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Explosion of the Enneagram among Evangelicals

This post is inspired by a segment we did recently on "All The Things." I have embedded that below.

The Enneagram isn't new. It's been circulating in Roman Catholic circles for a few decades. But its influence among evangelical Protestants has skyrocketed in the last few years. Here are just a handful of examples to illustrate how pervasive it has become.

The Orange Conference, the largest, most influential annual gathering of children's pastors, prominently promotes the use of the Enneagram. Here is a screencap from the Orange Conference web site about a workshop that was part of its last conference.

The historically conservative Liberty University recently hosted a workshop on the Enneagram, extolling it as a tool that could be used by Christians.

Some churches now require all of their staff not only to take the Enneagram, but receive training on it and build teams dependent on everyone's "type." One local mega-church near me even did an entire sermon series training the congregation on the Enneagram.

The influence of the Enneagram among evangelicals has become HUGE. And Christians seem to be eating it up without much of a thought. After all, "it's just a personality test."

But is it? Let's talk about it.

The History of the Enneagram

There is a popular trope that the Enneagram has its "roots in antiquity" and "mystical Christianity." (see here) However, a deeper study of the historical facts disputes this.

Fr. Mitch Pacwa documented the background of the Enneagram back in 1991: Tell Me Who I Am, O Enneagram. Even though this article is a couple decades old, the content is still accurate.

Fr. Pacwa trained in the Enneagram while in a Roman Catholic seminary back in the 1970s. In this video, he provides more details on the origin and background of the Enneagram based on its early days of being introduced in the Catholic church.

Another important point: the Enneagram wasn't always about classifying personality types. That component was added decades later. Here is a YouTube clip explaining how the Enneagram personality types came as a result of "automatic writing" from a "higher authority," namely a spirit name Metatron. (Automatic writing is an activity that comes through channeling with evil spirits [demons].)

One of the most important things we must do is dismantle this mythology of the Enneagram being the result of "ancient wisdom" or having "Christian origins." That is simply untrue. The modern version of the Enneagram is a mixture of New Age ideas and humanistic psychology. It's definitely not Christian.

The Claims of the Enneagram

The Enneagram is put forth by current advocates as a system that reveals nine personality types. Ennea is Greek for "nine." The Enneagram is often taught within the context of "workshops" to train leaders how to train others to use it. Here are the nine types.

The Enneagram consists of a circle, which is meant to symbolize the cosmos and the "one-ness" of the world. This is an expression of a worldview called pantheistic monism. Monists say that all humans are one with each other and with the universe.

Inside the circle is a triangle, with nine connecting points. Gurdjieff, inventor of the Enneagram, said that it was a symbol of the 9 stages of getting to your essence, your divine interior life. It was not about identifying personality types. Again, that component was added later.

The area located inside these shapes allegedly symbolizes God. I think Fr. Pacwa rightly points out that the Enneagram places God inside the cosmos, rather than being transcendent of the cosmos (which is actual historic Christianity). That's a bit troubling to me from a theological point of view.

My Theological Concerns:

I have three theological concerns with the Enneagram.

  • The Enneagram redefines humanity's foundational problem. The Enneagram asserts that a person's number, or type, is their one capital sin. This concept is then collapsed into the historic Christian theological framework and called "original sin." This approach truncates the pervasive nature of the sickness of sin presented in Scripture.

  • The Enneagram redefines humanity's only solution to our fundamental problem. Rather than being sinners who need to repent and are in need of redemption, the Enneagram tells us we are flawed humans in need of wholeness. Again, this subtle shift in wording introduces a foreign framework that is then laid on top of Scripture and used as an interpretive grid.

  • The Enneagram proposes an alternative identity. For more about this point, watch my little rant on the Enneagram.

A Spiritual Distraction?

To what degree has the Enneagram become a spiritual distraction from what the Bible actually teaches about progressing toward holiness? What if the Enneagram distracts Christians from actual biblical teaching about sin and sanctification? Many Christians are now devoting time to reading books on the Enneagram, taking tests, inquiring about others' numbers, and diving deep into this paradigm. They speak about it as if it is as factual as Scripture itself. An increasing number of churches won't even hire a new minister without the applicant taking the Enneagram first. Hopefully these same churches are placing as much emphasis on asking applicants to disclose their spiritual gifts and to give account of how well they are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is an actual biblical criteria for ministry leadership.

Another question: are Christians spending as much effort discussing/studying the Enneagram as they are reading books on apologetics or theology? Biblical literacy is low, even among well-meaning, church-attending Christians. Could this account for why the influence of the Enneangram has exploded and become accepted as a Christian concept?

A Thought Experiment

I have a considerable amount of ministry experience working in the realm of deliverance (casting out demons). Candidly speaking, when I watched the video where Naranjo described how Ichazo received the revelation of the Enneagram types from his spirit guide (video embedded above), a thought came to my mind. Think of this speculation in the vein of "trying on" an idea and see what you think:

People seem to get hooked about the validity of the Enneagram because they see themselves in the description of their type, or number,. Maybe there is some validity to the explanatory nature of the framework because it's a revelation of a structure used in the demonic realm. What if the Enneagram (or something like it) is actually a demonically devised structure that demons use to classify and understand humans? It could be sort of like an organizational system for them, which enables them to know what kinds of demonically devised schemes will work on whom. This could possibly explain why the Enneagram types ring so true for many. Again, this is just a speculation. And I readily admit, I don't have a direct Bible verse to support this speculation. All we know, biblically speaking, is that demons do have weapons of warfare. The specific nature of those weapons isn't disclosed.

Concluding Thoughts

To be clear, I am not saying that those Christian teachers who promote the Enneagram are intentionally promoting pantheistic monism, the New Age, or the occult. They are likely unaware of its occultic roots or that the types came from a demon through channeling with demons. They have been deceived into believing a mythology that it's based on ancient wisdom, including Christian wisdom.

I realize that one could respond by pointing out the demonic origins of the Enneagram doesn't automatically disprove it. They could argue that this is a form of the genetic fallacy. After all, Christians disavow astrology as demonic, but we affirm astronomy. But historically speaking, astronomy came out of astrology. That's true, but there is an important qualification: astronomy is an empirically verified idea. The Enneagram is not. To my knowledge, there is no reputable peer-reviewed research to support the validity of the Enneagram as a psychological tool, its organizational structure or its assertions. (If you have access to actual clinical studies demonstrating the validity of the Enneagram, please send them to me. I'd love to see them.)

In sum, I think the best we can say is that the Enneagram is unsubstantiated pseudo-science. At worst, it might be a demonically inspired framework.

A Few Facts:

Here are a few facts to know about the Enneagram. I have found these facts helpful to bring up when I am engaged with Enneagram advocates.

  1. The Enneagram was not originally designed as a personality tool.

  2. The Enneagram did not originate in the field of psychology.

  3. There is no reputable, peer-reviewed research to demonstrate the validity of the Enneagram.

  4. The Enneagram has occultic origins via the communication with evil spirits.

Questions to Ask:

Here are a few questions to ask people when you're engaged in a conversation with Enneagram advocates.

  • Where are the reputable, peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate that the Enneagram has validity as a psychological tool?

  • How do we know there are only 9 types (other than Ichazo and his spirit guide, Metatron, said so)?

  • Where is the reputable evidence that it has Christian origins (other than people just repeating unverified claims from Richard Rohr)?

  • Why are Christians ignoring the clearly occultic historical origins of the Enneagram?

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