(Don’t get too excited about that title. It probably doesn’t mean what you think.)
ENNEAGRAM: Greek – a nine pointed figure; from ennea: Greek – nine; and gramma: Greek – something written or drawn. A polygon with nine points usually placed inside a circle. The nine points of the figure have been assigned nine personality types (enneatypes) and the connecting lines of the figure point to different subtypes (wings).
The Enneagram. Have you heard of it? Apparently, it’s been around a long time. Since the 1970s at least. Some say for thousands of years. It has been in the church since the early 1990s. Until a couple of years ago, I had never heard of it.
Since becoming aware of this thing with the cryptic name, I have been researching it, as is my wont to do. The more I have looked into it and the church’s fascination with it, the more troubled I have become.
What’s your take? I’ll share mine and explain my stance through God’s Word. My view may be a little—or a lot—different than yours. If so, I hope that you will thoughtfully and prayerfully consider it.
What is this enigmatic thing with the weird name?
I became aware of the enneagram in late 2018 when I saw a discussion about it on a facebook page related to my church. A quick internet search revealed deeps roots in the New Age and occult. This troubled me, but since it was not promoted by church leadership, I let it go.
Skip ahead to May, 2020. I have relocated from Arkansas to Tennessee and attend a new church where I encountered it again, this time being used as a tool to help members find their place in the ministry life of the church. Due to the earlier red flags that had been raised, I decided to take a closer look.
Where did you learn about the enneagram? From a trusted friend, someone at your church, your pastor? Did that source lead you to assume it is appropriate for church use or your own personal enrichment and spiritual journey? My skeptical nature and proneness to investigate everything sent me searching for answers. I hope what my research uncovered will benefit you.
Secular personality tools may be beneficial in secular applications, but are they needed in the Church? God does not need us to be a certain personality or enneatype in order to use us. The Holy Spirit gives every Christian their gifting as He sees fit. We must turn to Him for guidance to grow in our walk with the Lord and to find our place in the body of Christ. After all, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” He often calls us to do things we are least qualified to do, so that He can show Himself strong in us.
Origins of Enneagram of Personality
Let’s take a look at the origins of the enneagram and the people involved in its development. I hope this will allow you to see why I believe it has no place in the Church and is a dangerous practice for any Christian.
The geometric figure of the enneagram has been around for a very long time, probably hundreds of years. Its history has many esoteric, mystical, and occult influences such as alchemy, sacred geometry, occult practices, divination, numerology, spiritism, Sufism, Buddhism, Kabbalah, Hinduism, Taoism, Gnosticism, Theosophy, and New Age. Certain names appear repeatedly in articles regarding who was involved in the development of enneagram: Llull, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Ichazo, Naranjo to name a few. The men and women involved in its development and popularization were heavily involved in or influenced by mysticism, the occult, and/or the traditions noted above. A google search of these names will uncover a treasure trove of information about their involvement in these decidedly unchristian practices.
In the 1980s, a decade before it became popular in Christian churches, New Age psychic Helen Palmer introduced enneagram to New Age circles where it was readily embraced.
The person responsible for bringing the enneagram into the church is Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr who’s book Discovering the Enneagram: An Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey, published in 1990 (co-authored with Andreas Ebert and first published in German in 1989), became popular in the Catholic Church and later in the progressive movement. It became very popular in evangelical circles in 2016 when the book was republished under its current title The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. Rohr is not exempt from mystical, gnostic, and new age influences that seem to be the norm among those who promulgated the enneagram. Since the acceptance and increasing popularity of the enneagram, dozens of books have been written on it, schools have arisen to teach it, and conferences are held to discuss it. Many, if not most, of those involved in its promotion have been heavily influenced by new age thought and practice.
Below is a link to a video clip where Claudio Naranjo can be heard stating that he “received” the nine enneatypes through “automatic writing,” a new age practice of channeling “exalted masters” or higher entities (demons). He also admits to purposeful deception about its age (it is not ancient, as is widely believed). Don’t take my word for it. Watch the clip to hear it yourself.
In light of these things, should the enneagram have any place in the Church or the life of a believer?
Who Are We Following?
Believers must carefully consider any path we walk to be sure we are following Jesus and not a counterfeit.
My fear for Christians involved with enneagram is what Paul feared for the Corinthians—
“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 11:3 ESV
Jesus warns us—
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
Matthew 7:15-20 NKJV
Here are some guidelines for how to recognize and avoid false prophets/teachers:
- Know who Christ is and what He teaches so you can recognize a false teaching when you hear it.
