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Why is the Trinity tag required?

Earlier this month I was surprised to see a moderator remove what seemed to me to be a more relevant tag for a question and replace it with the Trinity tag. This happened for multiple questions.

This action puzzled me because the question did not specifically ask about the Trinity. My puzzlement continued until I read the Trinity tag description:

Questions on Biblical texts relating to the Christian teaching of the "Trinity": This is a required tag for questions on passages used to support, could likely, or prove to impact one's view of the Trinity, while questions on the Trinity itself remain off-topic.

So now it is cleared up for me why a moderator would take such action, but my puzzlement has thus shifted to and increased regarding the existence of such a tag in the first place:

  1. Why is this particular tag required such that potentially more relevant tags must be bumped off to make room for it?

  2. Why do we even have a tag for a subject that is off-topic?

  3. Are there any other tags that are also similarly required that we should all know about?

  4. Should there be tags for other theologies like the Oneness theology or Arianism?

Overall it seems contradictory and inconsistent if you are not even allowed to ask a question the looks like systemic theology to require a tag about a systemic theological topic.

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  • 3
    That tag description needs an edit - tags are never truly required as there are frequently more than 5 applicable tags, so whichever is 6th most relevant just has to be left out.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 5:50
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    No, I don't think that 'attack' is a helpful term here. We all try our best to be theologically neutral in this discipline, but there's no escaping the fact that many of the drivers behind our interest in certain passages (and asking certain questions about them) are theological in nature. I don't think that the 'trinity' tag should denote attempts to attack or defend any particular position. What it is for is open to debate...
    – Steve can help Mod
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 9:50
  • @SteveTaylor, I agree. The current description, however, appears designed to function as a protective label to help people better handle any impacts to their faith (like a trigger warning) or a call to arms for those of any faith to either defend or attack. Either way, initially I was quite comfortable with a Trinity tag, but after considering that "questions on the Trinity are off-topic" and that no other theology is tagged makes me believe that such a tag is inappropriate for this site with any description.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 15:02
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    @SteveTaylor, perhaps a more neutral tag about divine personhood or something along those lines could replace it.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 15:06
  • @Austin - I think you misunderstand Nigel there, it's not that he's intending it as some kind of trigger warning, but rather as a way of tagging questions that - regardless of pretence - are ultimately driving at questioning a particular doctrinal viewpoint, which does make sense. I don't know if I'd go that far myself, but the logic of it is compelling, as otherwise we have hundreds of questions that are ultimately about a particular doctrine but otherwise don't appear related. Tags are more like 'categories' of questions, so that would make a kind of intuitive sense.
    – Steve can help Mod
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 9:30
  • @NigelJ explains my own concern precisely. I'm not die-hard "trinity"; I'm die-hard "we're only doing hermeneutics and don't get to that discussion here". But, I see a lot of "sealioning" on a perfect list of systheo passages on any Trinity/Oneness doctrine, then the OP starts crying "pro-Trinity prejudice" at the first objection. Somehow this pattern needs to stop and we all get back to the Hermeneutics where we agree. But, I'm still not sure how. And, I'm very glad for this question!
    – Jesse Mod
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 7:13
  • I've begun an audit of the Trinity tag. Already removed the tag from about a dozen questions that it didn't belong on. More to follow in future days (so that I don't make it take up the entire front page of the site.)
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 5:00
  • @SteveTaylor, Hi Steve, sorry if I miscommunicated. It's not that I am interpreting Nijel as saying the tag is some kind of trigger warning, but that I believe based on the quoted tag description that it can function as a warning that such and such subject matter may impact your belief in the Trinity.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:09
  • @SteveTaylor, "Otherwise we have hundreds of questions that are ultimately about a particular doctrine but otherwise don't appear related." Often times a argument for or against the Trinity would also be for or against oneness and against or for Arianism. The issue is that these types of questions don't just affect one theology. If we have a subject that impacts multiple theologies, not specifically calling out any one, but only uses the trinity label - This seems a little biased. To avoid this shouldn't the trinity tag only be used if the trinity is specifically addressed in the question?
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:23
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    @SteveTaylor, what if we use a more neutral tag such as the "nature_of_God" or "identity_of_God" I think this would acknowledge that a "trinity" tagged question without actually mentioning the trinity is not simply a question about the trinity but about what is the actual nature/identity of God. This obviously invites trinitarian perspectives but also non-trinitarian ones.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:30
  • @Austin I'd encourage you to write your own Answer with that proposal so that it can be voted on in itself.
    – Steve can help Mod
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 19:48
  • @SteveTaylor, thanks for the encouragement. I hope this helps.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 8:00

