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Defense of the Enneagram

Hi, friends.

I'm a Two-wing-One on the Enneagram. The fact that I know that, however, just might mean that I'm an idolater.

That revelation came as a bit of a shock to me when I was confronted by this article, a previous post by the Defendant. "The Road Back to Sin," it boldly retitles the book, by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, that largely popularized the personality-finder tool. It says that (besides the Enneagram looking an awful lot like satanic imagery) the obsession with self that personality-categorizing culture encourages is a form of idolatry, and that it encourages us to return to our original nature─that is, a nature of sin.

There are a few issues with this argument.

First off, let's address the foundation of the argument: that the pure form of someone's personality must necessarily be bad. As a Christian who firmly believes that people are created in the image of God, I cannot help but repudiate that notion. In fact, I would posit that—contrary to the apparent general opinion of the church—humanity is not "inherently evil." I would, in fact, argue that humans are inherently good. The fact that sin exists means that our inherent goodness in the image of God is distorted, corrupted, but never destroyed. If humans truly were inherently bad, then God would not have a reason to cleanse us of sin; there's no gain in polishing poop.

The next issue to be addressed is the idea that the Enneagram encourages those negative aspects of sin, that it’s some sort of New-Age spiritual mumbo-jumbo that misrepresents the importance of self. In the previous Defendant article, this argument seemed to hinge largely on language by the authors of The Road Back to You, quotes that the author, probably unintentionally, took mostly out of context. The fact is that The Road Back to You is a Christian book with Christian principles. The author accuses The Road Back to Youof being devoid of Christ when the book actually claims that "the Enneagram should only be used to build others up and help them on their journey to wholeness and God" (page 38). On pages 32 and 33, the book includes useful information on what sorts of sin each type might be more vulnerable to. For each type, it includes information on becoming closer to Christ and becoming more spiritually mature. It even contains detailed descriptions of how each type behaves when unhealthy, average, and healthy, descriptions that all perfectly match Christian moral values and Christ's teachings.

Most importantly, on top of the Christian spiritual focus of the book, the authors recognize that the tool is not omniscient, nor is it always completely accurate, but instead that it is simply "very useful" (page 20). Any problems arising from the Enneagram really come from misuse of the tool; saying that it is not useful because it can be misused is akin to saying that we shouldn’t use hammers to pound nails because hammers can also be used to commit murder. Both are true, but they do not cancel each other out in terms of usefulness.

The only real impact of our capacity to misuse tools is that before engaging in serious use we need to ensure that we are mature enough to handle the risks. Just like you would need to be old and strong enough to wield a hammer effectively and without hurting others around you, so you must be mature enough in Christ to critically assess yourself and seek personal spiritual growth. To repurpose a quote often attributed (likely wrongly) to Mark Twain, condemnation of the Enneagram is like telling a man he can't have a steak because a baby can't chew it.

On the other hand, it must be recognized that such tools need to have their purpose. To be clear, the Enneagram has a place and must stay in that place in order to be used in a healthy and productive way; I urge you all to be sure to use it (and all the other tools both physical and intellectual) in a mature and considerate way, seeking first God's will for you and the others around you and turning away from those corrupted aspects of yourself that compel you to sin.

Thanks friends!

—C. S. Burchfiel

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not claim to reflect the opinions or views of the Defendant or its staff members.

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