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Jar of Beans

A pastor I know, Stephey Belynskyj, starts each confirmation class with a jar full of beans. He asks his students to guess how many beans are in the jar, and on a big pad of paper writes down their estimates. Then, next to those estimates, he helps them make another list: their favorite songs. When the lists are complete, he reveals the actual number of beans in the jar. The whole class looks over their guesses, to see which estimate was closest to being right. Belynskyj then turns to the list of favorite songs. “And which one of these is closest to being right?” he asks. The students protest that there is no “right answer”; a person’s favorite song is purely a matter of taste. Belynskyj, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Notre Dame asks, “When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?” Always, Belynskyj says, from old as well as young, he gets the same answer: Choosing one’s faith is more like choosing a favorite song. When Belynskyj told me this, it took my breath away. “After they say that, do you confirm them?” I asked him. “Well,” smiled Belynskyj, “First I try to argue them out of it.”

Tim Stafford, Christianity Today, September 14, 1992, p. 36.