Repenting of the Enneagram

If you are a Christian lady here in the 21st century, you have probably heard of the Enneagram. It has begun to dominate Christian media, social circles, churches, everywhere. All over social media I see memes, anecdotal praise, and post after post of how amazing the Enneagram is. I get it. I was there. I was that person.

It all began back in January. I was starting a new position at work. I was taking a break from ministry. I was buying a house. A lot was going on. I had a lot of time to listen to podcasts at work, and I stumbled upon the “Road Back To You” podcast.

This podcast is hosted by the authors of The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey: Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Each episode Cron and Stabile interview someone who identifies as a certain number on the Enneagram. They talk about what it’s like being that type, the struggles of being that type, etc.

It seemed like these people were legit. They advertise that they teach the Enneagram from a Christian perspective. They interview people who identify as believers. I was hooked.

The magic of the Enneagram is that once you figure out your number, you feel like you have leveled up to your best self. It seems like every question you’ve ever had about your psyche and your thought processes and your emotional reaction to things has been answered. The power of the Enneagram is that it gives you words to describe yourself.

The Enneagram is made of 9 different types, and those types are further subdivided into a triad of emotional designations. 8,9,1 is the gut triad. 2,3,4 is the heart triad. 5,6,7 is the head triad. The triads designate where you feel your emotions. I personally identified as an 8. Traditionally, 8’s feel their emotions very physically in stomach or body. The primary emotion of an 8 is anger. 8’s are prone to react to things physically, angrily, & without self control. 8’s also fell like conflict brings intimacy, so they are often ready for a fight. 8’s tend to have a tenderness for the underdog & feel a sense of protectiveness for people who are vulnerable. 8’s are also characterized by a loss of innocence of self. All these things are true of 8’s & all these things are true of me.

So if they are true, why is there a need to repent?

The need to repent comes from a few different areas.

  1. I idolized myself as an 8
    Learning this new Enneagram jargon gave me extreme pride in who I was as an 8. As I learned more about the Enneagram, and listened to more and more podcasts, I realized that everyone tends to talk down about female 8’s. They talk about how female 8’s are abrasive & “too much”, etc etc. They talk about how our society HATES female 8’s but LOVES male 8’s. How life is tough for a female 8. This supposed “me against the world” mentality made me relish being an 8. This meant I was right for being stubborn, rude, immovable, aggressive. It fine that I turn on my heel & react against you with violent anger. That’s just the way I am.

    This permission to be angry and tough made it all the more difficult for me to be sharpened, softened, and sanctified.

  2. My worship of myself hindered my ability to recognize false teaching
    The more into the Enneagram I got, the better this model seemed. Finally, a model that tells me my weaknesses (my sins) are my strengths (idols). The more I listened to and the more I read, the more difficult it became for me to identify whether what I was ingesting was really biblical. I mean, they say it’s from a Christian perspective right? They’re quoting scripture. They’re talking about Jesus. This is totally biblically sound. Wrong.

    It took months of listening to Enneagram podcasts for me to come across the one episode that opened my eyes. Suzanne Stabile did an interview with a female pastor called Nadia Bolz-Weber.

    Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran minister who is most known for starting the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, and her most recent book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. Bolz-Weber has been constantly attacked as a heretic by the reformed, calvinists, and really anyone who has any biblical knowledge.

    The chink in the Enneagram armor for me was Stabile saying that Bolz-Weber was the greatest theologian of our time. I perked up at this because, of course, as I was hearing her say such praises about Bolz-Weber, I was beginning to feel that familiar itch of pride. Bolz-Weber is an 8. I am an 8. That could just as easily be me that she’s talking about.

    And then the rest of the interview happened. Bolz-Weber openly spoke about her extramarital sexual relationship with her partner, her praise of divorce, her praise of sex as the primary characteristic of a human being, and her supposed “theology” that fits into these ideas. My distrust of Bolz-Weber and her theology (and Stabile and the Enneagram) was heightened even more when I listened to her interview on the You Made It Weird Podcast with Pete Holmes.

    I was shocked. I was intrigued. I listened to countless other interviews and podcasts and I came to the biggest realization of my life to date: if something is labeled Christian it doesn’t mean it is biblical.

    Doesn’t that seem like the most obvious realization? How did I go this long without realizing this? How did I get here? Why did it take listening to the most radically obvious false teaching?
    All I can say is: Thank You, Lord for bestowing grace and for opening my eyes.

  3. Because I assumed the Enneagram was Christian, I didn’t care about its origins
    The danger of assuming something is Christian because it is labeled as such means that it is fairly easy to believe that thing is good in origin as well. Because I didn’t question these people, I assumed the model was biblical in origin.

