I've noticed you're refuting everyone's answers - which makes me think you already have the answer(s) you're looking for ;)
This site and the entire Stack Exchange network has a doctrinal statement. From the FAQs for this site:
Biblical Hermeneutics—Stack Exchange is for anyone who wants to know
what a Biblical text means (exegesis) using the techniques or rules of
We welcome Jewish, Christian, Atheist and other viewpoints as long as
they take seriously the process of understanding the Biblical texts.
Under the section describing site etiquette, it says,
Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated.
Be nice. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat
you. We’re all here to learn together. Be tolerant of others who may
not know everything you know. Bring your sense of humor.
Be honest. Above all, be honest. If you see misinformation, vote it
down. Add comments indicating what, specifically, is wrong. Provide
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You apparently already know this, but you seem to be trying to get someone to admit it, so I'm going to just spell it out (although I think it's obvious). The doctrinal stance of this site is postmodern relativism. We are not a Christian website. Perspectives here have "no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration."1
For Christians, this worldview is unacceptable. And yet it is practically unavoidable in
Western culture. We benefit from many sources of information that have adopted this doctrinal statement - to include almost all of our news sources and educational systems. Yet we generally don't retreat into private communities and close ourselves off from the world (with the exception of some Anabaptists - modern day Amish and Mennonites). We engage the world and its systems.
In the same way, some of us choose to participate despite this doctrinal statement, playing by the rules to some extent in order to glean linguistic, philological, cultural, and historical insights from the text that we would otherwise possibly never encounter. Some don't abide by the rules at all, and for the most part, they're still accepted in the community.
But I certainly don't just run with an 'accepted answer' as if it is the truth or even as if it resolves the question. For me, the answers here are a great start. I learn a lot from the community and hopefully they've also benefited from my insights and research. But for the most part, it's just one piece of the textual puzzle in my tradition. For my tradition, personal holiness is also a factor in interpreting scripture, as is Patristic consensus. So I don't ask questions looking to find "truth," I'm just looking to glean some insights along the way to truth. Also, as an Eastern Christian, I don't view Truth as an abstract concept as it seems to be presented in Western thought. For me, truth is a person. Seeking Him on a Q&A site would be silly. But the Q&A site often teaches me some great things that help me along the way as I continue to journey.
A Point-By-Point Response
I want to interact with someone who I may deem to be in error for the purposes I stated above, namely that I may glean linguistic, philological, cultural, and historical insights from the text that I would otherwise possibly never encounter. I taught as an adjunct professor at a state university for a few semesters, and my students were often dead wrong about a great many things. And yet I still learned a lot from them. The danger when we close ourselves off from outside opinions is groupthink.2 Evangelicalism is historically notorious for its anti-intellectualism and groupthink tendencies. This is often reinforced when universities formulate along doctrinal lines and students are essentially indoctrinated rather than taught to think and critically evaluate research.
Consider the flip-side of this point. By refusing to participate, a particular way of interpreting and understanding the scriptures will never be shared with many in the outside world. Remember, most people don't get their biblical answers from seminary (most will never attend), they get them from Google. And this site ranks near the top for the questions and texts it addresses (we average 1,134 visits per day currently). By withdrawing from a site such as this, your voice and perspective won't be heard by many who may never set foot in one of your churches or seminaries. Consequently, they may never realize an alternate way of interpreting the text exists apart from the answers they find here.
That really depends on the question. Some questions are purely linguistic/philological. Some are cultural/historical. Often these questions can be answered with no systematic theology in the response (I intentionally worded this statement like this rather than using the term 'doctrine'). Is this truth? It can be. Let's suppose someone asked, "Is 'anthropos' singular or plural?" Like it or not, anthropos is a nominative masculine singular noun, and anthropoi is the nominative masculine plural form. While you are arguing that even this assertion is doctrinal because it makes a truth assertion (and I do see your point), that is not the sense in which we use the term doctrine on this site. I will be operating with the community's definition of doctrine hereafter (which is more akin to systematic theology), and I have no interest in getting into a semantic debate about this point. I see the point you are making - but I'm telling you that this is what it means here. We don't consider an answer to a question about Greek grammar to be doctrinal. On the flip side, if someone were to answer the question by adding, "the reason that the word 'anthropos' rarely occurs in the singular is because it is not good for man to be alone," that would be doctrinal (and unrelated to the question).
