Description: This discussion is a good case study of how the lack of clear definitions of empathy causes a lot of confusion. A minister in the Christian Evangelical community wrote an article about how empathy is a sin and it created a great deal of discussion and argument in this community about what empathy means and how it works.

The discussion was started by Joe Rigney, President and Associate Professor of Theology and Literature at Bethlehem College & Seminary. A problem is that the minister defines or describes empathy as phenomena or experience that Edwin would not consider to be empathy. Edwin would actually agree that the experience he describes has negative effects, in fact one of the negative effects is that the experience inhibits empathy.

  • So how might we use an Empathy Typology to bring clarity to a discussion like this?

  • It might be helpful to systematically review this discussion and map it onto the typology?

Outline of the Discussion
Create an outline of the discuss and the main arguments and points.


May 2, 2020 Outline by Andy Naselli

Rigney, Joe. “Killing Them Softly: Compassion That Warms Satan’s Heart.” Desiring God, 24 May 2019. [like one of C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape letters]

Rigney, Joe. “The Enticing Sin of Empathy: How Satan Corrupts through Compassion.” Desiring God, 31 May 2019. [like one of C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape letters]

Rigney, Joe. “
Dangerous Compassion: How to Make Any Love a Demon.” Desiring God, 18 January 2020. [based on C. S. Lewis’s The Four Loves and The Great Divorce]

Rigney, Joe. “
Do You Feel My Pain? Empathy, Sympathy, and Dangerous Virtues.” Desiring God, 2 May 2020.

Dodds, Abigail. “
The Beauty and Abuse of Empathy: How Virtue Becomes a Tyrant.” Desiring God, 14 April 2020.
3 distortions or abuse empathy:
- Untether it from reality, from truth (isolated empathy).
- Pseudo-compassionately coddle sin (cowardly empathy).
- Let it turn inward and become a tyrant (manipulative empathy)

Roberts, Alastair. “
An Ethic of Nerve and Compassion.” Alastair’s Adversaria, 27 May 2013.

Dodds, Abigail. “
From Empathy to Chaos: Considerations for the Church in a Postmodern Age.” Abigail Dodds, 18 June 2019.

DeYoung, Kevin. “
Sympathy Is Not the Point.” The Gospel Coalition, 10 March 2020.


Wilson, Douglas. “
The Empathy Wars.” Blog & Mablog, 17 March 2021.

Roberts, Alastair. “
The ‘Sin’ of Empathy? (With Hannah Anderson and Joe Rigney).” Adversaria Videos and Podcasts: Scripture, Theology, Liturgy, and Culture, 18 March 2021. (77-minute podcast)

Rigney, Joe. “
Where Do We Disagree? Golden Rule Reading and the Call for Empathy.” Desiring God, 12 April 2021.

Piper, John. “
How Have You Processed the Sin of Ravi Zacharias?” Desiring God, 29 April 2021. (See the section titled “Loose Truth and Untethered Sympathy.”)

DeYoung, Kevin. “
What Does It Mean to Weep with Those Who Weep?” The Gospel Coalition, 13 September 2021.

Rigney, Joe. “
On Empathy, Once More: A Response to Critics (Part 1).” Medium, 14 October 2021.

Rigney, Joe. “
On Empathy, Once More: A Response to Critics (Part 2).” Medium, 14 October 2021.

Dodds, Abigail, and Tilly Dillehay. “
Untethered Empathy with Joe Rigney.” Home Fires, 15 November 2021.

Article: Where Do We Disagree? Golden Rule Reading and the Call for Empathy
APRIL 12, 2021
by Joe Rigney

Do you believe empathy can be spiritually dangerous? I do, and I have tried to explain why and how."

#1: Killing Them Softly: Compassion That Warms Satan’s Heart.”

May 24, 2019
This seems to be the first article Joe wrote on the topic of empathy. He started with one on compassion.

#2. The Enticing Sin of Empathy HOW SATAN CORRUPTS

May 31, 2019

  • This is the second of two letters on the demonic distortion of the virtue of compassion.
    Read the first titled “
    Killing Them Softly: Compassion That Warms Satan’s Heart.”

  • "our armies have fought for decades to twist the Enemy’s virtue of compassion into its counterfeit, empathy. "

  • Definition of Empathy,

    • :" It’s a total immersion into the pain, sorrow, and suffering of the afflicted. "

    • Empathy demands, “Feel what I feel. In fact, lose yourself in my feelings.”

  • people are made to subordinate themselves to the feeling of suffering of others, or they are not loving. So if someone is in pain, you have to go into the pain with them.

  • you are judged as bad (unhelpful, heartless) if you don't join them in their suffering.. so a commiserating.

  • "Rightly used, empathy is a power tool in the hands of the weak and suffering." so people will be manipulated by the victims.

  • Feelings are all that is important. (as if other things are not empathy.)

Page: Video and Article
The 'Sin' of Empathy? (with Hannah Anderson and Joe Rigney)

March 18, 2021
Alastair Roberts hosted a recorded discussion with Hannah Anderson and Joe Rigney about the Sin of Empathy.

Page: Video
The Sin of Empathy | Doug Wilson and Joe Rigney

March 18, 2021
"In this full episode of Man Rampant, pastors Doug Wilson and Joe Rigney discuss empathy vs. sympathy, counseling, societal anxiety, etc

Page Article: How Empathy Can Be Sinful

May 2, 2020 by Andy Naselli
A Summary of the Discussions

Page: Article:
The Beauty and Abuse of Empathy

April 14, 2020

by Abigail Dodds

Page: Video:
Is Empathy A Virtue or a Sin?

Sep 26, 2020

by Joel Webbon

"Pastor Joel Webbon, Does the Bible call Christians to exercise empathy? Certainly, Scripture commands us to show sympathy to others, but does empathy perhaps go too far?

Douglas Wilson

  • Video: The Empathy Wars (March 17, 2021)

  • Article: The Empathy Wars (March 17, 2021)

  • Article and Audio: Wilson response to David French (September 20, 2021)

The American Crisis of Selective Empathy

September 12, 2021

by David French

And how it reaches into the church.

Page: Video:
The "Sin" of Empathy (Toxic Politics episode #3)

October 25, 2021

Podcaster (name unknown) evaluates and analyses Joe Rigby and companies, empathy is sin discussion. Then makes the case that god is about empathy, so empathy is important or core to being a Christian. Empathy is the core component of Christian love.

Page: Article: Empathy is a Virtue

March 15, 2021
by Scot McKnight
The Centrality of Empathy for Godly Pastors

Page: VIDEO:
Is Empathy Sin? | Dr. Steve Johnson & Dr. Seth Scott

Sep 12, 2021 20min

    • Moderated by David Croteau - Columbia International University

    • Dr. Steve Johnson Professor of Counseling - President at Albert Ellis Institute

    • Dr. Seth Scott Professor of Counseling Elder at Radius Church

A dialogue about the concept of empathy is sin.

Page: Video:
Holy Post Episode 472 The “Sin of Empathy” with Jamin Goggin & Kyle Strobel

  • And some pastors are resigning after being accused of “the sin of empathy.”

Page: Karen Keen

November 2021
Karen responds to some questions by Edwin Rutsch about the discussion in the christian church.

More Links to Review.