Should Christians Use the Enneagram?
As a Christian Enneagram business, one of the questions we receive frequently is a version of this: "Should Christians use the Enneagram?" The first thing we want you to know is that we fully understand why you're asking, we support you exploring this, and we're happy to engage in discussion with you about it.
The goal and intent of Your Enneagram Coach is to love God and to love people. We're not in the business of trying to convert people to the Enneagram.
One of the main reasons Your Enneagram Coach was founded was because, early in Beth's journey with the Enneagram, she found few resources available to help guide Christians with this tool. She wanted to create the resources she wished she had in the beginning—resources to help you explore the tool of the Enneagram as a Christ-follower.
As the Enneagram quickly grew in popularity among Christians, Beth and Jeff felt a calling to help Christians stay on a gospel-centered path and use this tool from a theologically accurate perspective. Currently, Your Enneagram Coach reaches close to 5 million people globally each month, which tells us there's something about the insights of a gospel-centered Enneagram approach that's having a significant impact on people's lives.
Our Theological Position Regarding the Enneagram:
God desires to make himself known to us, and there are two primary ways he does this—through special revelation and general revelation. Special revelation is how God reveals himself through the scriptures. The Bible includes many diverse books, all told as one unified story. This unified story leads us to Jesus and his redemptive work to save us, forgive us, and bring us into communion with God and one another. So, you might ask, "Isn't the Bible and the Spirit all we need?" The Bible, inspired by the Spirit, tells us that God speaks to us and reveals himself to everyone through creation. This is called general revelation. We are right to appreciate wisdom and truth wherever we find it, for God is the source of all wisdom and truth (see Psalm 19:1-2, Romans 1:18-20).
Connected to this idea of general revelation is Common Grace. Common Grace says that God's goodness, wisdom, beauty, and truth can be found in creation, including every human being. God blesses us with gifts and with potential, and in every human culture, you will find traces of God's fingerprint in the arts, sciences, and history. Where Common Grace connects to our position on the Enneagram is that throughout history, Biblical writers and early church leaders have taken non-Christian resources and pulled the truth and beauty out of them so that they could point people back to God.
Here are a few examples for you to consider.
- God used the Hittite Suzerain Treaty1, an accepted form of creating a covenant in its time, to signify his relationship with Abraham and his offspring.
- In the book of Daniel, we see Daniel bring his faith to Babylon, and while remaining faithful to the Lord, learn the Babylonian culture and language.
- Psalm 104 has parallels to the Great Hymn to Aten (14-13 century BC).2
- Psalm 29 appears to be a Baal worship song that was adapted for Yahweh.
- The Genesis creation story appropriates significantly from the Epic of Gilgamesh.3
- In the book of Proverbs (22:17 - 24:22), a whole paragraph draws on an Egyptian wisdom text called the Instruction of Amenemope.
These Old Testament examples show us that God always intended for his people to be in the context of cultures. This is why early Christians continued the practice of using their existing culture to present the gospel in a new way that landed on their audiences' hearts. In Acts 17:28, Paul quotes two Greek poets.4 The first citation, "for in Him we live and move and have our being," is a line from a poem written to Zeus by the Cretan philosopher Epimenides. The second citation, "we are his offspring," is taken from a poem by the Stoic philosopher Aratus. Paul isn't afraid to take a non-Christian resource (the statue of the unknown god), grab what is true in them (Common Grace), and connect it to Jesus. Similarly, early church leaders like Augustine and Aquinas also pulled truth from Greek philosophers (Plotinus and Aristotle) without adopting a Greek worldview.
Without understanding Common Grace, some Christians may feel no need to study the world and other human cultures. Unfortunately, they miss out on expanding their appreciation of the created world and the God who made it.
In Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Plan for the World, Tim Keller says: "Work done by non-Christians always contains some degree of God's Common Grace as well as the distortions of sin. Work done by Christians, even if it overtly names the name of Jesus is also to a significant degree distorted by sin."
Sometimes people point to specific Bible verses as grounds for why Christians should not use the Enneagram. For example, Jeremiah 14:14 says, "Then the Lord said to me, 'The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them, or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.'" In context, God is warning his people about false prophets, who were proclaiming words of peace over God's people, that God is not displeased over their blatant idolatry and injustice (e.g., sacrificing their children to false gods). The Enneagram conversation does not fit this context. Nothing about the Christian approach to the Enneagram is encouraging sin, but rather the Enneagram serves as a tool that points out our need for God's grace and forgiveness and helps us walk in alignment with the truth of the gospel.
Other examples are Deuteronomy 18:10-11: "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead." And 1 Corinthians 10:20, "No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons."
These are all warnings that Christians should adhere to! But these are warnings about witchcraft and demons, which are in no way connected to the history of the Enneagram. Voices against a Christian’s use of the Enneagram fear that it will pull people away from the one true God and towards occultism, new ageism, or spiritualism, but what we see happen is the opposite of that fear. Those who bring a Christian worldview to the Enneagram have the gospel land on their heart in a new way, and it frees them.
We acknowledge there is a history of Christians moving too far from Christian orthodoxy and assimilating non-Christian beliefs. Syncretism is the inappropriate blending of non-Christian ideas or practices with the Christian faith that replaces or dilutes the essential tenets of faith. No matter what subject we are studying or integrating into our life, syncretism is something we should all be aware of and be careful not to fall into.
