Under Doctrine of the Church (Carolina Memorial), question 2, we find some key statements about interpretation of Paul, and also about systematic and biblical theology.
Wilkins starts out with a very flimsy defense indeed. After accusing the SCP of misquoting him, he adds in the rest of the sentence. As if adding “The clear implication of these passages” actually answers the query sent by SCP! As if the SCP hadn’t ever read the passages quoted! As if Paul is automatically and without argumentation against the SCP! Since Wilkins’s argumentation on those pages is woefully inadequate in dealing with alternate understandings of the verses in question, we can hardly grant that this is sufficient defense. As a matter of fact, there is absolutely zero detailed exegesis of those supposed passages referred to except for John 15. I have dealt with this exegesis here. He simply assumes that quoting them proves his point. The flimsiness of this defense is evident in the word “appear” in the phrase “the apostles appear to attribute these same things to all the members of the visible church without distinction.” Furthermore, is not this sentence evidence of his not really believing in ontological distinctions within the visible church? Certainly his eisegesis of John 15 points in that direction.
It is very important what Wilkins says on page 10: “My question in light of what WLC affirms (and which I also affirm) is this, ‘How can Paul say that these things are true of the members of the church in Corinth and in what sense are they true?’ Whatever our answer to this question, it seems clear then that Paul is not using these terms in the same way that the Westminster Confession defines them.” His disagreement with the WCF is even more clear when he says “our understanding of salvation from a systematic (Westminsterian) theology standpoint has difficulty accommodating these passages…better way.” Regarding the first quotation, since Wilkins hasn’t even begun to deal with the judgment of charity, which deals quite easily with every single one of the passages he asserts, we can hardly expect to be convinced that his interpretation is correct. If you shove more than half the evidence under the mat, how can you be called a scholar? If we say “judgment of charity,” then it is extremely easy to see that Paul is in fact using those terms in the same way as the WCF uses them. But if Paul never does use these terms in the same way as the WCF uses them, then why isn’t Wilkins advocating changes to the WCF? If the WCF doesn’t accurately reflect Paul, then why should he follow it? He says that his understanding of covenant is a better way of dealing with such passages. That is, his way of understanding covenant is better than the WCF’s way of understanding those passages. Hubris indeed.