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Apologetics I: Explaining the Faith

Using the Nicene Creed, this session will present a hands-on way for campers to explore not only what they believe, but how Orthodoxy compares with the tenets of other major religions. They will see the uniqueness of our faith in a pluralistic world.

You will need to provide one Apologetics Packet for each camper.

Introduction to the Creed (5 minutes)
Activity: What's In a Creed (15 minutes)
Activity: Explaining the Faith (15 minutes)
Discussion (10 minutes)
Sum Up and Challenge (5 minutes)

Through the two sessions on Apologetics, participants will put together an Apologetics Packet containing information about Orthodoxy and other major world religions. This packet will be something they can return to later with questions about how Orthodox Christian beliefs compare with other religions.

Begin the session with a prayer.

Introduction to the Creed
This is to be completed in small groups. Hand out a copy of the Apologetics Packet to each participant. Have each person read over the Nicene Creed in the beginning of the packet in detail, even though most participants will be familiar with it. Encourage them to take a closer look; after all, although we recite this each Sunday, we probably take it for granted. Ask each person to identify a statement or part of the Creed that they would like to understand further. Ask each person to identify something in the Creed that makes our Faith unique.

Activity: What's in a Creed
The session leader will read an excerpt from the Creed of another religion, and campers will try to figure out which religion it comes from. Participants should not be looking at their Apologetics Packet because the answers are in the back! The point of this exercise is to show participants that religions use creeds to state beliefs, and that Orthodox Christianity is fundamentally different from many other religions, as evidenced by the creedal excerpts. After you read each creed, ask for campers to try to figure out which religion this comes from. Once they have guessed correctly, ask why they guessed this. Then answer using the information provided, and discuss briefly.

First Creed (read aloud): "I bear witness that there is no god but God. And I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God."

Islam: This statement is one of the five pillars of faith in the Islam religion. Muslims confess that Muhammad (c. AD 600) was God's prophet. As Christians, we have no view of Muhammad as a holy man. Also, those of the Islamic faith view Jesus Christ not as the Son of God, but instead as a prophet (like Muhammad).

Second Creed (read aloud): "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God."

Mormonism: This is an excerpt from the Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As Christians, we do not view the Book of Mormon as scripture or as inspired by God. The Book of Mormon, which is also referred to by Mormons as "another testament of Jesus Christ," was not written until 1823.

Third Creed (read aloud): "If I were asked to define the [?] creed I should simply say: search after Truth through non-violent means. A man may not believe even in God and still he may call himself a [?]… [This religion] tells every one to worship God according to his own Faith or Dharma and so it lives at peace with all the religions."

Hinduism: The Hindu religion does not have an official creed. The statement here is from Mahatma Gandhi, who was a popular figure in India and Hindu leader in the first part of the Twentieth century. We can see from his statement that a problem with Hinduism is its relativism; it has no creed, and one does not even have to believe in God, much less Jesus Christ, to be Hindu. As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life," not just one of the many paths to enlightenment.

Fourth Creed (read aloud): "And we of the Church believe: That man is basically good; That he is seeking to survive; That his survival depends upon himself and upon his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe."

Scientology: This is an excerpt from the Creed of the Church of Scientology. As this statement shows, scientologists (those who adhere to the "Church of Scientology") have a humanistic worldview. Notice that this statement does not even mention God – man's survival depends on himself. This religion is very human-centered and ignores humanity's basic need to be connected to God, its Creator.

The main points of this creedal activity are that we see that the religions have not only different beliefs, but different goals. What they say about God is different, as is what they say about humanity's purpose – the reason for your and my existence. We always have our Creed to refer to when we have questions about some of the basics of our religious beliefs. For instance, from the Creed, we learn that we believe in one God (not many, like Buddhism or Hinduism), we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (no other major world religion believes this), etc.

Let's practice being able to explain what we believe to someone of a different faith.

Activity: Explaining the Faith
Divide the campers into 4 small groups, with at least two people in each group. In each group, one or two people will play the part of someone of the above religious faiths (Muslim, Mormon, etc). Other people in the group will dialogue with that person about their faith, sharing the message of Christianity in a loving dialogue. IMPORTANT: Tell the campers to use their Apologetics Packet for information that will help them in their dialogue.

Scenarios for each group (if they need a little help to get started):

  • Islam: You have just gone off to college, and your roommate prays several times a day. You ask him about it, and he replies that he is a Muslim, and these are his religious practices.
  • Mormonism: You are flying to Salt Lake City to visit your friend. On the way, you encounter some people who want to talk to you about your beliefs. Once you begin your conversation, you realize that they are Mormons who are doing their missionary work.
  • Hinduism: You are doing a group project with classmates. One of your classmates makes a joke about reincarnation. Another classmate, who is Hindu, responds that's it's not funny because her religion believes in reincarnation.
  • Scientology: You have a friend who has been studying Scientology after being inspired by Tom Cruise. She wants to talk to you about her newfound religion.

Remember that the goal is not to be able to "win" an argument with someone of a different faith. What is the goal? To understand what you believe and why you believe it, and be able to explain it both to yourself and to others.

Discussion Questions after Apologetics Activity
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in your discussion?
How difficult/easy was it to understand the other person's beliefs? How difficult/easy was it to explain your own?
Why do you think it's important to be able to understand and explain your beliefs?

To Sum Up and Challenge
Today, we've discussed some of the beliefs of major world religions. We've taken a look at excerpts from their Creeds, and compared them with our own. We see that some of our core beliefs as Christians are unique among world religions. Did you know that we are the only religion that believes that our God became a human being? To many religions, this seems ridiculous.

I challenge you to really examine what you believe. Do you understand it? How serious are you about learning what the teachings of Christianity and being able to explain them? In our world, it's important to be able to "apologize" – in the Greek sense of the word – that is, to explain. Even more than that, it's important to live what we believe. So I challenge all of us to ask ourselves, Am I living what I believe? Am I living as a Christian? Let's reflect on these questions as we take these Apologetics Packets home with us.

Close the session with a prayer.

Prepared by  Mary Long.

See below for links to all Camp Emmanuel 2008 sessions.