5 Answers 5

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At the request of moderator Steve Taylor for me to advocate for a position as a separate post, I'm offering an answer to my own question.

In review, the description for the Trinity tag at the time I highlighted the issue is as follows:

Questions on Biblical texts relating to the Christian teaching of the "Trinity": This is a required tag for questions on passages used to support, could likely, or prove to impact one's view of the Trinity, while questions on the Trinity itself remain off-topic.

The main problem I have with the trinity tag as described, beyond what I mentioned in the original post, is that a question that may impact one's view of the Trinity would necessarily not only impact one's view of the Trinity but also one's view of similar or contrary theologies such as the Binitarian, Arian, and Oneness viewpoints, depending on the question being asked.

And so, my solution quite simply is:

  1. The Trinity tag should only be applied to questions that specifically reference the Trinity. Under such a circumstance I'm not too particular if it's considered required or not. It's hard to imagine that there would be a scenario where the Trinity is referenced and there are also 5 more appropriate tags ahead of it.
  2. Questions that may impact one's view of the Trinity and various other alternatives should all be grouped under something like a nature_of_god tag.
  3. With regard to questions that specifically reference other theologies it seems appropriate that a separate tag for each should be available for them as needed just as there is for the Trinity.

That's it. I really appreciate the engagement on this issue. I hope that this helps.

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    Your three points are basically how I've been operating so far. There are many potential tags for point 2: god-the-father, christology, pneumatology, monotheism, names-of-god, attributes-of-god, theophanies, etc.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 8:02
  • @curiousdannii, I figured that to be the case based on our last discussion. What do you think about an identity_of_god tag? Most of the trinitarian/binitarian/arian/oneness questions I've come across deal primarily with the issue of identity. Who is God?
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 8:08
  • Potentially, but only for questions that are really focusing on that. It's not a coverall tag.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 8:25
  • @curiousdannii with the other tags you mentioned and a potential identity_of_god tag do you see a use for a nature_of_god tag?
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 15:06
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Personally, I wouldn't say that required is strictly a correct term for any tag. To quote the Help Centre:

A tag is a word or phrase that describes the topic of the question. Tags are a means of connecting experts with questions they will be able to answer by sorting questions into specific, well-defined categories.

Tags can also be used to help you identify questions that are interesting or relevant to you.

In the SE model, tags are primarily for helping people find questions of interest.

On BH.SE we typically include at least one tag denoting the text that is to be exegeted, but after that users then specify a range of other tags which appear relevant to the topics touched on by the question.

It does make sense to apply a trinity tag for questions which are ultimately encouraging engagement with or examination of this subject in relation to the passage, because it is a very popular (if not our most popular) go-to topic that we see day after day here on the site. On the other hand, there are only 5 spaces for tags on any question, and I'm sure there are plenty of questions that may touch on this topic but already have 1 text and 4 other topics that are more relevant.

