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The 1973 film, The Sting, a very popular movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, achieved critical acclaim and garnered seven Oscars. It was inspired by the 1940 book, The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man, written by David Maurer about two actual conmen, Fred and Charley Gondorff. The film’s plot is simple. Two conmen orchestrate a complicated con (confidence game) with the assistance of a number of other grifters. Their target, or mark, was a mob boss. If a con is successful, the target of such a con doesn’t realize he has been “taken” until after the grifters are long gone. In the film, the ploy was completely successful. Good cons work because they play to someone’s greed or other vice, blinding the mark with the anticipation of great reward. Con men and scams are alive and well today. Some of the most popular scams today are brought to folks via their email account.

Con games not only work on individuals, but can be very rewarding on a large scale when successful institutions buy in. The conman gains much more credibility when higher profile individuals and institutions embrace the deception and invest in it. We may not entirely trust our neighbor Joe to make good business decisions, because we know he is still waiting for his millions from Nigeria, but people do tend to trust successful institutions to make good business decisions. The deceived mark in turn deceives others into joining and promoting the con to still more. In 1989, John G. Bennett Jr., a business man believed to be Christian, offered a few other people the opportunity to double their money in three months if they invested in his new start up, New Era Philanthropy. These deceived people unintentionally deceived their friends and acquaintances to join in this great opportunity to increase their portfolios quickly but with the added benefit of directing some of it to their favorite charities. Over time, Bennett’s deceived deceivers helped him grow a substantial following and bank account. In six years, he took in $500 million from 1,100 donors, many of them Christians. One hundred eighty of them were Christian organizations including Wheaton College and CB International — all looking to double their investment.(A listing is given in New Era Philanthropy) Very few of his marks practiced due diligence before getting involved. They simply trusted the deceived deceivers who made the introduction. Christians very often will trust other Christians not to lead them astray, and sadly, sometimes that trust is misplaced.

An accounting professor at Spring Arbor University, Albert Meyer, suspected something was amiss and discovered after doing some research that he could demonstrate New Era was a scam, a Ponzi scheme. Once invested, however, it is very difficult for a “mark,” especially in the case of a large and prestigious institution, to admit they have been deceived. The embarrassment and loss of credibility would be a bitter pill to swallow. That was the case with the college officials at Spring Arbor who offered Albert Meyer a substantial bribe if he remained silent about his discovery. They were fearful of losing donors and matching grants, along with their credibility. Meyer did not take them up on their offer and soon the ponzi scheme unraveled in public.

After New Era collapsed, the president of Spring Arbor College called Meyer to apologize. “You were right all along. We should have listened to you,” he admitted.1“Reasons for Collapse,” Foundation for New Era Philanthropy

The main point in this case is that the deceived “marks” were not intentionally deceiving anyone, but thought they were offering their friends and associates a golden opportunity to enrich themselves or their institution.

In 1972 the documentary titled Marjoe was released and received the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film that year. It was about — and starred — the namesake of the documentary, Marjoe Gortner. He was a religious conman that had been enthusiastically embraced by Pentecostal movement churches. His parents had trained him from a very early age to preach “revival meetings.” At the age of four he was ordained and performed his first marriage ceremony the same year! He was a favorite on the revival circuit, and his parents had already amassed about three million dollars by the time he was sixteen. His father then cleaned out the bank accounts and ran off with the money.

Gortner spent the remainder of his teenage years as an itinerant beatnik.[12] Hard pressed for money in his early twenties, he decided to put his old skills to work and re-emerged on the preaching circuit with a charismatic stage show modeled after those of contemporary rock stars, most notably Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. He made enough money to take six months off every year, during which he returned to California and lived off his earnings before returning to the circuit2“Career,” Marjoe Gortner

The documentary included scenes of him counting the money he made at each event while heaping derisive ridicule on the churches and crowds he had hornswoggled. We ourselves watched this documentary and witnessed his scathing ridicule of the people he was “taking to the cleaners.” It was hard to watch. There is no indication Marjoe was ever a believer, but pastors and churches had been caught up with his “spiritual” novelty, and it appears no one thought to vet him. Instead, the deceived marks endorsed and promoted him to other venues where the deceiver gained more deceived followers. Pastors and church leaders are charged with guarding the flock (Acts 20:18-30) but they did not perform their due diligence in verifying his biblical understanding and affirmation of the essential doctrines of the faith. Instead, they became deceived deceivers and personally escorted the wolf into their own sheepfold. Again, these deceived pastors and elders were not intentionally setting up their churches to be scammed, but thought they were doing a good thing. Very sad.

Last week we were sent an interview, CCP27: On the Enneagram, with Dr. James Emery White, Senior Pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC. (Video on file) Dr. White has a fairly impressive bio:

Dr. White holds a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. from Southern Seminary. He has also studied at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University in England. Dr. White is a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. He is the author of more than twenty books including The Rise of the Nones, Serious Times and A Search for the Spiritual. 3Mecklenburg Community Church Website, Senior Pastor Jim White

We would like to say he was being interviewed to expose the occultic origins and heretical teachings of the Enneagram and to point out that it was not even a valid scientific psychological typing tool. We would like to say that, but we would be deceiving our readers if we did. We have discussed this with Marcia Montenegro and Dr. Ron V. Huggins, and think he probably believes he is offering his flock a good tool for their own self-improvement/”spiritual growth.” Yet, in addition to being a pastor of a very large church of 10,000, he is an academic and certainly has the educational training to carry out proper research. And in doing our own due diligence we have to ask — is the Pastor just another deceived deceiver or is he simply a deceiver? We ask this because he begins with the false narrative that the Enneagram is an ancient Christian tool:

It’s deeply rooted in ancient Christian thinking and Christian spirituality. It goes all the way back to the time known as the Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers, which were the earliest centuries of Eastern Christian Monastic Movement. The earliest name we’ve got attached to it is, anyone who is familiar with the desert Christian Arab monastic era would know, and that’s Evagrius and that was from the Fourth Century.