    The actual origin of the Enneagram is not biblical and it doesn’t claim to be. The Enneagram was created in the 1960’s by a man called Oscar Ichazo. It contains “components from mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy (particularly Socrates, Plato, and the Neo-Platonists)—all traditions that stretch back into antiquity.” (The Traditional Enneagram, The Enneagrams Institutes). This conglomeration of so many ancient schools of thought should immediately make a reformed thinker stop. Furthermore the following quote from Ichazo himself makes it clear that the Enneagram is not in line with basic biblical Christian thought:

    “We have to distinguish between a man as he is in essence, and as he is in ego or personality. In essence, every person is perfect, fearless, and in a loving unity with the entire cosmos; there is no conflict within the person between head, heart, and stomach or between the person and others. Then something happens: the ego begins to develop, karma accumulates, there is a transition from objectivity to subjectivity; man falls from essence into personality.” (Interviews with Ichazo, page 9)

    Essentially, the Enneagram denies the sinful nature of human beings. The blatant idea that the Enneagram tries to display is that we are in “essence” perfect but our environment causes us to fall into conflict with ourselves and others. Our ego gets in our own way. Begging the question: if we know our personality and the particular issues of our own egos can we train ourselves to push past that subjectivity (sin nature) back into objectivity (perfection).

    In essence, the Enneagram preaches a gospel that doesn’t save. We are right back where we started: the law. Try harder, do better, know more, and you will get there. You’ll be a better you for you and those around you. Except what always tends to happen is idolization. You either idolize the model or you idolize yourself within it (or both). Oh Christian, don’t you know that it is for freedom that we have been set free (Gal 5:1)?

So the question we need to ask is: So What? So what if the origin of the Enneagram is steeped in New Age teachings? So what if it isn’t originally biblical? Can’t we teach it from a Christian perspective and use it as a morally neutral model? After all, Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “All things are lawful.” But oh, Christian, let us not forget the other half of that verse: “All things are lawful but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”

When faced with this So What question, the obvious response should be “why am I holding this thing so tightly”? Giving up the Enneagram should be an easy choice if it is so obviously counter-biblical. Origin, heart, and intention matter. The Enneagram was not created as a helpful tool for people who believe they are depraved sinners in desperate need of a Savior. It was not created based on biblical ideas and backed up with Scripture. Its intention is not to sharpen you and incite wisdom.

Instead, what it does is gives you an easy out for your sin patterns. It gives you unrealistic expectations for how YOU should be treated as a {insert type here} & it also tells you that it’s okay to treat people certain ways because you are a {insert type here}. This is the same problem with the 5 love languages. If you don’t give me love the way I want to receive love, then that love doesn’t count. And the solution to becoming a healthier more mature number is never run to your Savior, but instead it’s try harder. Return always to the yoke of slavery. It isn’t biblical. It isn’t good. It isn’t loving. It isn’t kind.

After all of this, here is what I’m not saying:

If you use the Enneagram you aren’t saved and you don’t know your Bible and you’re basically the worst.

What I am saying is this:

I used the Enneagram and I thought it was Biblical. I thought I was growing in my “self-knowledge”, and I was actually idolizing myself and putting down others. When you are in the middle of it, it is difficult to see clearly. I am passionate about repenting of the Enneagram because I think it can be very dangerous in its deception. After all, some of the greatest false teaching is coated in truth. The danger is that you begin by using it supplementally, until you realize it has solidified itself as the doctrine of your life.

Finally, I’d like to apologize for sharing it with others as truth before I knew anything important about it. The dangerous assumption I made about its validity meant that I evangelized with the Enneagram before checking that it lined up with Scripture. Also, I’d like to caveat that if you have used the Enneagram and you don’t find yourself idolizing it, at the very least please consider that it always has the temptation to become an idol & can therefore be very dangerous to use. If you are going to go forth, go forth with caution.

Dear Christian, “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) It would be devastating if we trade in the beautiful gospel of grace that we have been given for something much cheaper that doesn’t save.

Sources I Used:

The Sheologians Podcast: https://www.sheologians.com/girl-whats-your-number-the-enneagram-episode/ (The sources they cite in their show notes are great!)

The Enneagram Institute: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/the-traditional-enneagram

Sola Sisters, What Is The Enneagram: http://www.solasisters.com/2011/05/what-is-enneagram.html

The Enneagram Journey, Suzanne Stabile: https://www.theenneagramjourney.org/podcast/2018/6/19/episode-29-nadia-bolz-weber-enneagram-9

You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/nadia-bolz-weber/id475878118?i=1000435125010

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