So, I'd propose two positive steps to move forward:

  1. Clean up the Trinity tag wiki to remove the word 'required' and find a more neutral description for it.
  2. Start generating some Answers to this long-dead Meta 'What is our tagging philosophy?' to start generating some unified consensus around how to tag questions and what should be done about doctrinal tags, in light of the facts that this is a topic of interest for many, yet is something we shouldn't really be asking questions directly about.
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    The problem I have with the trinity tag beyond what I mention in the OP, is that, unless the Trinity is specifically mentioned, the question doesn't just impact the Trinitarian viewpoint, but also the binitarian, arian, oneness, etc depending on question being asked. Because the theological impacts are much more broad than just the Trinity shouldn't we just have something like a nature_of_god or identity_of_god tag.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:35
  • for example "It does make sense to apply a trinity tag for questions which are ultimately encouraging engagement with or examination of this subject in relation to the passage," seems too vague for the same question may also ultimately encourage engagement or examination of binitarian, unitarian, oneness views also.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:56
  • @Austin - on reflection I quite like your idea of merging the #trinity tag into #nature_of_god, as this is a more theologically neutral way of tagging. As you say, questions which touch on this topic actually engage with a much wider field of theologies, and it's generally best practice to try and avoid carrying our own theological baggage into a passage/question.
    – Steve can help Mod
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 8:45
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I'm the moderator in question. This is a wonderful Meta question! I was contemplating asking almost exactly the same thing, with exactly the same points. The reason I didn't is because I didn't want to come across as the only one who cares.

I've removed the "required" part of the tag. Some tags on other sites do have "required" in the description, but that isn't needed here.

Background

My personal goal as a moderator is just to stay on the topic of healthy Bible interpretation. "Trinity", "Oneness", "Tri-theology"... these come after hermeneutics. In my own words, we are pre-theology.

Nigel's comment explains my concern very well:

It is so common for questions to be asked that attack the doctrine called 'Trinity' that it seems quite appropriate to tag such questions in order to clarify that such an attack is being made.

The OP's response to Nigel also holds true without conflicting with the concern that Nigel and I hold in common:

is the purpose of this stackexchange to defend the Trinity from attack? Should other theologies also have a tag when they are under attack or otherwise when belief in them may be impacted?

Not trying to be a politician here, but I strongly agree with both. The issue for me is that we don't go as far as to discuss theology.

Both have the well-founded concern of a shift toward a "to be or not to be Trinitarian" topic. Both Nigel and Austin don't want that; I don't either.

Steve doesn't like the word "attack" mainly because that can make comments unfriendly. I'd say it seems more like a "hostile takeover" tactic, as if the site's topic is under siege. Steve's point is to remember that no one is attacking anyone here.

Full disclosure: My stance on the Trinity

It's not that I/we don't want non-trinitarians on the site. I very much enjoy wisdom from my Apostolic Church "Oneness" pastor friend. He says that the word "persons" bugs him. It bugs me too! The Holy Spirit is a spirit, not a person. And, the word "person" implies a mutually-exclusive, individual identity and necessitates a tri-theology. Moreover in epistemological terms, I don't want to use the created as a category in which to confine the Creator. The noun "person" defines a human, not a "God Most High", though we could use the adjective "personal" to describe each member of the godhead. Regardless of godhead doctrine, the Judaeo-Christian-Biblical God is indeed personal because He is all-knowing, et cetera. But, I digress.

Suffice it to say that I'm not a die-hard Trinitarian. And in my experience, Trinitarians can be quite hard-headed and close-eared. I didn't like how my own pastor wouldn't give my AC pastor friend the time of day at the weekly pastor's breakfast. It broke my heart. And, we don't want to be like that here.

With that out of the way...

Topic and tags

Hermeneutics should be our common ground.

I have two genuine concerns:

  1. Disingenuous anti-trinitarian questions that evidently seek to derail the purpose of this site from "Hermeneutics" to "cloaked Arianism" sales pitches (or any other topic).
  2. Trinitarian comments that continue an unacknowledge, unintended habit of stonewalling all discussion from "Oneness" and other ingenuous Bible student users who just want to be objective.

The first concern is Nigel's. The second concern is Ausin's. Those two users are not in disagreement; they have two compatible concerns from a different POV. Together, their comments embody why I was messing with the tags in the first place.

