The Rev. Lee Shelnutt, Moderator of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, spoke to Erskine faculty, staff, and students Feb. 6 at the first convocation of the spring semester.
Shelnutt, pastor of Huntersville ARP Church in Huntersville, N.C., drew an analogy between the emphasis on “location, location, location” in the field of real estate and the significance of “context, context, context” in the study of scripture.
The moderator took as his text Matthew 16:13-20, an account of Simon Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi. Named in honor of the Roman emperor, Caesarea Philippi had also been called Panias (today known as Banias), in honor of the Greek god Pan.
“Context matters,” Shelnutt said.
Jesus’ conversation with his disciples, capped by Peter’s confession and Jesus’ response, takes place in “a highly charged context of deities, idols, and philosophies calling for the disciples’ allegiance.” Jesus asks a clear question—”But who do you say that I am?” Despite the “false gods calling the disciples to follow them,” Peter homes in on Jesus’ identity as the One they must follow: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus asserts that it is “my Father who is in heaven” who has revealed this to Peter.
Today’s society, as pluralistic as the one in which the gospel was first preached, also abounds with false gods. “My prayer is that the education you receive here at Erskine will point you to the only one worthy to be called Kyrios,” Shelnutt told the students. “I pray that the same God who poured out his sovereign grace on Peter will pour it out on every one of you.”
Worship in the Due West ARP Church was led by the Rev. Paul Patrick, chaplain. Prof. Tobi Otekayi served as pianist, and the Erskine Choraleers, led by Dr. Keith Timms and accompanied by Otekayi, presented a choral anthem.
Erskine President Dr. Robert Gustafson introduced the speaker, a native of Newnan, Ga., who earned a degree in civil engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology before going on to study at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.
Dr. Leslie Holmes, seminary provost, offered a prayer for the campus community and pronounced the benediction.