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Should Christians use the Enneagram

I have been pretty quiet in regards to the Enneagram over the past 12 months.   I have been researching the question, “Should Christians use the Enneagram?”

Back ground to this question

A little over 12 months ago, my husband and I received a letter from a fellow pastor with all sorts of accusations. One of them being that we were not Christian but in fact New Agers. No conversation, just accusation. We then found out that the pastor had talked to lots of pastors and people about us and most of what we heard was untrue.

My heart

I love people. I believe one of the things God has asked me to do is to invite people to the table. I have sat at the table with Hindu priests, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, New Age, LGBTQI, Christians, family, and friends. I hope their experience at the table is the same. I hope they all know they are loved and welcomed, that my grandchildren are my favorite little people in the world. If they invite me to their table, then I will sit at their table because I believe that is what love asks me to do.

I hope those who come and sit at my table know they can be themselves. We can talk, debate, disagree, laugh, and love one another deeply.

On the grapevine, we heard one of the issues was my use of the Enneagram.

I didn’t want to adopt an arrogant position that I was right to use the Enneagram. We have enough pride, arrogance, slander, accusation in this world.

At first, I didn’t know how to respond.  I didn’t want to be defensive and simply engage with confirmation bias.

So, I took some time out to heal.

Then, I thought I would take 12 months and do more research. I wouldn’t comment or post on socials. I have lost time, income, and momentum in my business.

I have spent time researching.

One of the courses I did was with Pastor Zach Tyler: The Real History of the Enneagram. It is a course I would recommend to anyone who needs an apologetic. His course is simple, he is humble, his tone suggests an open stance. I have utilized parts of a pdf document he formulated to articulate my thinking below. A link to the full document can be found below.

I have also explored the work of Chuck DeGroat and the Allender Center.

And a whole heap more.

I am confident in my reasons for using it as a Christian.

I won’t convince everyone, but I feel I have given my critics deep consideration, time, and respect.  

Is the Enneagram a Christian based tool?

Some believe the roots of the Enneagram can be traced back to the Desert Fathers and to Christian monk Evagrius of the 4th century. However, in researching the roots, I believe the Enneagram is not an ancient tool – Sufi, Christian, or otherwise. The modern Enneagram has been pulled from ancient sources. The concept of vice and virtue is an ancient concept, but the modern Enneagram was not formed until the mid to late 1900s. Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean-born psychiatrist, was influential in its development. He developed it as a tool to help us confront the ego and false self. Its links are more closely related to psychology.

Did the Enneagram come from Spirits?

It is said that one of the original developers of the Enneagram, Ichazo, received the Enneagram from an archangel called Metatron. In his letter to the Transpersonal community, he refuted this claim, saying he did not get the Enneagram from any spirit or divine revelation. 

Naranjo, who was influenced by Ichazo, in a 2010 interview, said that he got the Enneagram from a practice called automatic writing. While his interview was troubling, it is apparent that the evidence shows that he didn’t get his contribution to the development of the Enneagram from automatic writing. 

His teachings, publications, students who are alive, all contradict that he received the Enneagram from a Spirit.

Naranjo was a medical doctor who moved into psychiatry. He moved from Chile to America to take a deep dive into personality at Berkeley and Harvard. He studied under philosophers including Paul Tillich. He constantly pulled from Freud in his teaching. He was a bit of a trickster in personality and only once made reference to the automatic writing, yet in his 40 years of teaching personality, he only ever mentioned it once. 

Those close to him believe that he was referring to a time when he sat and wrote his thoughts about personality and the Enneagram down in a long sitting of writing, pulling from his years of study in philosophy and psychology.

Should we use the Enneagram if it has troubling roots?​

Tyler Zach makes the following point: 

“In the pluralistic world in which the New Testament came about we see the Apostle Paul studying up on the false gods that surrounded him—idols created from demonic or very questionable sources to say the least. Paul made use of them, directing his audience to an idol dedicated to an unknown god as a way of pointing the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers to a known Savior. Throughout Paul’s ministry, he made use of pagan philosophies like Platonism and Stoicism to put the gospel in a language that others could understand. John, in the first chapter of his Gospel, describes Jesus Christ as the incarnate Logos to connect the dots for ancient esoteric thinkers.

In church history, we observe Augustine making use of the wisdom of the philosopher Plotinus, Thomas Aquinas making use of the wisdom of Aristotle, and St. Patrick using symbols like a shamrock to explain the Trinity, bonfires to celebrate Easter (they honored their gods with fire), and a superimposed sun (worship symbol) on the Celtic Christian cross to make it feel more natural to them.

As you can see from the above, our Biblical authors and leaders in church history demonstrate that we can take advantage of the wisdom the world has to offer if it is placed within a proper Biblical context.”

Do we have a theological basis for using the Enneagram?​

Our Biblical knowledge comes from a) General Revelation and b) Common Grace.  

Special revelation refers to revelation about God which has come through vision, Bible, and most importantly Jesus.

General revelation refers to revelation about God that is available to everyone everywhere.  For example, nature.

Special  grace is grace reserved for people who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Common grace is grace given to all human kind regardless of their beliefs.

We know from General Revelation and Common Grace God pours out this knowledge in the spheres of science, medicine, psychology for the good of all mankind.   When we go to a nutritionist, or a doctor we are activating general revelation and common grace.  God is compassionate.

Timothy Keller says, “Without an understanding of common grace, Christians may feel no need to study the world and other human cultures in order to get to know God. But the fact is that we need to appreciate truth and wisdom wherever we find it and that studying different cultures, languages, artwork, and music expands not only our appreciation of the created world but also the God who made it.”

Will the enneagram bring into the church a New Age world view?​

I am not New Age.  I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died, that he rose and that he is King above everything.  

I personally have found the Enneagram helps me with my sin.  Something I don’t think Satan would like or New Age.  The Enneagram helps me know my real self which means my ego gets killed in the process. I can’t hide from my motivations or the reasons why I do the things I do. It helps me cut through my daily lies and helps me surrender and repent.  

I have also seen how as a tool the Enneagram has built marriages, restored relationships, empowered humble leadership.

It has helped me practice my faith and given me practical tools in my walk with God.

I am not a Christian who practices separateness. I don’t believe the Bible offers this as a valid practice of faith and yet this has certainly been legitimised by religious organizations.   

Neither have I assimilated.  

Dr. Dennis E. Johnson, a Professor at Westminster Seminary California says that if we have a “kneejerk rejection of ideas, perspectives, arguments, or evidence simply because their source is non-Christian” we need to check whether or not our condemnation is “a symptom of intellectual laziness or insecure defensiveness, seeking an easy escape from the arduous and sometimes puzzling task of exercising biblical discernment.”

Summary

The Enneagram is not owned by Christians.  There are people from all faith backgrounds who utilise the tool.  It is a young tool, not an old tool.  Much of its development and formation have occurred over the past 2 decades.  It has tighter links to psychology than to any spiritual world view.

There will be some who attach weird and wonderful ideas to the Enneagram just like there are weird and wonderful Christians who attach weird and wonderful ideas to the Bible.

There will be misunderstanding, misinterpretation just like there has been with the Bible.

There will be more than one voice just like there is no one voice in the Bible.

I like what Tyler Zach says, 

“Rather than consume culture without discernment (conformist), separate from culture out of fear (separatist), or boycott culture (fundamentalist), Christians may repurpose cultural goods like the Enneagram to transform our lives and the world. 

As Christians, we are permitted (and able) to benefit from someone’s wisdom without adopting their worldview.”

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