(Nigel has previously objected to me using the term 'cloaked theology' because it presumes to know an OP's intentions. He has a good point, so I'm trying to use the term 'cloaked' more gently. While I look for better words, we both want to more or less 'de-cloak' any question not asked in "good faith". Tags can help achieve that.)

My own solution: #godhead in place of them all

I strongly agree with the OP asking this question:

  1. Why do we even have a tag for a subject that is off-topic?

Why? indeed!

I had suggested the #godhead tag to the other mods. But, one of them had a good argument that #trinity may be the POV from an OP asking a question.

Consider this question: Does the Shema Yisrael affirm the first two persons of the trinity, aka the Father and Son?

The OP asks about a Jewish prayer Shema Yisrael, whether it supports the Trinity. That is technically a "hermeneutics" question, but not "Bible hermeneutics"; it's about "prayer literature hermeneutics". It should be tertiarily as on-topic as the Gnostic Gospels.

In that question, the OP is already curious about the Trinity specifically. But, to be pre-theological and hermeneutically objective, a tag based on a curiosity, however real, might not be best for the final, edited version of a question.

That other moderator sees a very real need for the #trinity tag. This question on the Shema Yisrael shows why. But, they should represent their own positions and reasons, so I won't represent nor refute that mod that here. It is at least a legitimate consideration.

But, it doesn't seem objective to only tag that question with #trinity and not #oneness and #arianism. But, there is a five-tag limit:

there are frequently more than 5 applicable tags, so whichever is 6th most relevant just has to be left out.

This is a reality we face: some things get left out. Many users may feel left out if they happen to be in a minority (for now, times change), but there is a deeper matter that objective users really don't want left out: hermeneutical objectivity.

When I approach a text, I take my own true, real 90%-trinitarian view and set it down each and every time. To do that, I never have "trinity" in my mind when reading a Bible passage without also having "oneness" and "Arius" in my mind. I do my best to expunge them all while in Bible study. Shedding as much bias as I can is part of my hermeneutical process.

No one can shed all bias, but most of us are negligent in this first step. Doomed to fail, I work very had to be non-unobjective anyway, and that doesn't make me delusional; it makes me a responsible Bible student.

Being objective should not require that we bloat our language. Why use up 2/3 tags just to be objective? #godhead should be sufficient.

All theology tags should be included

If we are going to have a tag for #trinity, then we need a tag for others. From the OP:

  1. Should there be tags for other theologies like the Oneness theology or Arianism?

Yes. And, we have a #oneness tag.

But, since we have a #oneness tag, we should mention it more in these discussions, which we have not. IMVHO, that validates my concern that [we] Trinitarians tend to stonewall and not listen well. We can improve on that.

Yes. We should absolutely have a #arianism tag if we have a #trinity tag.

Solving the original dilemma

Perhaps that tag should be added to the posts that Nigel and I are specifically concerned about. And, perhaps that would stop the "hostile takeover" (AKA attack or siege on the site's topic). That may also satisfy Austin's (OP) concerns in this question.

I'd still like the #godhead tag for this, tho, because it helps honest questions to be less inflammatory and remain within our pre-theology topic of hermeneutics.

So, is the solution to add #godhead or #arianism? I vote to try both and then see which prove to be more useful.

What say you?

