March 15, 2021

The Dangerous Fad Of Calling Empathy A Sin

The Dangerous Fad Of Calling Empathy A Sin

Yesterday at Victory Baptist Church we spent over two hours dealing with the crazy controversy about Empathy.  To add to that discussion, I would like to point you to a great article I came across.  It is called, The Dangerous Fad Of Calling Empathy A Sin.  You can read the entire article at this link: Empathy 

Here is a short section from the article 


Perhaps you were as startled as I was to see one of the recent examples of popular, far-right pastors proclaiming that the latest enemy to be stamped out of the church is this evil demon called “empathy.” After a few instances now of leaders repeating that “empathy is a sin,” without qualification, many readers are confused. They are right to be confused. In this article, I will address the sources of that confusion and hopefully provide a clear path forward.

I will start with the objection as it has been lodged. Then we will discuss definitions of the word. Then we will look at the context of the arguments being made. Then I will offer some analysis.

For those who wish for a condensed version, here is a bare outline that will get you close:

First, James White of Alpha & Omega and Apologia Church (and a couple others) has categorically and without qualification defined empathy as a sinful act. (The claim is not that empathy can be used sinfully, but that it is sinful absolutely. This requires a wholesale redefinition of the term.)

Second, in reality, empathy is simply defined as sharing and understanding the emotions of others. (While there is marginal disagreement on various points, the main element in all modern English dictionaries goes against James’s claim.)

Third, no one has ever defined empathy the way James and co. have done. (There is no support in either secular or church history, common or technical usage.)

Fourth, while these guys do give voice to a valid problem (emotional manipulation for cultural influence), we can easily address that problem without totally redefining empathy and throwing it out the window. (The cultural problem of which they speak is not logically connected in any way with the actual definition of empathy, or the proper practice of it. The cultural issue therefore does not warrant, or even suggest, a need for redefining the term.)

Fifth, we are not allowed to make up definitions on our own authority to suit our own desires. To do this, as James has done, is to act like the very relativistic liberals he is always criticizing. Oops.

Sixth, there is an issue of leadership, and perhaps underlying emotional maturity, in how James has reacted to reasonable pushback. When the whole world tells you you’re wrong, you should probably listen before immediately doubling down on your error and insulting your whole readership. The contra mundum ethos in a very few instances in history has produced great heroes, and I empathize with it. But when the whole world can see a simple truth you cannot, it is better to listen than to be defensive. Defensiveness is often a product of narcissism and pride. A person beset by pride is disqualified for leadership (1 Tim. 3:6).

To read the rest follow this link: empathy