Personality type assessments originated in the 18th and 19th Centuries. They initially involved evaluating the bumps on the subject’s head (phrenology) or “based on a person’s outer appearances.”1“Personality test” These innovative methods of assessing character were embraced by many people in that day. Charles T Russell, founder of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Russellite offshoots), were absolutely enthralled with it. Although naysayers called it pseudo-science, early researchers considered Phrenology scientific, and it “became the early foundation for psychology.”2“Victorian Era Phrenology” Not surprisingly, perhaps, bumps on the cranium and personal appearance didn’t “stand the test of time” and proved to be pitifully ineffective in assessing human character. Still, it had its day in the sun, which is about all one can expect of utter nonsense.
The desire to assess human personality differences did not diminish, however, and other attempts were made. In 1919, the first modern personality test was published. It was developed by Robert S. Woodworth and carries his name, the “Woodworth Personal Data Sheet” or “Woodworth Psychoneurotic Inventory.”3Woodworth Personal Data Sheet Others soon followed. A listing of many of them is found under “Examples of personality tests” in the Wikipedia “Personality test” entry. These early pioneers did not make spiritual claims for their creations. None of them included God or looked to His word to understand why we do what we do. In 1966, a “Christianized” version of personality assessment made its way into the church through author Tim LaHaye and published by Tyndale House Publishers, titled The Spirit Controlled Temperament. The four temperaments, minus the spiritual component, were the fruit of rather ancient medical thinking – dating back roughly between 400 BC and 200 AD. This early “understanding” of human nature surmised:
certain human moods, emotions, and behaviours were caused by an excess or lack of body fluids (called “humours”), which he classified as blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.4Four temperaments
Once introduced into the spiritual bloodstream of the church and popularized, the race was on to tell us more about the most important person in our lives – namely, ourselves. Personality assessment has become big business in our nation and the whole of Western Culture. The recent New York Times article, “The $2 Billion Question of Who You Are at Work”5The Original version of this article is behind the paywall of the New York Times puts the reason in perspective. It is a highly profitable industry, and there is little downside. The tests don’t have to be accurate – just entertaining. If people should become convinced of their veracity, that is an added benefit with a much healthier payout for the promoter. (Of course, no one has any idea how many people may have been hurt by this broad-brush judgment of their personality traits or how many interpersonal relationships may have been jeopardized or broken by these coding systems, so there is no known downside to consider.) The author of the Times article explains:
I had spent that day taking every personality test I could find on the internet — an alternately therapeutic and mind-numbing journey of the self. This was prompted, in fact, not by personal crisis, but rather by professional curiosity about the role of personality testing in today’s tangled-up world of work. Could describing people on paper, in the form of colors and animals and good old Myers-Briggs, be relevant to discussions about returning to the office?
Personality testing is roughly a $2 billion industry, according to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychology professor and author of “I, Human,” who estimated the value of the largest personality testing companies. Their appeal is both magnetic and obvious: ego.6“The $2 Billion Question of Who You Are at Work”
We likewise believe that the appeal of personality assessment is “both magnetic and obvious: ego.” The popular Enneagram is just the latest rage in personality evaluation. It may well be a step up from the “bumps on the head” calculation of Phrenology, or perhaps not. Richard Rohr, the architect of the theology of the Enneagram, is on record, essentially agreeing that his tool is essentially about transforming your consciousness and not about self-improvement and feeding your ego. He states:
The purpose of the Enneagram is not self-improvement, which would be our ego’s goal. Rather, it is the transformation of consciousness so that we can realize our essence, our True Self7“The Enneagram (Part 1),” Monday, May 26, 2014, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation; Copy on file
In light of the mad rush by Christians to embrace a sacred spiritual tool that puts them on their personal road back to themselves, we thought we should at the very least offer for your consideration a self-assessment program that has been around for much longer than the Enneagram, and whose popularity has never faltered. People base their very life decisions, small and large, on the assessment this tool offers. We call it the Dodekagram. This derives from two Greek words (sound familiar?) “Dodeka” meaning twelve – and “gramma,” meaning drawn or written. Although the iconic image above and its name may be new to us, the tradition is ancient, going back to master practitioners who advised kings and rulers as far back as the Sixth Century BCE. This spiritual tool of self-knowledge was endorsed by German Lutheran Theologian Philip Melanchthon who had been tutored in it by Johannes Stöffler at the University of Tübingen in 1512-1514.8See “Melanchthon Circle” The Dodekagram even has handy, easy to understand profile of positive and negative personality traits, split into twelve categories, easily surpassing the Enneagram’s paltry nine. For example, a person in the number “One” category is:
