I am specifically discussing this answer. It is generally agreed that
Questions are on topic if they are focused on the text, rather than things to which the text may apply.... Questions that seem to be seeking to apply the Bible are off-topic.
With that said, there shouldn't be any questions that ask for application of a Biblical text, as ones that do should be closed as off topic.
According to our site distinctives,
We stop short of application when answering questions about the Bible (which means we don't fully exegete the text in the religious sense of the practice).
However, there still seems to be dissonance on whether 'application' should be allowed in answers (and if so, how much). But before we address this, we need a definition of the term 'application.'
Working Definition of 'Application'
A great question was recently asked about what it means to 'apply' the text. Disagreement was expressed on whether or not the term 'application' has any clear meaning in these sorts of discussions. For this reason, a definition must be offered for 'application' before meaningful discussion can occur. One of the answers that I found extremely helpful gave three criteria for evaluating if a post is 'applying' the text:
- Does the content focus on what the text meant or on what it means?
- Is the content focused on the production (authorship, editing, transmission, etc.) of the text or its consumption (i.e. the text's use and adoption by recent or contemporary reading communities)?
- Is the content descriptive (i.e. describing the historical, linguistic, literary, or theological dimensions of the text as it was understood by its authors and reading community in antiquity) or prescriptive (i.e. implying norms that are expressed as binding on readers)?
The first option in each of these criteria were expressed as desirable in posts while the latter as undesirable. The first point is subtle, yet it is elucidated when combined with the remaining two criteria (individual criteria should not be used in isolation, but rather must be carefully discerned as a whole). They were also (helpfully) given as a chart:
+-----------------------+-----------------------+ | On-topic | Off-topic | +-----------------------+-----------------------+ | - what the text meant | - what the text means | | - text production | - text consumption | | - descriptive | - prescriptive | +-----------------------+-----------------------+
On the basis of these criteria,1 this post primarily consists of undesirable content. The answer primarily focuses on the the text's use and adoption by recent or contemporary reading communities, in this case presumably a Christian community, and by these criteria could be said to be 'primarily focused on applying the text' (using the definitions and criteria given above).2
Is a post considered to be an answer if it focuses primarily on the application of the text (as defined)?
Here are what I believe are three possible answers to this question (as always, feel free to express another perspective altogether3):
A post that applies the Biblical text must be edited to remove such application. If there is then no remaining content in the post that answers the question, it is Not An Answer.
A post that primarily focuses on applying the Biblical text and offers little or no explanation of what the text meant, how it was produced, nor describes the historical, linguistic, literary, or theological dimensions of the text as it was understood by its authors and reading community in antiquity is Not An Answer.
An answer is free to apply the text even when the question does not ask for this. Those who don't find this answer useful should merely downvote it; the answer does not need to be edited nor removed (even if the answer primarily focuses on applying the text, i.e. the text's use and adoption by recent or contemporary reading communities).
Our site distinctives (as quoted above) are in favor of option #1, but in practice we tend towards #2 or #3. This is an attempt to clarify what the community actually desires.
1 I'm not implying that these criteria are requirements for posts in any sense at this time, I merely found them helpful when thinking through this and useful for providing a working definition for the purpose of having this discussion.
2 And not only these criteria, but also by previously expressed criteria such as the use of third person plural language in reference to the audience of the text: "Using first person plural language when referencing the audiences of ancient texts moves from asking about the text itself to asking about the application of the text and imposes this application upon the reader."
3 Although I respectfully ask that you do not lodge a solely semantic argument on the basis of the term 'application' as I have given specific, well-defined criteria for determining whether the text is being 'applied' or not.