Can God have empathy?


His list of Church accepted attributes would seem to indicate that he can not be affected by the feelings of others. How could He possibly view things as some human views them? That’s what empathy means if I remember correctly.


Jesus Christ is fully human and in scripture (the Gospels) HE showed empathy in several places. And HE is GOD!


He had enough empathy to come and live side by side with us.


Hebrews 4:15


Interesting question, on the one side I say yes God can, but on the other I say no. Here is my thinking:

Empathy is the sharing and understanding of one’s feelings. Jesus came for the sinners not the righteous so he understandings the feelings of sinners but how could He share their feelings since Jesus never sinned. Empathy is based on having past experiences and being able therefore to share the feelings. Jesus couldn’t have empathy for the adulturous woman because He himself was never adulturous.

But on the other side, God is perfect and more importantly, Jesus is fully human as well as fully divine. But His full humanity did not include sin so I’m really not sure, I’m thinking if we are defining empathy as sharing feelings due to past experiences of those feelings, then no Jesus can’t empathize with sinners. Empathy seems like it’s directed to a negative emotion. If I get an A on a really hard class why would someone empathize with me? Empathy is meant to help someone feel better when they are down, thus empathy only applies to negatives, in this context sins. So I say no, Jesus can’t emphasize based on this definition.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

“the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively manner”

Jesus can’t vicariously experience the feelings of sinners from past experience because He has no past experience of sinning. Therefore, Jesus can’t emphasize.

I’m curious what others think of my thoughts on this


God is absolutely unchangeable so he cannot be affected by creatures so as to be changed by them either in his knowledge or will. God rather affects creatures by changing them and producing effects in them as he is the first efficient cause. All creatures are created out of nothing so they are always on the receiving end of God’s action, receiving existence itself at all times from God and all other manner of being and goodness otherwise creatures would vanish back into nothingness.

God designed and created us and all other creatures out of nothing so he knows and understands us infinitely better than we know ourselves. He perfectly knows and understands all our thoughts, feelings or emotions, and will acts whether they are good or evil. But, it doesn’t follow that he experiences in himself those emotions of ours that pertain to evil such as sorrow or pain. Sorrow is about some present evil but there not the slightest shadow of evil in God as he is infinitely good, all good, and his life is one of an infinite and eternal beatitude, blessedness, or happiness. There are no passions in God as God is absolutely unchangeable. The very word ‘passion’ strictly speaking implies something that is affected and changed which doesn’t apply to God. Nor does God have bodily or sensitive/appetitive passions or feelings as he is a pure spirit without a body.

But, the names we give to sensory/appetitive passions such as love, desire, joy, hate, aversion, sorrow, daring can be applied to our intellective appetite which is our spiritual will. God does have a will but we can only properly apply to him certain of these various affections of the will such as love and joy and delight. God is said to hate various things in the Old Testament such as sin but only because of his love for the good and its contrary, i.e. evil, being absent. We also apply various human virtues being really present in God such as justice, mercy, truth, liberality, etc., as sacred scripture says these things of God. God does whatever he does for creatures through his goodness and love which is defined as to will good to someone. His mercy towards creatures springs from his goodness and love for them by willing to relieve their distress and misery which are about evils by the bestowal of good or some good on them to remove the evils.

God is the only the true liberal giver for he gives without anything accruing to him from creatures in return but which is solely for the benefit of his creatures. Our praise of God does not increase his glory or beatitude which he infinitely possesses in himself from all eternity. God created the universe not to increase his glory or beatitude which cannot be increased but solely on account that creatures might participate in his infinite goodness. God’s goodness and love for creation and all its creatures is completely unselfish.


Where do I find this list?


A good source without any spin applied by some apologist theologian as is often the case in the religious groups.


Because Jesus became man he is able to empathize with us.


God is empathy in your system of belief.


God know every thoughts, feels etc. God never become weakness, unknowing, deaf, blind etc but God knows all those situations because God creates in our bodies or souls. Empathy? Perhaps not in way of human but Yes.


Since emotions such as empathy or other ones are changes, and since God is the unchanging act of existence, he does not have any emotions or other attributes, as his “attributes” are actually his essence. However, the effects that existence produces include what is perceived by humans as “empathy”, so in this sense God does have empathy, as well as love, hate, mercy, etc. Also, our Lord I believe has emotions in his human nature, which is indicated by the Greek word used in the new testament when he saw someone suffering greatly whom he then would heal.


Empathy is to understand other’s feelings but not necessarily to share them.


Because of the incarnation, God has empathy.


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