How Many Beans in the Jar? On Faith and Truth

Christian writer Tim Stafford tells of an unusual approach to teaching about religious truth adopted by a pastor he knows. You might expect this, for the pastor, Stephey Bilynskyj, holds a Phd in Philosophy from Note Dame University! Whenever he runs a confirmation class the pastor takes a jar full of beans with him. He then gets the students to guess how many beans are in the jar, and writes down their guesses on a notepad. Pastor Bilynskyi then asks the class members to list their favourite songs, writing them down alongside the bean estimates. Pastor Bilynskyi then returns to the bean guesses, revealing the actual number and then whose guess was closest to being right. After congratulations have been offered attention is then refocussed on the song list. “And which one of these is closest to being right?” Pastor Bilynskyi asks. Invariably the students argue that when it comes to “favourite songs” there is no right answer. It’s purely subjective, a matter of taste. It’s at that point that Pastor Bilynskyi 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 favourite song?” Always, Bilynskyj says, he gets the same answer: Choosing one’s faith is more like choosing a favourite song. Bilynskyi disagrees, and though he still confirms those who hold this view, does his best to try to argue them out of it!

Source: Reported by Tim Stafford, Christianity Today, September 14, 1992