In his letter to explain why he and his church (Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church, Monroe, LA) are leaving the PCA, Steve Wilkins called the Standing Judicial Committee's (SJC) charges against him "remarkable and unprecedented developments". 1 These charges are the culmination of a long history of discord regarding various theological issues, including the Federal Vision controversy. In January of 2008, the SJC instituted a judicial process against Louisiana Presbytery regarding their handling of Steve Wilkins' theological views, particularly those pertaining to Federal Vision. The charges against the presbytery were 1) not following proper procedure, and 2) not finding strong probability of guilt that Wilkins' views were erroneous.
Nearly a week later, Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church and Steve Wilkins withdrew from the PCA, and the stated clerk of the Louisiana Presbytery resigned. The Louisiana Presbytery has responded with pleas of "not guilty" to the first charge, and "guilty" to the second charge. The presbytery had asked the SJC to conduct the trial of Steve Wilkins rather than conducting it themselves, but with Wilkins' resignation this trial at least of him will not now be necessary.
"The next step is for the SJC to meet on March 6 to deal with these latest developments," said Dr. Roy Taylor, stated clerk of the PCA. "They must decide what to do with the presbytery's pleas to the two charges and what actions to take in light of Teaching Elder Wilkins' transfer."2
While the judicial proceedings are in question, there remains some uncertainty about the future impact of Wilkins resignation upon the PCA churches in general. This editor believes that the next error the PCA will make is to assume and affirm that since Wilkins is leaving, the problem is solved. This prediction is constructed on the following bases: 1) the SJC's deprecatory value of Biblical truth, 2) the FV philosophy has pervaded the PCA.
SJC's Deprecatory Value of Biblical truth
Steve Wilkins and Duane Garner, published "The Federal Vision" in 2004. The Federal Vision shamelessly asserts justification by works; universal covenant grace to every child of believing parents; an election unto grace that fails to save; baptismal regeneration; and the falling away of many who were once united to Christ. For example, Wilkins asserts "Those who ultimately prove to be reprobate may be in covenant with God. They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc., and yet apostatize and fall short of the grace of God."3
It would be unreasonable to assume that the doctrines of the Federal Vision received no public notice, discussion, or teaching prior to the publishing of the book. But, be that as it may, it has taken four years for the SJC to come to the conclusion that these published doctrines are heretical.
While any ecclesiastical matter should not be conducted in haste, questions of doctrinal purity require that for the health of the body of Christ, it is expedient for the shepherds of the church to give immediate deliberation and attention to heresy. The extraordinary length of time that it has taken for the SJC to address these issues can not be easily excused with the argument of not wanting to act in haste. Their evasion of responsibility to defend the truth from these attacks by the Federal Vision evinces a deprecatory attitude toward Biblical truth. Moreover, their irresponsibility manifests a lack of concern for the sheep of our Lord Jesus Christ who live by the truth and for which they shall give account. Without a recognition that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, the SJC is doomed to continue to hesitate on matters of doctrinal purity and act only when finances and politics deem it necessary.
The FV Philosophy Has Pervaded The PCA
Because the General Assembly and the SJC were reluctant to act judicially in this matter, the Federal Vision has now permeated PCA churches. Steve Wilkins himself said, "We are all very thankful for the many years we have enjoyed in communion with the PCA and look forward to a continuing relationship with many brothers who remain in it."4 The Trojan Horse may have left the city, but the occupants disembarked in the night long ago.
Many in the Louisiana presbytery remain unaware of the errors associated with the Federal Vision and even ignorantly question the proceedings against the FV camp. Their plea of "guilty" to the second charge is only an agreement with the SJC that they still do "not find a strong probability of guilt that Wilkins' views were erroneous". It is not a true admission of guilt to being co-conspirators with Wilkins' heresy which is the implication to the charge. Furthermore, this editor suspects that the Louisiana presbytery is posturing to force the GA to make another unprecedented move they are unprepared to do.
Given the GA's hesitancy to act in these matters to date, is it reasonable to assume that they will now act in any manner differently than before? This editor is not convinced that they have the fortitude to go into any greater depth than where the matter rests at this time. There will be no mission launched to "search and destroy" the FV doctrinal spores that are now planted in the churches.
While many of their Federal Vision elders do not have the notoriety of Steve Wilkins, this attention to Wilkins will cause the FV spores to encapsulate into a mild dormancy, but they remain capable of being re-activated. The FV virus and influence will spread undetected and more widespread than ever at a later date. Who can tell, but Steve Wilkins may be able to triumphantly re-enter the PCA like Macarthur in the Philippines, only with his return there may be a unification of the PCA with CREC forming a Gordian knot and a more formidable enemy that has not surrendered to the truth.
For free resources (books, articles, MP3s, etc.) refuting the Federal Vision heresies please see the sermonaudio blog "FREE: REFUTING DOUG WILSON, Steve Schlissel, S. Wilkins, J. Barach, AUBURN AVENUE/FEDERAL VISION..." at http://www.sermonaudio.com/new_details3.asp?ID=7909