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  • No way. "Godhead" is usually used to refer to the singular divine nature of God. That may be applicable to some questions involving the Trinity, but it is absolutely not a substitute for it. And it's also a concept that applies equally to binitarian and unitarian views of God. Sorry, but I really don't understand at all why you think Trinity is a bad tag.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 4:05
  • "In my own words, we are pre-theology." This can be your personal goal, but it is not a rule for the site, which allows for people to use theology to help them understand how to interpret texts, the principle of the hermeneutical circle/spiral.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 4:15
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    +1 I appreciate your side on the issue. My problem with the "Godhead" tag is that "godhead" seems to mean multiple things to multiple people. I prefer a more transparent synonym such as nature_of_god or the identity_of_god or something like that which acknowledges that a question that impacts belief in the Trinity also impacts belief in several other prominent theologies.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:38
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    @curiousdannii, while I'm not a big fan of godhead itself as a tag, I think the trinity tag can be problematic sense a question that impacts but doesn't mention the trinity also impacts several other theologies. To only label that question as trinitarian without acknowledging the impact it has on other theologies is a bit biased. That's why a more neutral tag would be more appropriate for most questions currently tagged with the trinity tag.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:41
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    @Austin Questions that don't mention the Trinity absolutely should not be tagged with it. I've already begun an audit of the tag, replacing badly-tagged questions with other tags.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:44
  • @curiousdannii, awesome. I was curious about what metric you were using in your audit. That really makes the most sense.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:46
  • @curiousdannii, I'm not sure if your position on the tag is represented in any of the answers. I would be curious to see what your view is more explicitly.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:47
  • @Austin I don't disagree with Steve's post, and will write my own in the future.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:49
  • @curiousdannii, thanks. I look forward to it.
    – Austin
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 6:57
  • @curiousdannii me too. I'm not married to the "godhead" tag. In our Hermeneutical Spiral we are guided by our "renewed minds" (Rm 12:2), not reversing the hermeneutical process to "properly twist" Scripture to agree with our pre-determined conclusion. As long as you're not "getting hermeneutics from theo"—but allowing the Bible to speak for itself—I have no objection to theo-ish questions. Good hermeneutics with the Bible will lead us back to correct theo every time we start without theo. Theo is the check, not the process; that much is "on topic".
    – Jesse Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 7:20
  • @Austin we understand each other. I am admittedly a little more Trinitarian than Oneness. I really do identify with your questions on the matter. I am coming to think that my shared concern with Nigel isn't on users who are openly "Oneness", but users who are quietly Arians and aren't up front about it until they start sealioning. That's the other thing to address, and perhaps a "trinity" tag is an appealing-but-wrong solution. We need another.
    – Jesse Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 7:30
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If I ask a question that relates to Jesus's pre-incarnation state in the Hebrew scriptures, what is the site's official position as to whether the Trinity tag should be used?

  • Yes, because that concept could be part of the Trinity Doctrine.
  • No, because the question implies nothing about a third member of the Godhead.

I would hope the answer is "no" because, as the OP, I know I wasn't asking anything about that doctrine and don't want to hear anything about it.

The fact that some readers could relate it to some concept that isn't part of the question really shouldn't be justification for applying a tag. The question could similarly apply to Binitarian, or it could apply to Jehovah's Witnesses belief that Jesus was Michael, so the same argument would say that those tags should be added too.

I would add Trinity only in the case where the question does want to be related to that doctrine. But even then, the question would have used the word explicitly, so there really isn't any need for the added tag.

I really don't see any point in the existence of this tag on this site.

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Overall it seems contradictory and inconsistent if you are not even allowed to ask a question the looks like systemic theology to require a tag about a systemic theological topic.

This is indeed one of various points that expose the inconsistency of this site's principles against systematic theology and its practice, which includes systematic tags that encourage religious topics that suit perfectly on C.SE. The reason why the unwanted CSE topics are dumped here because of the misapplication or misconception that CSE "can't handle truth", when in reality they do handle it all the time.

I agree about questions being allowed such as Jesus' deity, which is the only relevant on topic issue indirectly addressing Trinity. All other hardcore trinity topics would fall outside the secular-objective principles of hermeneutics, and better suit CSE.

Such topics should be raised not just here but also on CSE to reform both sites to avoid going against original guidelines. However, I doubt about any reformation since there is also inconsistent overlap of the mods among the two sites, thus, this one has been basically functioning as CSE.2 for some years.

Trinity and any systematic theology, and dogmatic tags should be removed. I agree with Ray Butterworth's answer completely. This site has been giving the impression of bias against non-trinitarians, something that such theological dogmatic tags or topics are responsible for.

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