. Most pastors may look at the title and naturally expect it to be a great place to find inspiration for the next "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers.

About your idea

I think you're right on the money. Your defense, background, and considerations explain it well. But, actually creating a new site may largely be a matter of logistics, both for software dev and whether BH has enough overlapping members that it would not create confusion.

Certainly, with the uptick in activity that moderator Steven Taylor observes, and Dr. C's concern about dups, a new site may help resolve many matters... maybe. It has merit, but needs a review of logistics.

I remain very curious as to what other mods have to say because I am so new to this, and I have no experience on how a new site impacts the community.

12
  • Thanks, Jesse! Yes, I didn't feel Biblical Homiletics would be the best name and yours would be an improvement. What a perfect link! “It is essential that you give people the opportunity to act on the truth of God. The responsibility must be left with the individual— you cannot act for him. It must be his own deliberate act, but the evangelical message should always lead him to action.” There is an established protocol for setting up new sites on SE. The key will be to get enough interest in the new site to get it off the ground. I would expect the impact on the existing sites to be positive. Nov 4, 2021 at 8:28
  • I would envisage it to function somewhat like a trinity with the 3 sites working together to benefit each other, but each with their distinct roles. The 3rd site would not mind being subordinate, however. :) Nov 4, 2021 at 8:34
  • to be fair, the 'uptick in activity' I spoke of was more of a positive, because we've had far too little activity on review queues, Meta and Chat for the past year. The new activity is bringing the site back to a healthier place.
    – Steve Taylor Mod
    Nov 4, 2021 at 14:47
  • I think more consideration should go into the name of the proposed site. Perhaps "Biblical Application" would be more appropriate--simple and sufficiently broad as to encompass both new Christians and those of experience--or even non-Christians.
    – Polyhat
    Nov 5, 2021 at 22:54
  • @Polyhat The trouble with “Application” is that it is too broad. “Homiletics” is a class in college and “Devotional” is a genre and section in the bookstore. “Application” is a possible part of almost every study, never a study to itself. A case could be made for that, but it would be a rather extensive case. Nov 6, 2021 at 10:04
  • Technically, you are correct, Jesse, but "Christianity" also encompasses a pretty broad spectrum and Hermeneutics is a class in college or seminary. The most important consideration is whether the title is fairly descriptive of what is offered at the site. When people see Bible Applications, what else would they think of other than, "Uh oh, you mean I've got to put it into practice?" Lol. I don't know if any colleges offer BA, but they all should. The questions asked will define pretty clearly BA's niche, which will be quite practical and distinct from the other two. Appreciate your interest! Nov 6, 2021 at 15:26
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    You surely do have a good point about that, as far as names go. Christianity.SE could be more accurately be called Christian Theology.SE, but it's not. Based on that, Biblical Application.SE can't be that objectionable, as long as the description includes Homiletics and Devotionals somehow—IF the goal is to make something that encompasses those scopes. Nov 6, 2021 at 16:02
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    Hi @JesseSteele. I wanted you to be among the first to know that we have launched the new Bible Applications site! area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/126301/… Nov 20, 2021 at 19:32
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    @MartinHemsley I looked at it and I like it, even the UFO question is good. But, I strongly believe it should be "Application", not "Applications" I say this because of three professional fields: 1. As an accomplished English writer/teacher and 2. Bible student we use "application" (uncountable, like 'water') to describe Bible lessons, and 3. as a software developer we use "applications" (countable, plural) to describe multiple pieces of computer software. Your site looks like an app store for Bible, change to "Bible Application". Beyond that, tally-ho! Nov 21, 2021 at 2:28
  • Hey Jesse, I appreciate your early and continued support and I value your well-earned expertise in the fields you mentioned so I am open to considering your proposal. Others I have consulted favored Applications so maybe we should find a way to let everyone who wants to, weigh in on this. For me, Bible Application sounds more like an App that you download on your phone or computer than the plural form. There are different kinds of applications we can derive from the Bible, such as personal, general, practical, spiritual, historical, doctrinal, etc. Nov 21, 2021 at 16:48
  • I didn’t want to imply by the singular that there is just one kind even if the site ends up focusing on one. Someone could say, “Out of all the possible applications of this biblical concept or verse, this one makes the most sense to me. Which application works for you?” So applications can make sense in this context, just like waters can be used in the plural. I doubt anyone would confuse the site with a Bible App store. I’m not married to the current title, so please feel free to respond to this. Nov 21, 2021 at 16:53
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    For three different professions I listed, that confusion wouldn't exist. It's not singular, it is "uncountable", like water. That's just how we talk. Run this idea past the English teachers, software developers, and pastors you know. See what makes sense to them and there is your answer. But, ask without explaining first; just give the two names and ask what they think. Nov 21, 2021 at 17:06
1

I think the idea is superb and would solve a lot of problems that keep returning to BH. Many different names have been proposed for this new site. But my proposal is to call it simply "Bible SE".