The primary problem with this assertion is that it isn’t true at all. The initial popularizers of the Enneagram into the Roman Catholic Church are Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert. In their 1992 book, Discovering the Enneagram: An Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey (trans. Peter Heinegg; New York: Crossroad, 1992), they were clear it was NOT originally Christian:

The Enneagram is a mysterious model of the psyche that is not originally Christian. (pg.xiii)

I believe that the Enneagram can help us to find a deeper and more authentic relationship with God-even though it was not discovered by Christians. (pg.xv)

A few years later, though, they began falsely claiming the Enneagram dated back to a fourth-century mystic, Evagrius Ponticus. As we point out in Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret:

The claim is based on Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert’s misinterpretation of a single passage in the writings of Evagrius from which the two authors imagined Evagrius was trying to describe an actual diagram4Don Veinot, Joy Veinot, and Marcia Montenegro, Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret, MCOI Publishing LLC, Wonder Lake, IL, March 2020, p 14

Since these men have long known the truth about the Enneagram’s history, they were obviously rank deceivers in pushing this false narrative. So we ask — what did they think they would gain from asserting a lie that they knew was a lie? Was it to cloak the Enneagram in Christian garb and gain credibility with Christians? Yes!

Dr. Ron V. Huggins has done an outstanding job of addressing the origins and history of the Enneagram in his presentation, “Enneagram Genesis: In Search of Enneagram Origins.” At around minute-50, he addresses the false claims regarding Evagrius.

As Dr. Huggins and others have demonstrated, the Enneagram didn’t exist until occult mystic G. I Gurdjieff drew it up and unveiled it to the world very early in the twentieth century. Over forty years later, Bolivian Oscar Ichazo applied “Ego Fixations” to the Enneagram through the information he claimed he received from two spirit beings. It was later promoted as a personality tool by Ichazo’s student, Claudio Naranjo, who claimed to have received updated revelation via the occult practice of automatic writing. As the truth about the origin of the Enneagram is revealed, people in the know are subtly backing away from and downplaying the “Christian origins” lie. The leading gurus of this movement — Richard Rohr, Suzanne Stabile, and Christopher L. Heuertz — as well as Todd Wilson (author of The Enneagram Goes to Church), IVP, Zondervan, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, are all aware of this information and are now opting for more ambiguous language like we find at Integrative 9:

The roots of the Enneagram are disputed and unclear but seem connected to different spiritual and oral traditions as well as specific mathematical and philosophical traditions. Some authors claim strong Sufi roots, while others point to connections to early esoteric Christianity. It should be noted, however, that it is definitely not common to all Sufi traditions.

Ambiguity is the good friend of a deceiver. The Enneagram’s origins in fact are quite clear — a little too clear for comfort to those who have made the false claim that the Enneagram has roots in Christianity. At this point, not surprisingly, the origins of the Enneagram are now being more obliquely presented by those who still want to use the “ancient origins narrative.” They continue to vaguely “imply” or “suggest” that this occultic creation is somehow — however tenuously — rooted in Christianity. Why? To be passed off as a spiritual tool for Christians, the Enneagram must have some Christian connection. Sadly, Pastor White assured Christians that the Enneagram does have such a connection.

We suspect, like those pastors who invited Marjoe into their churches and crusades, Pastor James Emery White did not look into the theology of the Enneagram, which stands wholly in opposition to the historic biblical faith. As Dr. Doug Groothuis notes, in “The Enneagram and a Heretic’s Christ,” Richard Rohr is the theological architect of the Enneagram. And, in Enneagram Theology: Is it Christian? Dr. Rhenn Cherry does an excellent job of demonstrating that Richard Rohr’s disciples — Suzanne Stabile, Ian Cron, and Christopher Hueretz — do not deviate from Rohr’s Enneagram theology. An easy investigative starting point would be Dr. Cherry’s presentation, “The Enneagram Gospel: Is the Problem Human Sin or Mistaken Identity?” This is an essential question, but is only one of the many heresies of the Enneagram promoters, including the presentation of a different God, a different gospel, and in fact, no need for salvation at all, among others.

We want to grant Pastor James Emery White the benefit of the doubt in this. We believe he has been deceived in the same way that Christians and Christian institutions were deceived by New Era Philanthropy and pastors and churches were deceived by Marjoe Gortner, and we all might name other examples. Christians can be deceived; we think, especially by those passing themselves off as Christians. These people trusted other Christian leaders who, as it turns out, were deceived deceivers. If Christians could not be deceived, Jesus would not have had to warn his followers to take care, lest they be deceived — by false prophets and teachers. (Matthew 24:4)

On Saturday, September 2, 2022, Marcia Montenegro messaged Dr. White’s church on their FB page and sent a link to our book exposing the Enneagram. On the same day, Dr. Ron V. Huggins emailed him. How will he respond? That may depend on how invested he has become in the Enneagram. We pray he will recognize what the Enneagram truly is, how it stands in opposition to the Christian faith and the Bible, and be willing to publicly correct the record to at least the same degree that the false narrative has been given out.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13)Ω

Don and Joy Signature 2

© 2022, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.

End Notes

End Notes
1 “Reasons for Collapse,” Foundation for New Era Philanthropy
2 “Career,” Marjoe Gortner
3 Mecklenburg Community Church Website, Senior Pastor Jim White
4 Don Veinot, Joy Veinot, and Marcia Montenegro, Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret, MCOI Publishing LLC, Wonder Lake, IL, March 2020, p 14
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