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The Relationship Between the Enneagram and God

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The Enneagram is a popular personality typing system that has retaken the world by storm in recent years. In even more recent history, we’ve seen many Christians embrace it as a way of understanding themselves and leading them to better self-awareness. At the same time that the Enneagram was gaining acceptance in the church, there seems to have been an increase in resistance from some Christians who are uncertain about the Enneagram or are altogether against it.

The goal of this article is not to convince that group that the Enneagram is the tool for them. Instead, my goal for this article is to help those who are searching for good, transparent, and unbiased answers about how the Enneagram and God can interact. If you’re on the fence about the Enneagram, I hope this article will help you get off the fence and make an informed decision about if you should use the Enneagram or not.

Origins of the Enneagram

There are many conflicting sources about how the Enneagram originated. While it’s generally contested, the Enneagram as we know it appears to have originated from Oscar Ichazo, a Bolivian philosopher who was active in the mid- to late-1900s. It’s possible he was inspired by some Eastern philosophers (like Gurdjieff), but Ichazo denies that any of his work was derived from Gurdjieff.

I’ve also seen a few claims that Ichazo practiced the occult. Outside of a few angry Christian-sponsored articles, I can’t seem to find any substantial evidence of that.

While the Enneagram as we know it originates rather recently, there are theories that many of the concepts were formed by a group of Christian mystics called the Desert Fathers. While I have my own personal problems with Christian mysticism and other teachings from the Desert Fathers, I don’t believe there is enough evidence to suggest that the Desert Fathers actually had much to do with the Enneagram. In fact, after looking through the claims and history of the Enneagram, I don’t believe that the Enneagram is very ancient at all, despite popular belief. If you have evidence to the contrary, feel free to reach out and I can correct this claim! It does seem to contain a combination of several different religion’s wisdom literature, though.

One last thing about the origins of the Enneagram. Much like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Enneagram is only a theory of personality. Neither the MBTI or the Enneagram has any sort of scientific validation outside of personal experience.

Is the Enneagram “biblical?”

Now for the good stuff. Can the Enneagram be used by Christians? The first claim against it I usually see is that “the Enneagram isn’t biblical.” And if by biblical you mean “in the Bible,” then no, of course it’s not biblical. Neither is the internet, video, airplanes, or the latest artificial sweetener. In fact, there are many things that we use on a daily basis that are not biblical but are entirely useful.

If you mean “biblical” as in “not demonic,” the answer is yes. While the Enneagram seems to have no real roots in Christianity as discussed above, it does not have origins in the demonic or otherwise spiritual. Ichazo seems to have been a relatively normal philosopher, not influenced by the demonic, as he penned what he called the “Enneagram of Personality.”

Does that mean we should just use the Enneagram with no discernment? Of course not. Just as we shouldn’t treat new teaching with reckless abandon, it’s important for you to take the time and weigh your feelings on the matter.

Much that doesn’t have demonic origins can be used to benefit and enhance our faith. However, as it is with most things, it’s important to use the Enneagram as it’s intended. Do not use the Enneagram to pigeonhole, stereotype, or discriminate against certain people, that’s not what it’s for. It’s simply a tool that helps us put language around our motivations and behaviors.

But what about the Enneagram Symbol?

The Enneagram symbol is just that, a graphical representation of how the personalities interact with one another. There is nothing special about the simple, and the name is Greek for “nine-pointed shape.” There’s nothing mystical, demonic, or inherently evil about it. It is a shape that’s been around for a while, but it’s origins and modern use certainly aren’t questionable or compromising to our faith.

Is the Enneagram useful?

So the Enneagram isn’t evil and doesn’t have roots in the demonic, but is it useful? I believe it is.

While the Enneagram may not have its origins in Christianity, the Enneagram is still useful in that it provides language to our behaviors and motivations. For those who have a hard time expressing and naming their feelings, the Enneagram can help define their internal life so that it can be understood more easily by others. When your type is understood by friends, family, pastors, and small group leaders, it’s easier to talk about what you’re thinking and feeling because there is a common language across the Enneagram.

We use the Enneagram correctly when we don’t use it as an excuse for our behavior but rather as a method of reflecting on how we show up in the world and in relationships.

The Enneagram is useful even without scientific validation, too. Many churches and companies use personality types as a way to help employees, constituents, and congregations understand themselves and their preferences better. Whether it’s the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Enneagram, setting definitions and understanding how each type interacts with one another can be beneficial in team building and understanding team dynamics.

Personality Profiles and Hiring

However, the Enneagram (and MBTI for that matter) should not be used as a tool for hiring. These personality preferences can help you understand behaviors and motivations, but it can not help you pick the best candidate for a role. Instead of using the personality profile of your team as a way to determine which preferences are missing and hiring for them, use the Enneagram and the MBTI as a way to see where your team might have blind spots and compensate for the missing preferences using the team you have.

Is the Enneagram Compatible With Christianity?

The short answer is yes, the Enneagram is compatible with Christianity - with some caveats. The long answer is that the Enneagram is compatible with Christianity when used appropriately. Like many other things in life, the Enneagram can be misused in order to wrongly discriminate against people of a specific type or to stereotype people and pigeonhole them into preconceived notions as defined by the most popular Enneagram authors. The Enneagram, though, should be used as a tool for self-reflection, not as a method of judging others.

I discuss this question further and in more detail in the article called “Is the Enneagram Compatible With Christianity?

So, Should You Use the Enneagram?

Ultimately, that’s up to you. I hope this article gave you enough information to make an informed decision about whether you should or you shouldn’t use the Enneagram as a tool to understand yourself and connect with Jesus more deeply.

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Frequently Asked Questions About

Can your Enneagram type change over time?

While your Enneagram type is believed to be fixed, it is possible for your personality to evolve and for you to exhibit characteristics of other types as you grow and develop. Additionally, external factors such as life events, trauma, and personal growth can influence the expression of your Enneagram type.

Can knowing your Enneagram type help improve your relationships?

Yes, understanding your own Enneagram type and the types of those around you can improve communication and relationships by providing insights into motivations, fears, and behaviors. It can also help to develop empathy and understanding for others, leading to stronger and more fulfilling relationships.

Is the Enneagram compatible with my religious or spiritual beliefs?

The Enneagram has roots in several spiritual traditions and has been adopted by people of various religious and spiritual beliefs. It's not tied to any particular religion or belief system and can be used as a tool for personal growth and understanding regardless of your background or beliefs.