Here is the ecclesiastical situation with Steve Wilkins as I currently understand it. As a result of the Auburn Avenue controversy, Lousiania Presbytery of the PCA was asked to look into Steve’s orthodoxy, which they did by means of a committee. And, given his orthodoxy, it is not surprising that they cleared him. But the controversy has continued apace anyhow, and the Standing Judicial Commission in the PCA was given authority in the matter. They have asked the Louisiana Presbytery to look into the matter again. The cynical among us might infer from this the upspoken expectation that “they might want to get the answer right this time.” If the results of the second exam are not satisfactory, my understanding is that the SJC can then assume original jurisdiction, and take matters from there. I am not familiar with the BCO in the PCA so I would invite anyone to please correct me if I have missed something important. Which several of you have done, and I have entered the corrections.
Now this second exam by the Louisiana Presbytery took place this last Saturday. Part of it included asking Steve to respond in writing to a number of questions presented to him. His written answers to those questions can be found HERE. You can see from reading through this material that the questions were not softball questions — they addressed all the substantive issues, and Steve answered them clearly, cogently, and well. I understand that in the near future an audio version of the oral exam will be available at this site also.
As I read through this material last night I was struck by a number of things. I would like to mention the bottom line first, but then go on to draw out what is really at stake for the PCA. Reading through Steve’s answers was a genuinely bracing experience. His answers were biblical, confessional, orthodox, clear, honest, historical, faithful, and right. I am very grateful to be a friend of his, and proud to be associated with him in this.
But a lot is at stake. The need of the hour is this. Every person who has been following this Federal Vision thing at all needs to make a point of following this particular segment of it, and really should read through these answers that Steve has given. Because of how everything has fallen out, it looks as though Steve gets to be the cause celebre of this whole thing, at least within the PCA. But this is what that means. When you look at the claims in the memorial against Steve from the Central Carolina Presbytery, and you look at Steve’s orthodox answers, there are only a few possible explanations for what could happen here. The first (and greatly to be desired) possibility is that honest and conscientious TRs will see that whatever differences they might have with Steve, they do not rise to the level of requiring any kind of censure or discipline. Steve is well within confessional bounds. I pray that this will happen with many honest TRs who love Christ and the Westminster Standards, and who do so in that order.
But what if strident opposition continues despite these answers? This creates several possibilities also. One of them, sadly, is that it might be driven by a high level of theological ignorance. Certain men are being asked to follow arguments that they are simply not equipped to follow. Another possibility is simply old-fashioned hostility and malice. The facts don’t matter to them, and they will do whatever they do to Steve simply because they think they can. And yet another possibility is that they have been persuaded somehow that because Steve’s answers are orthodox, they must be dishonest. And so they want to convict him for the heresy they know he must harbor somewhere deep in his heart.
So as I see it, the ideal situation would be for ten thousand Reformed believers to read through Steve’s answers now, and then turn and patiently wait for the SJC to make their determination. As I see it, given this clear confession of faith, any negative assessment of Steve is only possible if the judges are 1. clearly in over their heads 2. simply vindictive or 3. prepared to admit spectral evidence. If a conviction of heterodoxy happens through any combination of these three factors, I think it needs to happen in the bright light of day, with all sorts of checked out people looking at them as they do whatever they do. This must not be a back-room deal. It is an examination of a public minister’s public teaching. That teaching is out on the table. We can all read it. And we can witness for ourselves whether or not the SJC is reading the same things we are.