The Enneagram: Time Wasted or Truth Revealed?
The Enneagram is a very popular self-assessment tool in the fields of psychology, business, and even many Christian communities today. The word comes from the Greek words Ennea (Nine) and Grammos (Written symbol). The goal of understanding the Enneagram, or “knowing your number” is to understand yourself better so that you can relate in more healthy ways to yourself, others, and the world. Based on the results of taking an Enneagram test, you receive a number (1-9), each having a title or way of identifying yourself (Reformer, Helper, Achiever, etc.).
If you know about the Enneagram already, then you most likely already have an opinion about the Enneagram… that being said, the content of those opinions vary wildly regarding the validity and usefulness of the Enneagram, especially for Christians. Some people say that it is a neutral tool for understanding your strengths and weaknesses and working well with others. Others say that it is a profoundly pagan and new age tool that is deceptive and should be avoided similar to the way Christians should never use a Ouija board.
So, which is it? Surprising as it may be to some Christians who have been introduced to the Enneagram as a fun or useful tool, the Enneagram does have pagan and new age origins and current practice by those who study and teach the Enneagram. At Doxa, we’re not saying you’ve been seduced by a demon merely by taking the Enneagram online. What we are saying, however, is that the Enneagram holds no unique or intrinsic value in and of itself to a Christian to help them grow in biblical wisdom, biblical living, or even to help you draw near to God. Any truth or value in the Enneagram related to understanding yourself and how to relate to others is a derived truth, meaning it draws its truth from divinely revealed Truth from Scripture.
Let's briefly examine the origins of the Enneagram. In the early 20th Century, an Armenian teacher of esoteric spiritual philosophies named George Gurdjieff began promoting the Enneagram. Gurdjieff claimed to arrive at his teachings through travels and “contacts with secret groups”, as well as Sufis (a mystical sect of Islam). Two other influential men in early Enneagram development are Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo. For a detailed history of these teachers, read this article from former professional astrologist (now evangelical Christian) Marcia Montenegro. Summarizing the origins of the Enneagram, you discover that it includes a mix of the following: mystical Islam, esoteric philosophy, “automatic writing” (emptying one’s mind, contacting a spirit and asking it to write/type a message through you), instructions from a “higher spirit named Metatron”, the use of psychedelic drugs, and shamanism (a process of seeking healing through contact with spirits).
Translation: The Enneagram’s founders, origin, teachings, purpose, and core “theological beliefs” are completely off-the-wall loony from a Christian worldview.
Despite the thoroughly pagan and occult origins of the Enneagram, the pervasive thought amongst many Christians is that this background is unimportant; what matters is the usefulness of the system and that each person gets what they desire to gain from such a system. At the end of the day, if the Enneagram seems to describe my personality, strengths, weaknesses, proclivities and so on in an accurate way that could help me be a better leader or healthier team player at work, or help me understand myself more thoroughly, isn’t that a good thing? The short answer is simultaneously "kind of yes" and "absolutely not". A system of man-centered philosophy telling you accurate things about yourself does not make something good, godly, or even legitimately profitable to your life as a disciple of Jesus.
If you are a supporter of the Enneagram from a “Christian perspective” because of the works of Suzanne Stabile and others, please take a few minutes to carefully read this article from Marcia Montenegro. It is a very helpful unveiling of the false doctrine underlying her work and the associations with panentheist (God is in all, all is divine) theologian Richard Rohr. Further, you are encouraged to listen to the “Sheologians” Podcast titled Girl, What’s Your Number? The meat of their podcast begins about 18 minutes in and is worth your time to gain an understanding of the numerous pitfalls of the Enneagram’s philosophy from a biblical perspective.
But let’s boil the real problem down with the Enneagram, even the mildest and neutral version of it, to the following issues:
-There is no Triune Creator God in the Enneagram
-It is a human-centered approach to change
-It promotes self-absorption and self-obsession
-It is powerless to do any eternal good in a person’s life
-It denies personal sin against a holy God
-It has no room for a Redeemer
-It draws you inward to the false notion of your true/essential self rather than outward to worship God
-At best, it repackages the need for ongoing sanctification in a Christian’s life in anti-biblical terms
To be clear: if you take the Enneagram as, for example, part of a leadership or development class at work, you have not sold your soul to the Devil. Please do not interpret all of this as a call to boycott all personality tests. Participating in such exercises to improve work culture or understand how to work with one another can have a certain kind of value or benefit.
If you are a Christian, there is great news. God has already given you everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and, shockingly enough, it has nothing to do with the Enneagram. Here are some God-ordained ways of understanding yourself and living well in God’s world:
-Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33)
-Consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God through Christ (Romans 6:1-15)
-Be imitators of God and walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-2)
-Fear the Lord and pursue wisdom he provides in his Word (Proverbs 1:7)
-Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus, giving up your life to receive the True Life Jesus gives (Matthew 16:24-26)
-Pattern your leadership after Jesus, i.e., be a leader who serves (Mark 10:42-45)
-Put off the old self and put on the new self, being renewed in the spirit of your minds (Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:1-12)
-Because of God’s mercy through Jesus, offer your life to God a living sacrifice as a response of worship (Romans 12:1-2)
-Confess your sin to God, believing that through Christ alone you can be forgiven, cleansed, and born again as a child of God (John 3:1-8, 1 John 1:6-10)
-Think of others as more significant than yourself, taking your cues from the humility of Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11)
-For all of your needs (physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, wisdom issues, leadership issues, and more), come to God in prayer knowing you are welcome at his throne of grace to lift all your requests to God (Philippians 4:4-7, Hebrews 4:16)
-Consider knowing Jesus (and being known by him) to be your greatest goal, highest calling, deepest joy in life (Philippians 3:7-9, Matthew 7:21-23)
-Abide in Christ (John 15:1-17)
-Above all do everything you do in the name of the Lord Jesus and for the glory of God (Colossians 3:17, 1 Corinthians 10:31)