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Is the Enneagram Christian?

There is a difficulty in assessing the theology of the Enneagram, as it is taught by many people, each with their own unique take on the graphic and how it relates to God and creation. This problem is solved by examining the core theological convictions of the so-called Christian versions of the Enneagram. These theological convictions are exposed and compared below. We will find that teaching the Enneagram entails a different vision of 1) sin and the fall, 2) human nature, 3) scripture, 4) sanctification, and 5) salvation. 

The Enneagram Types

Sin and the fall

The Bible teaches

Sin is related to disobedience towards God, committing inherently immoral acts. No one can escape their fallen nature by their own devices, because their corruption stems from a relational disconnect with their Lord and Saviour. Sin is attributable to individual acts or general dispositions, and causes; death, both spiritual and physical, further depravity, bondage of the will and hardness of heart. 

1 John 3:4
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.

See also Romans 5:12-13, 18-19; 7:7-12

The problem with the world is sin. As the ultimate explanation for both the general dysfunction of the universe and human nature it is important to get this right. An effective cure requires an accurate diagnosis. Notice that by pointing to sin as the problem, our gaze is directed not only to the wretched creatures we are, who cause and perpetuate sin, but to God Himself, the righteous judge and offended party. With this biblical explanation firmly in place, we discover the problem with the world is our inimical relationship with God, and we are prepared to find Christ; the one solution that God has provided for this broken world. Without this accurate diagnosis, in the search for the cure we will fixate on ourselves rather than look up to see Christ; stuck in a downward spiral of inward-focused navel-gazing that perpetuates and exacerbates our relational separation from God and obscure any solution that comes from Him.

The Enneagram teaches

In contrast to the biblical teaching, the Enneagram teaches that the nature of sin is the obsession or addiction to the use of one’s innate gifts. Put another way, it is ignorance of one’s True Self and lies about who we truly are. When the good and bad aspects of a person are fully integrated into your personality you recover your True Self. In the Enneagram’s worldview, sin is no longer “a moral category,”[1] but a “disorder of awareness and interference with action,”[2] stemming from ignorance of one’s True Self. 

“[the Enneagram] rescue[s] the original sense of the word sin. . . after the contamination of the notion of wrongness as a dysfunction with that of wrongness as evil.” [3]

Christopher Heuertz

People are not destroyed for their moral wrongdoing. Rather, we are destroyed because of our obsession with our gifts (identifying too closely with what we can do well). Rohr states “Our gift and our sin are two sides of the same coin.” 

Notice that according to the teaching of the Enneagram, the problem with human nature is rooted solely in one’s own psychology. The solution will therefore come from within, with diligent work on one’s mental life. The rebellion isn’t really against God, but against your True Self. A rejection of the proper functioning of your gifts and person. 

Human nature

The Bible teaches

Humans are essentially good, being created in the image of God. However, humans have been broken by sin, our relational separation from God caused by wrongdoing. We are therefore existentially bad. Apart from God’s intervention, this fallen state is irreparable. 

Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:31
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. 
Jeremiah 17:9-10
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”

See also Romans 1:18-20. 

Matthew 19:25-26
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The Enneagram teaches

The True Self is innately good. What is wrong with people is that the heart is often disconnected from the True Self. This disconnect comes about because the ego is tethered to its tragic flaw – a flaw that’s come about by how you chose to cope with the world as a child. From this your Enneagram number or type is assigned, one through nine; the Helper, the Achiever, the Individualist, and so forth. The flaw can be overcome with work developing the True Self, which “requires us to know, accept, and integrate all parts of our selves [sic], including our Shadow elements.”[4]

“[The Enneagram is concerned with] illuminat[ing] what’s good and true and beautiful about each of us.”[5]

Christopher Heuertz

“We aren’t fundamentally flawed, bad people hoping to be good, but good people hoping to be better.” [6]

Christopher Heuertz

“No one willing does evil.”[7]

Richard Rohr

“God loves us unconditionally—along with our dark sides.” [8]

Richard Rohr

If you’re innately good, you can work to achieve your own perfection. You don’t require a Saviour. The idea that humanity is innately good is a hallmark of New Age philosophy. Such and understanding requires a redefinition of sin. As we’ve seen here, sin has become little more than a coping mechanism. With our behaviour determined, the moral responsibility for your wrongdoing is absolved. But notice how the Scripture emphasises the deceitfulness of the human heart. It’s in the brokenness of our nature that we think of ourselves as better than we are. Should we refuse to honour God by placing him in His rightful place, at the centre of our lives, He may give us over to our own passions so that our hearts become dark and our thinking futile; believing ourselves wise we become fools (Romans 1:21-23), even to the extent that we can promote what is evil as good (Romans 1:32). 