I think the focus of this new baby site is shifting from biblical topics (which can be answered somewhat objectively), to a pastoral site where people can post their own spiritual and theological problems. I think this is a big mistake, and if we go down this road it will become another Christianity SE, something we don't want. It will also naturally attract lots of lower quality posts in my opinion, since there is no way to objectively answer these questions, and essentially anyone (even ones who are not qualified to answer) can have an opinion on these topics and post them with confidence.

For example, how can @gratefuldesciple's question "What does it mean for a believer take up their cross daily and follow Christ?" be objectively answered? Do we want the new site to be focused on subjective questions like these (thereby attracting lower quality posts), or do we want questions which require some level of expertise and experience from the community?

The way I see it, this new site should be focused on bible related topics. As it stands now, BH does not allow for "bible related topics", and any question that fails to quote a passage from the bible in their post is at risk of being closed. So Bible SE would be coming to solve exactly that. Topics ranging from archaeology, biblical geography, biblical history (perhaps this topic is better suited on History SE??), theology, biblical figures, significance of biblical narratives, are all welcome on B SE. Devotional and spiritual topics (as long as they are related to the bible) would be welcome too (as it would attract a less academic crowd too), but that shouldn't be the focus of this new site, since C SE already serves that purpose.

While BH is now focused on a specific niche, i.e., hermeneutics, philology and textual analysis, bible SE would be much broader than that, encompassing many different fields related to the bible, as I have enumerated above. For example, a long time ago I posted a question about the geographical location of Sinai. Since I couldn't post it on BH, and Christianity didn't feel like the right place for it either, I ended up posting it on History SE, and naturally it got downvoted, even though the question was well written. However, now that we are launching this new site (which I would call Bible SE), my question about the location of Sinai would be a perfect fit! So are questions like this and this welcome. This way, academics and non-academics alike can participate and contribute to this site.

I think there's also a need to dig deeper and figure out and define what is considered off-topic on this new site, if not there will be a lot overlapping between C SE and B SE, and the lines will become blurred. I think for example this question currently on C SE, should be considered off-topic on B SE, since in my opinion "prayer" as such is not a biblical topic, although it is mentioned many times in the bible. It can be a bible related topic though if it's asked in the context of the bible, i.e., how "prayer" is viewed in the bible (even without a specific bible passage as BH requires). But since this is asking for guidance on prayer it should not be allowed on B SE. Other may disagree with me, and it is very important to discuss this here. I am not yet entirely clear what should be considered off-topic on this site, and I welcome other users input on this.

