I struggle with 'opinion-based questions' being closed too often IMO. Hermeneutics necessarily involves interpretation so it seems to me that this particular site needs more flexibility than, for example, sites dealing with board games or computer programming. Case in point:

This question was closed as opinion-based. It asks about how to reconcile two seemingly contradictory verses of scripture. I voted to re-open it because I don't see how we can have a meaningful forum about the interpretation of scripture if we are forbidden to pose questions that are open to more than one viewpoint or hermeneutical method. I find this problem cropping up again and again.

Here is another example It asks if Rev. 2 is criticizing Paul, and if not Paul, then who? I want to keep this open because the identity of the false teachers in Rev. 2 is important, and the chapter's abhorrence of food sacrificed to idols is at odds with Paul's more liberal attitude. It's a great question for biblical hermeneutics and IMO we should welcome various views about it as long as sound hermeneutical principles are applied.

As the overflow blog says

Insisting on objectivity is fine for computing and mathematics. But once you get past the hard(ish) sciences, you veer towards the much softer social sciences. There are experts in these fields, but they are by definition, not exact. In fact, most academic fields don’t have objective answers. Topics like economics, engineering, the arts, literature, and social sciences don’t exactly have correct and incorrect answers.

So much more so with biblical hermeneutics! Am I missing something, or are people confusing the rule about opinion-based questions (which are tendentious and may be rightly closed) vs the more flexible guideline about questions that invite responses which may involve a degree of subjectivity?

Two more examples.

This question addresses the issue of free will in relation to tribes that were annihilated by Joshua. Yes, it calls for subjective answers in the sense that much biblical interpretation involves a person making theological and moral judgments. But I submit that this is exactly the kind of "good subjectivity" we should welcome. I worked hard to provide such an answer and I object to the topic being closed before others had a chance to offer their take on the subject, even if it differs from mine. It's also unfair to the creator of the OP, who IMO does not deserve to have his question shut down.

The final example asks: Should Old Testament Prophecies Concerning YHWH and His Messiah be collapsed into Yahweh?. I don't like this question and I don't intend to answer it. But I see no reason why people who say "yes" shouldn't offer their reasons and people who say "no" should offer theirs. I don't feel as strongly about this one as the other examples, but I favor an open approach to hermeneutics. This is not a hard science and it would be absurd to take a "letter of the law" approach to the idea that questions involving "opinion-based" answers must be shut down.

So why not welcome more questions that invite subjective answers, as long as the answers are hermeneutically sound?


2 Answers 2


Contradiction questions are allowed but that doesn't mean we should allow low quality. It is a very low quality opinion based like splitting hairs.

  • 1
    I agree it's hair splitting. But that itself is an opinion... and so many of what we have in the NT is about what some people would call hair-splitting. Is it ok to eat without washing your hands first? Should we accept the Johannine Comma? Which version of the Greek text is authoritative, etc. Sep 6, 2022 at 15:03
  • I was referring to your first mentioned question which is very opn based splitting hair, low quality "Does God or the Holy Spirit dwell in us?". Those you mentioned are the mainstream and most popular level valid questions. There is a person "SpiritRealm", most of her questions are basically like this splitting hair, I believe her ques should be closed too as low quality. Ques should indeed pass the grade of meaningful and value. There are definitely all possible ques but that doesn't mean we turn this site into open system of Quora dot com.
    – Michael16
    Sep 7, 2022 at 10:53
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    I won't belabor the point on this particular question. But I'd point out that it was not shut down because it was low quality. It was closed because it is opinion based. Sep 7, 2022 at 18:25
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    My feeling is that poor quality questions should voted down, not closed, unless they are egregiously tendentious or insulting... and then voted up if they are improved. Why not help questioners compose better questions rather than closing them? Sep 7, 2022 at 18:31

welcome to the site!

This is a challenging topic, as there is a broad spectrum in-between Questions which can be answered definitively from texts and those that the texts can't help us with at all. I think the site does necessarily have more flex to it than many other SE sites, but still requires some degree of objectivity that we're asking and engaging with questions that can be answered clearly.

I think your question would be strengthened by adding a longer list of Questions that you feel fall into this category. For individual Questions or Answers which you feel need more 'meta' discussion or have been handled incorrectly, please do create a Meta post like this for them.

The Question you've cited has clearly been on something of a journey. At face value, it appears to have been seeking to affirm a Trinitarian proof-text, after which it was promptly Closed by four non-trinitarian members and one other. Interestingly, the fifth close vote came from Ray, who also posted a fairly good answer arguing that there is ambiguity inherent in the word 'spirit' that makes it impossible to tell definitively, which is a fairly good argument for the closure itself.

From the Moderator Tools, I can see that this question has actually had seven Reopen votes over the intervening period, and so should certainly have been reopened, but due to low participation in the Reopen queue none of those votes came close enough together for that to take effect. I have reopened the question now on that merit, but it may warrant some further discussion, lest the question just continue being Closed and Reopened by those with differing opinions.

Interested in further discussion on whether the Close reason was valid - I'm on the fence.

For me the key take-away is that those who can access the Close and Reopen queues probably need to check them a little more often.

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    I'm less interested in the specific question than the general principle. I'd also like to know more about the process... who is allowed to close or re-open. This is not transparent to newish users such as myself. [not that it's intentionally hidden, just that it's not easy to see unless you know where to look, which I don't] Sep 6, 2022 at 15:12
  • Thanks Dan, check out the Help Center's article on Closing questions for more information on the general principles. StackExchange sites operate on something of a community consensus basis, where the topic and closure rules are gradually shaped by the community, and Meta is a key part of that process, and contains all the historic discussions on these topics.
    – Steve can help Mod
    Sep 6, 2022 at 19:37
  • @DanFefferman - it usually takes five community members to vote on a question closure before the earliest votes 'age away' (see details in the Help article). Moderators have the power to unilaterally close or open questions, but typically only add our final vote after a few others have already accumulated, as we're not fond of unilateral action and the site is community-owned.
    – Steve can help Mod
    Sep 6, 2022 at 19:40
  • Despite the wide range of viewpoints among the community, there is usually a surprisingly high consistency of voting behaviour among users, due to a shared view of the site topic. This is the first question I've seen in a long time that appears to have been closed by one group and then (almost) reopened by another. At this point it's worth questioning, and if we notice it again we may look at intervention options to help the community reach a better consensus.
    – Steve can help Mod
    Sep 6, 2022 at 19:42
  • thanks much for the info Sep 6, 2022 at 23:33

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