The loving God sees us in our brokenness and is compelled to change us, offering Christ to die for our sins (1 Cor 15:3) and the Spirit to make us a new creation; our justification and sanctification. Such an intervention on our behalf was necessary to make us whole. We could not dig ourselves our of the hole our sinful nature, a predisposition for moral wrongdoing, would carve out for us. 

The old is gone; not integrated into the new (2 Cor 5:17). We are required to die to sin and put aside the old self (Rom 6:1-14). Accepting the “shadow side” as it were, and recognising that “Everything belongs’—the good, the bad, and the ugly”[9] is the same as accepting your own slavery, the very thing Christ came to set us free from.

Scripture

The Bible teaches

The Bible teaches that the divine revelation within is supremely authoritative and sufficient for all matters of salvation. It is God’s revelation to mankind, and is freely accessible to all. You can comprehend it without any inner transformation or secret knowledge, because it confronts you wherever you are, calling people to submit their lives to Christ. 

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

See also Mat 5:18; 2 Cor 1:13. 

The Enneagram teaches

The Enneagram rejects scripture as authoritative. Rather, scripture has been supplanted by the secret knowledge transmitted in the Enneagram that acts as a guide to a new revelation. This new revelation is said to make us aware of our own inner divinity. The Enneagram also rejects Scripture as sufficient for a complete knowledge of God, oneself, salvation and sanctification. The “timeless truths” of the Enneagram may be hard to comprehend; however, if they can be mastered, one can learn “what it means to be human” and how to “transform ourselves to manifest our highest possibilities.”[10]

“[The Enneagram] is a sacred map for our souls… [and] when understood, leads us to our true identity and to God.” [11]

Christopher Heuertz

Notice that the Enneagram finds itself in immediate opposition to the Christian tradition, not only by rejecting the Bible’s teaching of the nature of scriptural revelation but by aligning itself to the gnostic heresies, or secret hidden knowledge, available only to a few. The highest form of revelation is the word of God. Not the New Consciousness attained by meditation; “self-observation, self-study, and self-development.”[12] Note again the self-centeredness of the Enneagram’s theology, rather than the Christ-centeredness of authentic Christianity.

Sanctification

The Bible teaches

Holiness is both the quality of being sacred or separate from the ordinary things of the world (See Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:1-4), and one of absolute purity, being untouched and unstained by the evil in the world (See Habakkuk 1:13; James 1:13). People cannot make themselves holy. Nothing you can do can change your spiritual condition or free you from spiritual addictions. Only the Holy Spirit can make someone holy. He does this by transforming a person into the likeness of Christ. The result of your transformation is good fruit, which is morally upright actions and good works. 

Hebrews 9:14
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Philippians 1:6
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:22
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

The Enneagram teaches

The quality most sought after in Enneagram teaching is the higher self, which is a greater degree of “freedom, connectedness, balance, wholeness, and creativity.”[13] This form spiritual growth is a sense of union with our True self, others, and all of nature. The Enneagram teaches that to grow spiritually you have to internalise your Holy Virtue and Holy Idea. Its number system assigns to each individual personality a Holy Virtue and Holy Idea. A mental and psychological battle ensues, and by fighting against the obsessive aspects of your personality you can gain mental clarity and an awareness of the True Self, which is a more conscious and integrated state of being. Attaining the True Self requires dis-identifying with the false self and facing fear and pain. 

“[I]t’s our Holy Ideas and our Virtues that are the most powerful means we have to bring us back to our true Essence.” [14]

Notice that the Enneagram’s form of spiritual growth is the opposite of the first sense of holiness offered in the Bible. Instead of being separate from the world and pure without stain, it is connectedness to world and balanced with everything in it. Notice also that the Enneagram’s form of spiritual growth is accomplished by your own effort, rather than by God first transforming you. Despite affirmations that one cannot become a better person “apart form the transformative power of God’s grace,” [15] the moralistic works-based mentality of the Enneagram is emphasised with a focuses on things one must do to transform yourself.