But there is also the opposite temptation to isolate ourselves from culture and create our own subculture. A separatist is a person who separates a particular group of people (in this case, Christians) from a larger body (the rest of humanity). Becoming a separatist is, in many ways, easier because it feels safe and certain. However, Jesus calls us to be in the world, but not of it—to transform culture with his presence (John 17:14-15).
Some Enneagram authors have claimed that the Enneagram can be traced back to the desert fathers of the 4th century, but there isn't a lot of clear evidence, so we don't feel compelled to defend the Enneagram by saying it came from Christian sources.
More recently, articles have been published where Oscar Ichazo and Claudia Naranjo explain their spiritual experiences in developing their thoughts about the Enneagram. Both these men contributed significantly to what we now consider the Enneagram. We don't deny these accounts. To further understand Naranjo’s statements, we interviewed experts who studied under him. First, we asked if there was any participation in the occult. The answer was no. Second, we asked that they clarify his statement regarding ‘automatic writing’. The reference to "automatic writing" most likely refers to Naranjo sitting down to write and allowing the flow of decades of study, research, and knowledge to come together.
Our approach is to take the overall concepts of many Enneagram teachers and then filter them through the lens of the gospel.
The Enneagram is not like other personality systems, like Myers-Briggs or Strengthsfinder, that have one source you go to for training. The Enneagram is a communal tool, which means contemporary Enneagram teachers do not necessarily follow previous teachers' ideas, beliefs, or practices. On the contrary, you will find that each Enneagram teacher presents the Enneagram according to their worldview, often adding, subtracting, or redefining concepts contained in the Enneagram.
In our presentation of the Enneagram, we removed or redefined all aspects that do not align with a Biblical worldview. We direct people to spiritual disciplines, not unbiblical spiritual practices. As laid out in our mission statement at Your Enneagram Coach, our goal seeks to focus people's attention upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. In fact, our mission statement does not even include the word "Enneagram" since our primary purpose and focus is to point people back to Christ by helping them know who they are and whose they are in Christ.
The mission of YEC is for people to see themselves with astonishing clarity so they can break free from self-condemnation, fear, and shame by knowing and experiencing the unconditional love, forgiveness, and freedom in Christ.
In John 1:46, Nathanael says to Philip, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" We now know that a lot of good can come out of Nazareth! God has always been in the business of redeeming what man has distorted, disdained, or discarded. He brings life out of death. Jesus himself was accused of being/having demons by the people of his day. Yet nothing could have been further from the truth. People often fear things they don't understand and make bold claims about whether they come from a pure or impure desire of the heart. Just because we don't understand or like the origins of something doesn't mean it can't point us to God's truth.
In the secular world, the Enneagram's end goal is to know yourself. We say, no, the ultimate goal is to know God—your Creator— glorify Him, and enjoy Him forever. Where we all agree is that we have brokenness inside, and we're all longing for redemption. Even within a secular framework, they acknowledge that something is wrong, and they are trying to find the cause of that problem. But I can't be the solution if I'm the problem. I can't save myself. The biggest difference in a Christian approach to the Enneagram is that God is the solution. He is the only one who can rescue you, and he's done that through the personal work of Christ.
All believers should be diligent in their research, use wisdom, and ultimately, decide for themselves. We think Christians should use the Enneagram—if they find value in it—provided they always keep in mind that the Enneagram (like other personality assessments) is simply a tool. It is the gospel, and ONLY the gospel, that brings true transformation in our lives.
1 Introduction To Deuteronomy. (2008). ESV Study Bible. (pp. 325). Crossway. Frame, John. (2013). Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Christian Belief. P & R Publishing.
2 Notes on Psalm 104. (2008). ESV Study Bible. (pp. 1069). Crossway.
3 Currid, John D. (2013). Epic of Gilgamesh. Against The Gods: The Polemical Theology Of The Old Testament. Crossway.
4 Dodson, Joseph R. and David E. Barnes. (2019). Paul and The Giants of Philosophy. IVP Press.
Barrs, Jerram. (2013). Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts. Crossway.
Keyes, Dick. (2014). Chameleon Christianity. Richard B. Keyes.
Niebuhr, H. Richard. (1975). Christ and Culture. Harper & Row.
Powlison, David. (2012). How Does The Scripture Teach Us To Redeem Psychology? On Redeeming Psychology, The Journal Of Biblical Counseling, 26 (3), 2-20. https://faithconnector.s3.amazonaws.com/nlcwh/files/counseling_toolbox/definition/powlison_h[…]oes_scripture_teach_us_to_redeem_psychology_ps_31.pdf
- Free Video: Should Christians Use The Enneagram? | Dealing with Common Objections by Pastor Tyler Zach
Free e-book Should Christians Use The Enneagram: Answering 7 Critical Questions by Pastor Tyler Zach
- Blog The Enneagram and Gospel Freedom by Beth McCord
Article How the Enneagram Can Point You to God by KJ Ramsey
Blog A Response to Joe Carter’s TGC blog “The FAQ’s: What Christians Should Know About The Enneagram.” by Professor Chuck DeGroat
Podcast What is the Enneagram? Should Christians use or even care about it? by Russell Moore, The Russell Moore Show
Video Russell Moore on The Enneagram by Russell Moore
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