The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Everyone wants to know more about themselves. In fact, a popular idea of the modern age is that one needs to find his “true self.” Who am I? What am I here for? These are the questions that guide many of our modern perceptions of the self.
To be fair, this is not inherently a bad thing. It is good to practice self-awareness, especially as it pertains to Christian living. Having a proper understanding of ourselves can help us avoid the sin of pride. Additionally, being realistic about our strengths and weaknesses can help keep us sober-minded.
This might be what makes personality tests and types so attractive, even to the Christian. From astrological signs to the Myers-Briggs test, we want to know concrete, specific details about ourselves. With a concept as abstract and complex as personality, we crave simplicity in finding out who we are.
However, the problem arises when we try to use personality tests to determine our identity. This is because we are relying on something other than God’s Word, the Bible, to discern who we are. If we consider that the world and our hearts are sinful, as suggested with the verse above, then this is a fool’s errand. This is especially the case if, say, such a personality test has ties to the occult.
Enter the enneagram.
What is the Enneagram?
The enneagram of personality, or simply the enneagram, is a personality test that features nine different personality types. It is not too unlike astrological signs. What makes the enneagram different, however, is that it has taken the evangelical world by storm. But before we learn how the enneagram affected the church, let’s take a took at its symbol:
As shown above, the enneagram is a nine-pointed star polygon where each point represents a number and an associated personality type. For example, Point 1 is known as Type 1, The Reformer, Point 2 is Type 2, The Helper, and so on. The word “enneagram” comes from the Greek words ennea (meaning nine) and gramma (something written or drawn).
Adding to the complexity, a person of a certain type may exhibit strong traits of an adjacent type. This subcategory of type is known as a “wing.” For example, a Type 3 (Achiever) who exhibits personality traits of Type 4 (Individualist) is known as a “3 wing 4.”
The enneagram was first introduced to Christian circles via Franciscan friar Richard Rohr. Rohr published a book on the enneagram titled The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, in 1995 and later in 2001. The enneagram first appeared attractive to the emergent church, but soon it was everywhere. By 2016, the enneagram became a staple of evangelical churches.
In a Christian context, many believed the enneagram could help people connect to themselves, God, and others. In the late 2010s, this personality test inspired dozens of books and seminars. Intervarsity Press, for example, released a book titled The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. Other proponents of the enneagram include Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, Ian Cron, and Russell Moore.
At this point, the enneagram had practically become a secondary form of Christian teaching, alongside the Bible. It had gotten so popular that some churches were hiring staff based on their enneagram numbers rather than Biblical qualifications. But, as I am about to argue, this is an error.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
The enneagram has similar issues to other personality tests. The key danger lies in us relying on a secular tool, rather than Scripture, to discover who we are. As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the ultimate source of revelation. Thus, it does not make sense to make a determination about ourselves apart from God’s Word. This is especially true when one considers that personality tests can be somewhat inaccurate.
However, what makes the enneagram worse is that its origins come from the occult. Christian teachers of the enneagram often tend to downplay or ignore this fact. For example, many claim that the enneagram was created by Christian desert monks. Supposedly, the enneagram is an adaptation of the Seven Deadly Sins, outlined by Evagrius Ponticus.
The problem with this claim is that it is false. Not only so, but the man who fabricated this story, Claudio Naranjo, admitted he made up the enneagram’s origins. In reality, the enneagram seems to be influenced by multiple different cultures, such as Taoism, Islam, and mythical Judaism.
The earliest mentions of the enneagram come from the early 20th century. Russian occultist P.D. Ouspensky and his teacher Georges I. Gurdjief claimed that the enneagram was a symbol of the stars. Later, occultist Óscar Ichazo was the first person to associate the enneagram with personality. Ichazo claimed that the archangel Metratron taught it to him while he was high on mescaline.
This brings us back to Claudio Naranjo, a student of Ichazo. Naranjo was the first man to discover the personality types related to each point on the enneagram. He claims he was given revelation of these types by automatic writing, a common occult practice.
This should cause some major alarm bells to start blaring for us. The enneagram does not seem to be a tool of God, but one of the devil. If this is the case, then we must take care to warn other Christians against using it. Additionally, I would argue that we should hold Christian teachers who knew of the enneagram’s origins accountable. These leaders may be unintentionally leading people astray.
The Bible teaches us that we should have nothing to do with magic or the occult:
If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people. (Leviticus 20:6)
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, (1 Timothy 4:1)
This is partly why we must test every spirit. We really ought to be more careful when using tools outside of the Bible, especially if we don’t know their origins. Of course, I’m not saying professing Christians who use the enneagram are necessarily embracing the New Age. Rather, I am cautioning people to stay away from the “doctrines of demons.”
But the good news is that we don’t need the enneagram to discover ourselves. The Bible has already given us everything we need. Scripture tells us that we are all sinners, and this is regardless of our personalities. But Jesus loved us so much that He died on the cross to save our souls. The Lord is not bound by anything, not even one’s temperament.
Thus, we can be free from using worldly tools to try to find ourselves. Rather, we can know who we are via reading about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
All Scripture quotations are from ESV.