21
  • Very thought provoking - too much for comment box response. I hope others will answer if they have other opinions or express support for the opinions they agree with. I don’t know how many people interact on Meta so I don’t know how many are aware of this discussion. Ultimately, the real vision for the site will be developed by the questions and answers. That will tell us what people are really interested in for the 3rd site or if they are interested in it all. It may end up being something very different from what you or I envisaged since it gets shaped by the participation of the users. Nov 8, 2021 at 5:29
  • I have seen some sites fail on Stack because they were too broad and others because they were too narrow. We may need to try to find a happy medium. For me, some of the key questions are what will attract people to participate on the site? What will motivate them to stay? What will attract the experts? Who are the experts? If a person with limited education talks about what something in the Bible means to them, is there a way we can value their contribution? What is the glue that will bring a lot of people together in a productive and meaningful way. That’s the only way the site will survive. Nov 8, 2021 at 5:33
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    I don’t think we should be so broad as to say anything goes as long as it is related to the Bible in some way. Please all, please none. Perhaps an initial defining parameter would be, can this question be answered by the Bible? Doctrine would not be used as an authority as in C.SE. Strict exegetical standards would not be enforced as in BH. It sounds like most people so far lean to something along the lines of Bible Applications because the title defines a little more the primary scope of the site which is to discuss how the Bible is practical rather than just theory and head knowledge. Nov 8, 2021 at 5:37
  • Can a question about prayer be answered by the Bible? Most likely, yes, as in this is what the Bible says about how to pray. Flat earth? Yes, even though it may involve a discussion on how scientifically accurate we can expect the Bible to be. I don’t know if your archaeology question could be answered from the Bible and it looks like you posted it in the right place even though it may have gotten down voted due to Bible prejudice, lol. Sorry to have gone on so long, but you are right, it is important to discuss this. We may just have to start asking and answering and see where it takes us. Nov 8, 2021 at 5:44
  • "Perhaps an initial defining parameter would be, can this question be answered by the Bible?" @MartinHemsley I don't see it that way. B.SE should not be focused on questions that can only be answered from the bible. Questions related to biblical Archaeology and Geography, cannot always be answered strictly from the bible, sometimes extra-biblical evidence is needed, like studying ancient talmudic/Arabic/byzantine sources to help us a identify a specific biblical location. But I think most people would agree that they are related to the bible, and therefore should be allowed.
    – Bach
    Nov 8, 2021 at 15:33
  • Questions about prayer can certainly be answered thru the bible, but it all depends on how the question is asked. If someone wants to explore prayer thru the bible lens, then that should be permitted. But if someone asks about prayer in general and is seeking guidance, then that question belongs on C.SE or Islam.SE or Judaism.SE depending which religion he follows, but it is not strictly biblical, I see it as a more pastoral question. Almost any religious topic can be bible related, but it all depends on how it is asked, and what kind of response the OP is looking for.
    – Bach
    Nov 8, 2021 at 15:39
  • Food for thought: Should a question like "How can I get closer to God?" be allowed on the 3rd site? It can be possibly be answered from the bible, but it's not phrased in such a way. The person asking such a question is clearly looking for general spiritual guidance. Should the 3rd site allow such questions? I think you know my stance on this. The rules must clearly be defined. Perhaps you should post it as a separate question on meta, and see how the community feels.
    – Bach
    Nov 8, 2021 at 15:42
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    I am very interested in archaeology and geography and have been to the Holy Land. I even answered an arch. question on one of these 2 sites using my personal experience. But how many are like us? How many such questions would there be? How many experts would qualify to answer a question about an altar in the Sinai? My main goal is to see people edified by the study of the Bible. That is already happening on the 2 existing sites. How can we amplify the impact with a 3rd site? I don't know if a general question on prayer would fly on C. On B/A, it could be answered according to the Bible. Nov 8, 2021 at 16:45
  • Okay, maybe “Can it be answered with the Bible?” should not be too strict a parameter since we should be open to how extra-biblical sources support what the Bible is saying. If someone asks a general question like "How can I get closer to God?" I would accept that and answer it from a biblical perspective according to the guidelines that had been developed. They asked it on a Bible site. Rather than asking more questions on Meta that many won’t see, it may make more sense to launch and discuss questions and answers as they come in as a dynamic and practical way to develop the vision. Nov 8, 2021 at 16:51
  • To clarify, as was defined in the chart about what is off-topic, I would not be giving specific personal spiritual advice, but answering from a knowledge of what the Bible says about how people are encouraged and become able to draw near to God. Again, these things will become clearer through the process of question and answer submission, discussion, and voting. You may also learn through the process if it is a site where you would want to participate. Nov 8, 2021 at 17:00
  • Yes I agree. As it is now, it looks we have very different visions of how the 3rd site should be. It doesn't seem like any question would be considered off-topic according to your vision, since almost any question (theological, pastoral, spiritual, philosophical) can be answered from a bible perspective. I think in this case @Steve's criticism is very appropriate then "but the reason the On-Topic rules were crafted in the first place were to make questions answerable and avoid opinion-based answers."
    – Bach
    Nov 8, 2021 at 18:52
  • In any case, even if I won't participate I still encourage this idea, because I feel it will be beneficial at least to the BH community. Best of luck!
    – Bach
    Nov 8, 2021 at 18:53
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    Thanks, @Bach, your participation already has been beneficial. As I pointed out, it is not easy to work out all the details of a 3rd site theoretically. The site ultimately will be what the users collectively shape it to become. No individual should be too adamant about the site embodying their particular interests. There certainly is some curiosity about the idea, and it is not the first time someone has considered it, but I would like to see firmer commitments from people to follow the proposal before proceeding. Perhaps Steve or others with more experience in these matters can advise. Nov 8, 2021 at 20:15
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    @MartinHemsley hi thanks for letting me know. I don't think i'll be contributing much, but I am following it cuz I want to see it go from Area51 to the next phase. Wish you best of luck!
    – Bach
    Nov 21, 2021 at 4:12
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    @MartinHemsley yes I was able to
    – Bach
    Nov 23, 2021 at 20:32

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