Enneagram Problems

The Enneagram is the popular personality test these days. And like most other personality tests promising to giving you insight into yourself, it taps into people’s favorite topic–themselves. I believe personality tests are a valuable tool for self-discovery. I’ve read a few books on the Enneagram and have personally used the Enneagram as a self-diagnostic tool and a tool to help others. I did this for a while until I started to notice some problems that kept emerging with its use. Then, when I discovered its roots, I stopped engaging with the Enneagram altogether.

Problem #1: The Enneagram is rooted in occult theory, occult practice, and Gnostic theology. If you aren’t convinced of this, I recommend this well researched article written by a Catholic priest from Loyola University of Chicago. Self-discovery tools rooted in the occult, like the Enneagram, can be very dangerous. They can end up being a dressed up version of a horoscope. Once someone is convinced they are a particular number on the Enneagram, their whole world gets viewed through that lens (like one’s horoscope). Then self-fulfilling prophecies and confirmation bias abound.

Problem #2: While some personality tests can give insight into human nature, the Enneagram has no science behind it. So at best, the insight we gain about human nature is observational. The Myers-Briggs gives us 16 types; the Enneagram gives us 9 types. Why nine? What study revealed nine? When the complexity of human nature emerges and people don’t really fully fit their number, wings are introduced. Then when a number and a wing feels to constraining, more subsets are introduced. This goes on and on and on with an endless list of subsets, basically nullifying the distinction of the original number. (Anyone who has tried the Enneagram has experienced this phenomenon.)

Problem #3: Even if a personality test can give some limited insight into human nature, it can’t tell you who you were created to be in Christ. You are not your old self. As a follower of Jesus, you are a new creation. You’ve been give a new nature. You’ve been reborn with the Spirit of the Living God dwelling within you. Before Christ, you may have tended toward sin, but in Christ your new nature tends toward holiness. The Holy Spirit is the only One who has been assigned the task of guiding you into truth.

Problem #4: Self-discovery does not set you free! This is the Gnostic idea that if we just gain more mystical insight and knowledge then we can transcend into a higher level of being. This Gnostic idea was rejected by the early church and is found deeply embedded in all things New Age, self-help and occult. It is at the very root of the Enneagram. Again, I can’t stress this enough, our identity is not a number; it’s not a type. It’s not found in a personality test. Our identity is who Jesus says we are. We are in Christ and He is in us. Our freedom is found in Him alone. He speaks to us about who we really are in Christ, and the Holy Spirit then empowers us to live that new identity.

Problem #5: Misdiagnosis of others and wrong self-diagnosis abounds with the Enneagram. Have you ever had someone tell you, “Oh, you are definitely this number!” and they were completely off? Or have you ever had someone tell you what Enneagram number they are and you knew they were way off? This is rampant with the Enneagram, probably because there is no science backing it. It is 100% observational, and people see what they want to see. What happens when the doctor gets the diagnosis wrong? The treatment will be wrong. If the diagnostic process of the Enneagram is so often incorrect, the subsequent matching response will also be wrong. This just leads to more confusion and less freedom.

I could keep listing problems with the Enneagram, but I’m sure I’ve already offended those who value its insight. I’ll conclude then with this. If you have valued the Enneagram, then I just encourage you not to put too much of yourself into it. Treat it like one personality test among many. Or better still, treat it the way you would a fortune cookie or a horoscope. But please, do not invest your life in this thing. Learn about its roots in the occult before you continue with it. And after learning about its roots, if you still want to use it as a tool, go for it. But please do so with a measure of caution.

God With Us

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[Isaiah 7:14] (which means “God with us”).

Matthew 1:22-23

Jesus is “God with us.” He is the majestic, transcendent God who has come near. So many people relate to Jesus as if He is God against us or God condemning us or God disappointed in us. But Jesus is none of those things. Jesus said of Himself, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him“(John 3:17).

The Christian faith uniquely captures both sides of God’s nature–His transcendence and His immanence. The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians about Jesus and said, “The Son is the image of the invisible God…For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him“(Colossians 1:15, 19).

