Summary: We believe things because they are true - they are not true because we believe them.
November 17, 2002
Open with the illustration below using jar of M&Ms and favorite food choices (NOTE: adapt this and do it with your own examples among the congregation - it’s an effective "grabber")
A pastor named 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.”
Then ask these questions:
- which guess of the number of M&Ms comes closest to being right?
- which one on the list of favorite foods comes closest to being right?
When it comes to your faith, is it more like guessing the number of M&Ms, or is it more like choosing your favorite food? The number or M&Ms is a knowable number, like our God is a knowable God.
Related to this idea, I found many studies revealing similar things, but let me cite just one that illustrates our theme this morning.
An estimated 74% of Americans strongly agree with this statement:
“There is only one true God, who is holy and perfect, and who created the world, and rules it today,"
However, an estimated 65% either strongly agree or somewhat agree with the assertion that "there is no such thing as absolute truth." Only 28% expressed strong belief in absolute truth, and only 23% of born-again, or evangelical Christians, accepted that there is absolute truth. So, three-quarters of those considering themselves Christians say nothing can be known for certain.
That means they may not be convinced Jesus existed, they may not believe Jesus is who He claimed to be, they may not believe God’s Word is authentic.
It’s all relative – nothing is for sure. If that’s true – if we cannot know anything, especially these very significant things, for sure, then we might just as well all go home now, because the time we spend considering what Jesus said is worthless.
All you need do to see the fruits of our theme this morning is read the newspaper. Pretty much any day of the week, pretty much any section of the newspaper.