Recently, the Enneagram Personality test has gained popularity among Christians. In 2020, writer Elisabeth Bennet published multiple devotional books for Christians based on individual Enneagram types, such as for the Peacemaker or Reformer types.
Each book is designed to help Christians grow into their Enneagram type for their service to Christ. Such books are indicative of the popularity of the Enneagram types along with other similar tests, as people seek to learn more about their personalities.
While understanding oneself through a personality test is not problematic, what is concerning to many Christians is the spiritualist and occultist background behind the Enneagram of Personality.
Specifically, the Enneagram types are based on a multitude of religious and spiritual backgrounds and have been promoted to reach a higher level of spirituality by better knowing oneself.
Although using the Enneagram test to understand one’s personality could be helpful, believers need to be wary of basing their spiritual growth and walk with Christ on their Enneagram type because of the test’s questionable origins and background.
The Different Enneagram Types
There are nine different Enneagram types within this personality spectrum. According to The Enneagram Institute, these nine types include: the (1) Reformer, (2) Helper, (3) Achiever, (4) Individualist, (5) Investigator, (6) Loyalist, (7) Enthusiast, (8) Challenger, and (9) Peacemaker (“The Nine Enneagram Type Descriptions,” Enneagram Institute, 2021). Each of the types falls into three different categories of either the head, heart, or body.
Within the spectrum of the Enneagram types, there is some intersection and modification, as the diagram of the Enneagram readily depicts. Each type within the Enneagram model typically has two other types, which can influence that person’s personality.
These are called “wings,” and are connected to the types in the diagram by way of a connecting triangle. Each Enneagram type has both positive and negative attributes, which individuals are encouraged to examine in order to improve themselves.
For example, a person may fall into the category of Enneagram type 2, the Helper or Giver. This person would either have types 1 or 3 as “wings,” which would also influence their individual personalities. Although type 3 people are often helpful, they can struggle with criticism, which would be an area such a person would need to grow in through understanding their Enneagram type.
Although most people would assume that the Enneagram types are based on scientific and personality theories, the history of the Enneagram is based on varying religious and spiritual traditions. The Enneagram was established in the 1960s by Oscar Ichazo, who put together a mixture of spiritual traditions in forming this system.
His system of personality types and even the symbol of the Enneagram can be traced back to multiple roots of Platonism, Neo-Platonism, Christian mysticism, Jewish Kabbalah, and esoteric traditions. Because of these various backgrounds, many Christians, including both Protestants and Catholics, are hesitant to use the Enneagram.
The system which Ichazo established is more spiritual than what may be commonly assumed. Believing that humans begin life as virtuous beings, Ichazo posited that each person has encountered a distortion of their virtue, which can be overcome through the Enneagram system for each type of personality.
As explained by The Enneagram Institute, “Ichazo saw the Enneagram as a way of examining specifics about the structure of the human soul and particularly about the ways in which actual soul qualities of Essence become distorted, or contracted into states of ego” (“The Traditional Enneagram”).
The way to be “saved” from these distortions, a person must be aware of their Enneagram type, which will help in the restoration of their true self and virtue. As is readily apparent, the Enneagram was much more than a personality assessment when Oscar Ichazo created this system.
Spiritual matters of the soul are the focus of the Enneagram, which has combined various traditions to provide a way of reclaiming one’s “true self.” Although most people do not use the Enneagram types in a spiritual way, the system’s origins are enmeshed in a spiritualistic background.
Reclaiming One’s True Self Vs. the Gospel
Scripture does not say anything about the Enneagram of Personality, nor about personality assessments in general. However, the system of self-transformation, which the Enneagram presents to people to overcome their distortions does go against the teaching of Scripture.
First, despite the Enneagram’s teaching on human virtuousness, the Bible teaches that all people are born into sin or “distortion” (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12). Virtue or “acting good” is not the natural human response (Romans 3:23).
Secondly, the way for people to deal with their problem of sin or “distortion” is not through a deeper understanding of their personality, but rather to trust in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and through His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Any effort on the part of the individual is worthless since salvation is only by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The goal is not to find and recover one’s “true self,” but to be made new through Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). Only then can a person be placed in a right relationship with the Lord (Romans 3:22).
Finally, the Enneagram’s teaching that people can reach a higher level of spirituality through better understanding their type is not based on biblical teaching either.
While understanding one’s personality can be helpful in identifying personal characteristics, the only way to grow spiritually is through the working of the Holy Spirit. Only He can produce spiritual fruit and growth (Galatians 5:22-23).
A Word of Caution
Therefore, when assessing Enneagram types against Scripture, the system is based on faulty spiritual grounds, which can prove dangerous to Christians and non-Christians alike.
Enneagram types may be helpful for understanding personality, but they should be avoided in relation to salvation and spiritual growth.
Individuals do not have to look any further than the Bible to find what they need spiritually. Only in Scripture can a person learn about the saving act of Jesus Christ and how to grow spiritually as a disciple through the power of the Holy Spirit.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.