Adventurous and energetic
Pioneering and courageous
Enthusiastic and confident
Dynamic and quick-witted
But on the flip side they are identified as:
Selfish and quick-tempered
Impulsive and impatient
Foolhardy and daredevil
A Two is:
Patient and reliable
Warmhearted and loving
Persistent and determined
Placid and security loving
A Two has agreeable traits, but their downside can be quite negative:
Jealous and possessive
Resentful and inflexible
Self-indulgent and greedy
Just under fifty-one million adults in the US alone believe in and use this tool, far surpassing the lowly Enneagram. It is best known under the name astrology.9“‘New Age’ beliefs common among both religious and nonreligious Americans” by Pew Research Center in 2018 records 29% of US adults believe in astrology. According to “How Many Adults Live in the US?” in 2018 the adults population was an estimated 253,768,092. Twenty-nine percent is just under 51 million.; The personality descriptions we used are taken from “Astrological Zodiac Traits/ Sun Sign Personalities“; The geometric design within the circle and number system was created by Tomruen Dodecagram. (2022, June 6). In Wikipedia
We recently co-authored a book, Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret, with former New Ager and astrologer Marcia Montenegro. Looking back, she shares how amazed her clients were at the accuracy of her descriptions. Astrology is believed in and embraced by a far larger following than believers in the Enneagram, and it puts that tool to shame with its twelve categories, one-quarter more types than the Johnny-come-lately Enneagram contains, granting it a far greater chance of accuracy than the E-Gram. More types, of course, enables people to assess themselves – and their friends and acquaintances – with a far larger range of possible personality types, with much finer distinction between types. We all can appreciate nuance. Astrology is much older and more comprehensive than the Enneagram, likely with approximate accuracy, if not indeed far more perceived accuracy, judging by the number of adherents. Neither one has any GREAT accuracy, of course, or any stats shown to be higher than mere coincidence, but that is not our main point here. We just want to know WHY the church, for centuries, has shunned Astrology’s use while now heartily embracing the Enneagram. Someone might respond that Christians have avoided astrology because God Himself forbids engaging in occult practices in Deuteronomy 18:10–14, and other passages, which is undoubtedly true. But Deuteronomy was written a way long time ago. What has it done for us lately?
Todd Wilson, an Enneagram supporter and author of The Enneagram Goes to Church, in a point/counterpoint live stream with Marcia Montenegro, claimed she was committing a genetic fallacy by raising the occult origins and shaping of the Enneagram. A genetic fallacy is defined as: “arguments or information being dismissed or validated based solely on their source or origin.” This is an objection many celebrity pastors and well-known Christians who advocate for the Enneagram appeal to, to their disgrace. Marcia’s response was simple. If our objection is solely due to its occultic and New Age origins, he might have a point – not a good point, from a biblical standpoint, but still a point. But, the psychometric test (a scientific litmus test for accuracy in such systems) she cited demonstrates the Enneagram has no validity at all as a personality profiling system.
A far more important issue is that the use of occultic tools is expressly forbidden in Scripture, whether or not people believe in their efficacy. God does not offer a pass to those seemingly “new” and “shiny” practices that people may believe “work” for them! He forbids dabbling in the occult period because of its pagan origin and involvement with evil – which leads many away from God and the true faith – as is exactly the case with the Enneagram.
Here we pose a different question. If the use of the occultic spiritual tool of the Enneagram by Christians is acceptable, then the use of the Dodekagram (Astrology) should be fine as well. And, while we are working on “Christianizing” occult practices formerly rejected by Christians, perhaps we can introduce Tarot cards into the church experience. Oh, wait, the New Apostolic Reformation has done that under the seemingly harmless name of Destiny Cards. Tarot Cards have had evil connotations attached to them for centuries, so Christians might shy away, but a name change and good marketing can rehabilitate its image in the church. The Ouija Board has likewise been “Christianized” as The Holy Spirit Board, which enables its users to “Communicate directly with Jesus Christ.” God’s people used to accomplish that with prayer.