There was a time in history where most people focused on God’s transcendence, how He is completely “other” than us and full of unapproachable power, majesty and light. This is an important aspect of the nature of God, but if that is the only focus, people easily slip into deism–the belief that God is distant and disconnected from His creation.

Deism says that God created everything, put it motion like a machine, and now it runs on Newtonian laws of nature without God’s involvement or interaction. This view of God is heavily influenced by the Enlightenment age. Much of liberal protestant theology is still heavily influenced by this kind of erroneous thinking.

In reaction against this, people began to focus more on God’s immanence–His nearness to and involvement in His own creation. And while this is a very important aspect of God to understand, especially with the Holy Spirit, it has recently become over-emphasized.

With the rejection of Christianity and the introduction of eastern mysticism (Hindu and Buddhist thought), the rise of New Age spiritualism has begun to infiltrate western culture. Terms that celebrate pantheism are being woven into the English vernacular: chakra, the Universe, energies, spirit guide, etc.

Though most of these concepts come from the Occult and eastern religions–and are therefore heavily demonic–western culture, including many people raised in the church, has embraced it because of its emphasis on the experience of the nearness (the immanence) of the spirit realm. Protestant fear of the charismatic experiences of the Holy Spirit–a fear which led to an overly-rationalistic and hyper-cognitive faith–has left an experiential void that is being filled by New Age religion.

We need to hold both truths about God’s nature together in tension so that we don’t slip into these sorts of false beliefs. God is transcendent and other. He is a holy, majestic, and all-powerful personal God who relates to us as Father. God is also immanent. He first drew near to His people with theophanies (visible manifestations of His Presence) in the Old Testament; then He became “God with us” in the person of Jesus Christ, and finally dwells in us and among us in the person of the Holy Spirit.

God is not distant, and God is not “everything.” God is not “the Universe.” God is not creation. God is the Creator of creation. He is separate from His creation but loves to come and dwell within His creation. God is not an abstract “life-force” found in things. God is personal. He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And if He is found within a person, it is as the Holy Spirit dwelling in the new Temple of God through faith in Jesus Christ–the crucified and risen Savior of the world.

Masquerading

One of the jobs of a pastor is to protect the church from false teaching. This was a primary concern for the apostle Paul and his churches. It was relational for Paul. He saw false teaching as a kind of marital infidelity between the church and Christ.

He writes to the Corinthians, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).

One of the most dangerous things filtering into the church today is the false belief that dabbling in astrology, mediums, psychics, reiki healing, spells, seances, horoscopes and other forms of eastern mysticism and occult practices are harmless fun. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A woman in my church, after years of dabbling in tarot cards and automatic writing, found herself demonized. She needed multiple demons cast out of her because of her participation in these occult practices.

Another friend of mine used to watch Long Island Medium on the TLC channel. I believe people are so interested in this stuff because western skepticism has told us there is no spirit realm, yet a part of us still believes there is more out there than what empiricism tells us.

Unfortunately, much of the church has sided with western skepticism rather than adopting a biblical worldview that acknowledges the reality of a spirit realm that contains both light and dark, angels and demons. A large segment of the church doesn’t warn against these occult practices because they see them as “fake” rather than what they are, which is a direct line to “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

So when my friend would watch this medium on TV revealing things about people she couldn’t possibly know, and it seemed like the person was encouraged, then it had to be a good thing. Right? If good things are coming from it, isn’t it a good thing?

Paul responded to something similar by reminding the Corinthians, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). He warned them not to accept things that come from a “different spirit from the one you received” (2 Corinthians 11:4).

Was this medium hearing from the spirit realm? Yep. But she’s not hearing from the Holy Spirit. She’s hearing from deceptive and cunning demonic spirits. And the same demonic spirits that speak to her about other people also torment her life.

New Age and occult practices are darkness masquerading as light. They invite us to put our trust in something other that God and His word. They are a form of marital infidelity between the church and Christ. They end up being a gateway for the demonic to access and torment the life of those who participate in them.