- Do not take anyone’s word for it. God has given you His own Word. You are responsible for knowing the truth when you encounter it.
- Pay attention to the fruit in a person’s life.
- When someone shows you who they are—believe them!
We each bear personal responsibility to know Christ and His Word. We have more access to the Bible today than at any time in history. Many of us own more than one physical Bible. Add to that, online versions accessible from our ever present smartphones. We can do word studies and compare many versions easily and quickly, so we are without excuse if we do not know what the Bible says. We must open the Word, in whatever form we choose, and read it prayerfully and thoughtfully in order to avoid the lure of false teaching.
We must be Bereans and search the Scriptures daily (see Acts 17:10-12) to determine if the things we hear or read line up with the Word.
We will travel the path of those we follow. Is it the narrow path to righteousness or the broad path to destruction?
We follow in Christ’s footsteps by following His words recorded in the Bible, and by following His true disciples. The latter is where we must be especially careful to be sure these teachers are bearing good fruit from healthy branches firmly attached to the true vine that is Christ. If they are not bearing good spiritual fruit, do not follow them. Paul said,
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV
Finally, when people plainly tell you who they are and what they are engaged in, believe them. If they say they get their information from worldly sources, or God forbid, demonic sources, turn on your heel, brush off the dust, and walk away.
(These principles also apply in situations other that the subject at hand. Regarding the enneagram, I refer to its applications for spiritual growth or insight and not necessarily for use in business, psychology, or education, although you should use discernment even in those instances.)
Who Do We Believe?
There is clear evidence that the enneagram was developed by practitioners of the occult who freely admit to receiving the ideas and the personality types by channeling ungodly spirits. It is logical to conclude that they are false prophets used by the adversary to lure unsuspecting Christians from the purity and simplicity of faith in Christ.
The men credited with bringing the enneagram into its current form in the 1970’s—Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo—do not even pretend to be doing any of this in Jesus’ name. When they say they received their “knowledge” from “higher powers,” shouldn’t we believe them? I assure you, this higher power is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would not reveal truth necessary for godly living to occultists who do not know or follow Jesus.
Good trees produce good fruit, corrupt trees bad fruit; good trees can’t produce bad fruit and vice versa. Using what is corrupt in the name of Christ does not make it good.
Jesus told us that the foundation of a house is crucial. A solid house that will withstand the storms cannot be built on a faulty foundation. From another perspective—if we build a house on a sure foundation but use rotten, unsound materials, it will not stand for long.
Read what Paul has to say about this—
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. …Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? …Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The LORD knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.’ So then let no one boast in men…”
1 Corinthians 3:9-20 NKJV
He says this about false teachers:
“But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.
These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.”
2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 13-15 NLT
Enneagram proponents teach that knowing your enneatype is useful to bring you closer to Christ, to know your motivations, to identify weaknesses, etc.Your marriage, friendships, relationships, parenting, ministry, and career can improve and thrive through understanding your particular “type” and how it interacts with the other types. I once heard someone state that the enneagram is “unique in that it explores inner motives, fears and defense mechanisms.” Some promoters might even dare to admit that it has “sketchy” roots, while assuring you that as long as it is used for good, in Jesus’ name, He will bless it and us.
As for me, I choose to not trust this “personality tool” with “sketchy” roots to do any of the things it is touted to do, because the motives of its developers were not to lead people into a closer spiritual walk with Jesus, or to glorify Him. Their goals were to help people “self-actualize,” “find their true selves–their pure essence.” The focus is on the self and my own efforts to improve myself—a distinctly unbiblical practice. We are instructed in the Word to die to self. We must decrease so that He can increase in us. Replacing the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with self-effort, assisted by pagan methods, is practicing idolatry. This is dangerous.
The Word vs the Enneagram
What does Scripture have to say about idolatry?
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the LORD, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.’”
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 ESV
The Word of God clearly teaches us not to worship God according to the methods of those who worship idols. We are instructed to test the spirits to see if they are from God. The test has been done already through the words of Naranjo that the spirit behind the enneagram is not from God.
The Word of God is completely capable of bringing to my attention any areas that God desires to cleanse and strengthen.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12 KJV
For the Word to do this work, we must read it, meditate upon it, hide it in our hearts, and allow it to work in us and through us. The result will be transformation!