I completely disagree with this point. You are making some big assumptions, namely that anyone who does not approach the text with the same view of inspiration as you has nothing relevant to say about it. History itself demonstrates this to be false. Many early Church Fathers challenged the authenticity of various phrases in scripture yet never considered the book to be irrelevant as a result. In fact, why would anyone bother debating potential inconsistencies, textual and scribal errors, and manuscript discrepancies if they didn't consider the contents of the Bible to be highly relevant? Take me for example. I believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets, apostles, and other early Christians to write scripture. But I don't consider everything they wrote to be scripture - and I believe human error occurred in some places. Yet the pursuit of the best text and translation is still highly relevant to me. To assert otherwise is to make assumptions about my motivations, which would be fruitless.
I think this is a great question ("do we even have the right words to be looking at to be interpreting?"), but I don't agree that the entire exercise is futile if we don't have the right words. For instance, certain parts of the New Testament may have originally been written in Aramaic or Hebrew, and we no longer have copies of manuscripts in these languages.3 We also certainly don't have copies of most Old Testament books as they were originally written (the Masoretic text is newer than our New Testament manuscripts), and we don't even know what many of the words mean anymore in some of the ones we do have (have you ever attempted to translate Hosea?). So does that mean I should just disregard these books altogether? No! The Greek manuscripts make it clear to me that these books are of great importance to my faith. Not to mention, a whole bunch of the apostles made arguments from the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) that cannot be supported by the Hebrew text. By modern standards, they were poor exegetes. And yet I believe that they were inspired by God. But by making this assertion, that means I must also consider the Septuagint to be scripture, even though it is a (potentially erroneous) Greek translation of the Old Testament (Western Christians rarely make that jump - they just translate the Hebrew incorrectly so it lines up with the New Testament quotations - which is dishonest in my opinion). An underlying point needs to be cleared up here before proceeding. You've described yourself as being "of the independent fundamental Baptist persuasion." I cannot speak for you, but you have presented some ideas in your arguments that are sometimes labeled as "bibliolatry," i.e. viewing Christians as "people of the Book." The Bible is made to be an end in and of itself, rather than a means to an end. To me, the Bible is important because it points me to Christ. But the Bible was not incarnated, nor did it die and rise from the dead for me. I cherish it because it points me to Jesus - not because of any abstract theological statement about its inspiration and role in my faith.
In reality, every question is subjective based upon the original poster (OP - the person who asked the question). They get to choose the 'accepted answer,' I agree that the accepted answer is not always the most true, nor is it necessarily right. You have acknowledged that "there can be partial truths contained in various answers," and there can also be partial falsehoods contained in mostly true answers. But answers are not evaluated as being true or false for most of us here. The community will often vote down and/or edit unsubstantiated claims (no sources), off-topic or tangential responses, and offensive statements ("all Christians are deceived fools," etc.). But at the same time, the community often up-votes responses with which they personally disagree, whether based on the quality of the answer, the amount of research that was clearly conducted, or the thoroughness of it. Some will also up-vote solely because they agree with an answer, and that's OK too. But the community does not determine truth. The community votes for what it considers to be good answers, and the OP accepts one of those answers. This is indeed a purely subjective process. But again, it does not determine truth. It just determines what types of answers the community deems to be helpful. Those who find these answers via search engines will make their own evaluations based on the answers themselves. This too is subjective. In my mind, I don't see why this would be a problem for anyone in Protestantism. If the meaning of each verse is so plain to see, why are there 23,000+ Protestant denominations all claiming to have the 'true' interpretation of scripture (often with no historical backing to their position prior to the 16th century)? It seems to me that really all of Protestant Christian Biblical interpretation is subjective anyways. Yes, I am being snide here, but the doctrinal position of 'Sola Scriptura' in some ways makes relativism part of Protestant theology.
I hope you now understand why I (and potentially others) find this site to be viable (whether or not you agree). I also hope you participate,
even especially if you disagree with me. How can I grow and learn "the truth" if nobody from another perspective ever challenges me? :P
1 cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativism
2 cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink
3 cf. What portions of the New Testament are purported to have originally been written in Aramaic?