Salvation

The Bible teaches

The Gospel spells out that only way of salvation is a result of God’s grace, where God, as a man, pays the penalty for sin Himself, on behalf of sinful humanity. One acquires salvation by accepting God’s sacrifice by faith alone, taking Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. The alternative is hell; an eternal separation from the life and love of God.

Ephesians 2:8–9 
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. It is not from yourself or anything you’ve done, but the gift of God.
Romans 3:22
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” 

The Enneagram teaches

The Enneagram teaches that it is the pathway to the nine ways one can restore one’s relationship with God and awaken the True Self. Awakening the True Self requires inner work or soul-work, where one has to acquire and apply self-knowledge. This means identifying “roles, habits and character features” that are the “chief obstacle in our search for our (true) self.” [16]

There is no hell to be escaped from, for no one is in danger of a permanent moral sin penalty. No one has fallen to such a level that they can’t dig themselves out. There is no sin to be forgiven, for morality is insignificant compared to the ultimate quest of awakening the True Self. 

The Enneagram is like a light that reveals the true nature of the darkness that we are in, and brings a knowledge of our truest and deepest self. By engaging with it, we might and see and stop trivialising our false self and affect the emergence of the True self. However, you are ultimately responsible for your own success or failure. 

“The contemporary Enneagram of Personality*—illustrates the nine ways we get lost, but also the nine ways we can come home to our True Self. Put another way, it exposes nine ways we lie to ourselves about who we think we are, nine ways we can come clean about those solutions, and nine ways we can find our way back to God.” [17]

Christopher Heuertz

“The purpose of the Enneagram is to develop self knowledge and learn how to recognise and disidentify with the parts of our personalities that limit us so we can be reunited with our truest and best selves.“[18]

Cron and Stabile

Notice how the Enneagram subverts salvation by grace. It is our effort rather than God’s that restores our relationship with Him. To affect salvation the Enneagram takes over the work of God Himself, and replaces Jesus as the means by which people reestablish relationship with God. It therefore fits the description of an anti-christ; it takes the place of Christ.

Conclusion

We have seen the principle (so-called) Christian teachers of the Enneagram today have different view of (1) Sin, (2) Human Nature, (3) Scripture, (4) Sanctification and (5) Salvation than the views provided in God’s word. Along with flawed doctrine, I discuss further concerns with these teachers theological method and syncretism with the New Age, and whether, despite these, the Enneagram can be be redeemed and used by Christians anyway in the links below.

The next post regarding the Enneagram can be found here:

Concerns with Christian Enneagram Teachers?

Can the Enneagram be Redeemed?

Can Adopting the Enneagram be Justified?

Footnotes

[1] Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, tran. Peter Heinegg (New York City, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2016), Kindle, 1026.

[2] Claudio Naranjo, The Enneagram of Society: Healing the Soul to Heal the World (Nevada City, CA: Gateway Books and Tapes, 2004), 22 

[3] Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, Kindle, 1292. 

[4] Beatrice Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge (Berkeley, CA: She Writes Press, 2013), Kindle, 228.

[5] Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, Kindle, 359. 

[6] Christopher Heuertz, The Enneagram of Belonging: A Compassionate Journey of Self-Acceptance (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), Kindle, 354. 

[7] Rohr and Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, Kindle, 983. 

[8] Rohr and Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, Kindle, 123. 

[9] Ibid, 1679. 

[10] Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge, Kindle, 60. 

[11] Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, Kindle, 485. 

[12] Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge, Kindle, 733. 

[13] Ibid. 

[14] Heuerz, The Enneagram of Belonging: A Compassionate Journey of Self-Acceptance, Kindle, 2540. 

[15] Cron and Stabile, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, Kindle, 444. 

[16] Rohr and Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, Kindle, 147. 

[17] Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, Kindle, 471. 

[18] Cron and Stabile, The Road Back to You: And Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, Kindle, 272. 

The above critique relied heavily upon the work of Dr. Christopher Berg, and his excellent book on the topic, The Trojan Horse: What Christians should know about Yoga and the Enneagram.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Trojan-Horse.jpg
The Trojan Horse: What Christians should know about Yoga and the Enneagram, By Christoper Berg, PhD.

1 thought on “Is the Enneagram Christian?

  1. I hate the idiotgram, but your writing is like 1960 moral panic theology of bible belt American fundamentalists railing against psychology.

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