Does any of this indicate to Christians that the church has slipped from its moorings? With great sadness, we say yes.Ω
© 2023, 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.
|↑2||“Victorian Era Phrenology”|
|↑3||Woodworth Personal Data Sheet|
|↑5||The Original version of this article is behind the paywall of the New York Times|
|↑6||“The $2 Billion Question of Who You Are at Work”|
|↑7||“The Enneagram (Part 1),” Monday, May 26, 2014, Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation; Copy on file|
|↑8||See “Melanchthon Circle”|
|↑9||“‘New Age’ beliefs common among both religious and nonreligious Americans” by Pew Research Center in 2018 records 29% of US adults believe in astrology. According to “How Many Adults Live in the US?” in 2018 the adults population was an estimated 253,768,092. Twenty-nine percent is just under 51 million.; The personality descriptions we used are taken from “Astrological Zodiac Traits/ Sun Sign Personalities“; The geometric design within the circle and number system was created by Tomruen Dodecagram. (2022, June 6). In Wikipedia|
I have noticed they are using personality tests in most churches to figure out ‘spiritual gifts’ by using personality tests. One local church here where I live has a download to fill out, and after it is filled out that is how they know which gift you have. It is completely based on ‘self’. Here is an example: There are 95 questions, and they all start with, “I” like to do this or that. Some of them are laughable, saying, “4) I enjoy challenging people’s perspective of God by using various forms of art.” #23) I enjoy developing and using my artistic skills (art, drama, music, photography, etc.). #24) I frequently am able to judge a person’s character based upon first impressions. #28) I give more than a tithe so that kingdom work can be accomplished. #32) I occasionally sense information from the Spirit that I did not acquire through natural
means. #89) I have suddenly known some things about others, but did not know how I knew them.” All of them are bad! The people who do these tests are truly brainwashed into thinking they are head over others. I wonder if these tests are all connected to the Enneagram?
The Spiritual Gifts assessments or profiles started in the Seeker Sensitive/Purpose Driven churches in the 1990s. That was years before the introduction of the Enneagram into the church from New Age occultism in 2016. Church growth guru C. Peter Wagner seems to be the most well-known proponent of this genre. On of the drawbacks is something you touched on; they are self-validating. The fundamental problem with self-validation is the one doing the validating is biased. Spiritual gift assessment isn’t necessarily bad, but if churches would disciple their people instead of being business recruiters, this would all happen more naturally.
Thanks for more thoughtful insights on this! (I didn’t know that was an alternate name for astrology.)
Well, there wasn’t an alternate name; I made it up once we assembled the artwork 😀
The self-authentication of the self-assessments is the satanic shell game in these spiritual gift assessments. Rather than “Thy word is truth” and “let God be true and every man a liar” and “the word of God is sufficient”, we have “it’s true because that’s what is coming out of me”. After we go through lots of data collection and record what-all is coming out of us, then we aggregate and analyze and find out we have more truth than before? Hogwash. God says what comes out of the heart of man, and it ain’t truth.
In God’s word, the only “genetic fallacy” is to think “let God be true and every man (and woman) a liar” somehow isn’t relevant all the time. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by Me.” Any pastor who warbles about “genetic fallacy” needs exhortation to get on the gospel message about the Lord Jesus, born of a virgin, God and man, two distinct natures, in one Person, forever, and stop offering temptation and spiritual hospice care to the flock of God.
I have found some validity in the ancient Greek “4 Temperament” understanding of human personality. I think it can be somewhat useful in terms of seeing people as either introverted or extroverted, but it’s very simple. I don’t want to go beyond that with all these newer, intricate assessments, such as the Enneagram, etc. It seems in marriages, for example, introverts tend to marry extroverts. I don’t think it’s wrong to see patterns in behavior as coming from inherited personality traits, but I don’t go deep into it, or waste much time with it. It can become a way of feeling like I can size people up, and then there is the danger of stereotypes and judging people by our personality filter, which might cause us to prematurely judge others wrongly, or perhaps cause us to draw back from people without offering unconditional love and grace. The Bible is the best help in knowing how to deal with people and to know yourself better!