Subjective Judgments As Pastors

You don’t need to convince me that a shepherd makes subjective judgments when shepherding his flock. For example, confronting greed in a man is going to be a subjective judgment.

People hate that pastors make subjective judgments. I was talking with a man who felt that pastor’s shouldn’t discipline things like greed, pride, immodesty, etc. but rather should preach faithfully against those things since he can’t “read their hearts.”

I disagree with him, but it did take me down a road of trying to read old saints who have written about disciplining and correcting sins that are often more subjective in nature. I can’t really find anything. I skimmed Calvin’s institutes in his discipline section but he doesn’t seem to address this head on (unless I missed it). Has anyone read anything along these lines over the years?

Also if you have any thoughts about convincing/teaching people that pastors make subjective judgments and it’s a actually a good thing, feel free to share.


This set of Calvin’s sermons on the Pastoral Epistles is really useful. Calvin has some things to say about that sort of thing. The commentary on Titus was especially punchy and helpful. Chapters 10-11 on Christian character are very good. They deal with Titus 2, which is going to be largely subjective. Someone nearby will likely have a set; might be a good place to start.

But good grief it’s expensive in the US! Potential Father’s Day from the wife and kids?


This might be good: The Registers of the Consistory of Geneva at the Time of Calvin

Tim has referenced it numerous times, and I have only read bits of it. But it includes records of discipline cases at that time and place, and I’m sure it would get at some of what you’re talking about.


Maybe doesn’t directly answer your inquiry, but it reminds me of the First Church of Boston’s disciplinary records. At least one man was disciplined for “selling his wares at excessive rates.”

Case # 8, Page 25 Robert Keayne November 26, 1639
“…being a day of Publique fast for our Congregation, our brother Mr Robert Keayne was Admonisht by our pastor [John Wilson] in the Name of the Church for selling his wares at excessive Rates , to the Dishonor of Gods Name , the Offence of the General Court , & the Publique Scandall of the Cuntry .”


Thank you men @jander @ldweeks @aaron.prelock. Now excuse me while I go hire out my children for manual labor to pay for these books.


My wife pointed out that’s why you have several children! Two hours per child at today’s minimum wage - you’re set. The benefits of a growing family!


Even fornication is subjective 99% of the time.

Huh? I must be missing something.