“And do not be conformed (to conform one’s mind and character to another’s pattern) to this world, but be transformed (to change into another form – literally or figuratively, “metamorphose”) by the renewing (a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better) of your mind (comprising the faculties of perceiving and understanding and those of feeling, judging, determining; a particular mode of thinking and judging, i.e thoughts, feelings, purposes, desires), that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.“
Romans 12:2 NKJV
(explanatory words from Strong’s Concordance)
As Christians, we have the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the Bible. God never encourage us to go to the world for knowledge on who we are or how to walk with Him. Therefore, we do not need secular personality tests (like DISC, MMPI, Myers-Briggs, etc.), and much less a new age/occult tool loosely disguised as a legitimate personality tool.
Why, then, is it being so widely embraced by churches of all denominations the world over? People who favor the enneagram will say, “It helps people!” If that is the benchmark for whether something is acceptable for believers, then go ahead and smoke a joint to chill out, read your horoscope before you head out of the house, consult that tarot card reader to see what your future holds, because there are many who claim to be “helped” by such things.
Jesus is greater than the enneagram
Jesus has already provided us with everything we need for life and godliness.
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. …for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and …knowledge, and …self-control, and …perseverance, and …godliness, and …brotherly kindness, and …love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 1:2-8 NASB95
Here, clearly spelled out, are the qualities Christians need to possess. They are supplied through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord, not through secular or pagan means.
Try as we might, we cannot make something ungodly godly just because we use it in Jesus’s name. In Matthew 7, He said,
“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you…’”.
Matthew 7:22-23a NKJV
The Church needs to be about teaching believers—new converts to mature Christians—how to use God’s Word to perfect us since it holds the answers to all our needs, foibles, sins, and inner demons, and it can also reveal our strengths and God-given gifts. No tool formed by man, can replace the Truth that God has revealed to us in His Word. Learn to wield the sword of the spirit—God’s Holy Word—our only offensive weapon!
We do ourselves and the body of Christ a disservice when we believe we need non-Christian methods to help us grow in our walk with Christ. That is “Jesus+,” “Jesus and.” Let’s keep it Christ and Christ alone. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, King of kings and Lord of lords. He is all we need. He is our hope. He is our salvation. Trust Him completely.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
(Philippians 1:6) NKJV
I have purposely not brought the nine enneatypes or any discussion about what they mean into this article. There is a plethora of information about it from any number of sources. Personally, I have not even read the types. Since I already know that the root is rotten, I do not want to taste the fruit. My purpose here is to show that this supposed personality tool (which actually has no validity in that regard) is unbiblical and unnecessary, and could lead people into other new age/occult practices and away from pure devotion to Christ and His Word.
Words of Warning
God has warned us over and over that false prophets and false teachers would come in these days. We do well to watch for them, avoid them, and warn others to avoid them as well.
The nation of Israel began to worship the idols of the nations around them and even incorporated their methods of worship into the worship of Yehovah, the God of Israel. They finally embraced those practices to the point of sacrificing their own children to false gods. God warned them plainly before they entered the promised land not to even inquire about how the gods of the nations were worshiped. God said, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way!” Their failure to heed God’s command led them into idolatry and ultimately into captivity. (See Deuteronomy 12:29-32; Deuteronomy 13:1-4; 2 Peter 2:1-2, 18-20; 1 John 4:1-6; John 8:32.)
I have presented this information to you as a watchman on the wall. Consider yourself warned of the impending danger that is the enneagram of personality.
The rest is up to you.
Whether you are unfamiliar with the enneagram, have some knowledge, or have utilized it, you might consider doing some research of your own about it. There is an excellent book—Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret—by Don Veinot, Joy Veinot, and Marcia Montenegro, that will give you very good information about the occult/new age origins of this tool, and its lack of validity as a personality tool. Marcia Montenegro has a website Christian Answers for the New Age and a Facebook Page by the same name that has good information about the dangers of the enneagram. She has done extensive research on the subject. There are a number of YouTube videos where she and/or Don Veinot discuss the topic as well. Ms. Montenegro was a former practitioner of New Age and Astrology and has great knowledge and insight. I recommend her work. I recently read a blog post by Val Marie Paper, who used to endorse enneagram, but has since rejected it. She reiterates some of the points I have made and adds a really good perspective, as one who knows about it from the “inside.” You can read her March 23, 2021 article Why I’m Rejecting the Enneagram here. She also includes some helpful links in the article. I hope you will take the time to read it.
Father, open our eyes to Truth. Give us grace to walk away from things we may be embracing that are not from You and to be an example that leads others to follow You. In Jesus’ name. Amen
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