I've been invited to a church event that is using Ennegrams to draw women in who have not heard the gospel. Intervarsity Press says, "Find out from author Suzanne Stabile how the Enneagram could pave the way toward understanding the Gospels better." Is it acceptable for a church group to supplement Bible teaching with Ennegrams? Scientology offers a personality test too! I'm concerned.
ESV - 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
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At the basic level, there is nothing Biblically wrong with using secular or psychological tools like personality tests. We live "in the world" and there are many tools from science, psychology, medecine, etc. That can aid us. Personality tests, if taken as helpful tools and not oracles of our inner workings, can help us understand our own quirks better, understand how to communicate better with others, understand the 'why' behind some of our strengths and weaknesses, etc. However, when it comes to the recent trend of Enneagram workshops in the church, or the popular book "The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery" by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron, there are a number of concerns: #1 The priority is looking at self to change self, vs. Looking at Christ to change the self. Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne once said, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ." It isn't that self-reflection and introspection is bad - indeed we should be "examining ourselves" frequently in regards to faith, sin, our relationship with Christ, our relationships with others, etc. However, as Christians we are transformed as we submit to the Spirit. We aim to put on the mind of Christ. Real change comes through listening to the Holy Spirit, through prayer, through scripture, through confessing sin, etc. Yet the 'enneagram' focuses on discovering self not through looking at ourselves through Christ's eyes, but by categorizing oneself via their theory of personality. #2 Moving the blame: Personality tests in tandem with Bible teaching often suffer in that they 'allow' the test takers to shift the blame for their own sin rather than confront it. The Enneagram system includes 'reasons' for negative traits and actions such as parental neglect. Without a teacher constantly bringing things back to scripture, it can be easy for a student to dismiss his own sin as the fault of someone else rather than confess it. #3 Minimizing sin While Stabile's book includes a list of 'common besetting sins' for each personality type, the problem remains that many negative things are treated as personality quirks rather than sins. So the student can easily think, "I'm impatient but that's just part of my personality" or, "sure I was rude but only because I care about this issue so deeply" rather than noting, confessing, and turning from sins. #4 A worldly view The book itself tends to interpret personality traits through a worldly vs. A Biblical lens. For example, the #1 personality type is labeled "The Reformer" - supposedly a 'conscientious, principled, and ethical' personality. The celebrity example the book gives for this is 'Hillary Clinton.' Rather than going off what scripture brands as traits for reformers/mission-focused individuals (meekness, service, love, gentle rebuke, willing to suffer ridicule for the sake of righteousness, etc.) the explanation given is all about how this personality type just wants what is 'best' for everyone else and to 'improve things.' #1s are assumed to be right and morally correct rather than encouraged to examine their own beliefs. Scripture is full of examples on reformation done right and wrong- all of which would be more spiritually useful to study than rebranding reformation as equivalent to involvement in social justice movements or the personal feeling that one knows better than everyone else. Scripture also gives better remedies (trust in God, a right view of self, confessing sin, etc.) than just encouraging people to relax and love themselves more. #5 Mysticism The modern enneagram borrows from Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, ancient Greek philosophy, Judaism, Christianity, and other beliefs. It's primary goal is to help people understand how their 'essence' (fundamental "perfect" being united with the cosmos) relates to their ego (personality.) In contrast to the Christian view of the fall, caused by sin, in the Enneagram view man "falls" due to personality.
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