By Beth McCord, Crosswalk.com
When I first learned about the Enneagram, I asked the same question. At the time, my husband, Jeff, was in seminary, and I had two young kids at home, so I was cautious and prayerful about what I introduced into our house. As I studied the Enneagram through a Christian lens, I found that it serves the gospel by addressing the deeper heart issues Jesus always pointed to and responding to them with kindness, grace, and care.
But before we dig deeper, I want to make two things clear. First, the goal and intent of Your Enneagram Coach is to love God and to love people. We're not trying to convert people to the Enneagram. Secondly, some Enneagram authors have claimed that the Enneagram can be traced back to the desert fathers of the 4th century, but there isn't a lot of clear evidence, so we don't defend the Enneagram by saying it came from Christian sources. Instead, we point to a concept called common grace. Common grace says that God's goodness, wisdom, beauty, and truth can be found in creation, including every human being. God blesses us with gifts and potential. In every human culture, you will find traces of God's fingerprint in the arts, sciences, and history.
Common Grace connects to our position on the Enneagram because, throughout history, biblical writers and early church leaders have taken non-Christian resources and pulled the truth and beauty out of them so they could point people back to God. For example, in the book of Daniel, we see Daniel bring his faith to Babylon and while remaining faithful to the Lord, learn the Babylonian culture and language.
Many Old Testament examples like Daniel show us that God always intended for his people to be in the context of cultures. This is why early Christians continued the practice of using their existing culture to present the gospel in a new way that landed in their audiences' hearts. In Acts 17, Paul quotes two Greek poets, and he isn't afraid to take a non-Christian resource (the statue of the unknown god), grab what is true in it (Common Grace), and connect it to Jesus. Similarly, early church leaders like Augustine and Aquinas also pulled truth from Greek philosophers (Plotinus and Aristotle) without adopting a Greek worldview.
Without understanding Common Grace, some Christians may feel no need to study the world and other human cultures. Unfortunately, they miss out on expanding their appreciation of the created world and the God who made it. In Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Plan for the World, Tim Keller says: "Work done by non-Christians always contains some degree of God's Common Grace as well as the distortions of sin. Work done by Christians, even if it overtly names the name of Jesus, is also to a significant degree distorted by sin."
One of the main reasons I founded Your Enneagram Coach was because, early in my journey with the Enneagram, I found few resources available to help guide Christians with this tool. I wanted to create the resources I wished I had in the beginning—resources to help you explore the tool of the Enneagram as a Christ-follower. As the Enneagram quickly grew in popularity among Christians, my husband and I felt a calling to help Christians stay on a gospel-centered path and use this tool from a theologically accurate perspective.
Voices against a Christian's use of the Enneagram fear that it will pull people away from the one true God and towards occultism, new ageism, or spiritualism, but what we see happen is the opposite of that fear. Those who bring a Christian worldview to the Enneagram have the gospel land on their heart in a new way, and it frees them. Nothing about the Christian approach to the Enneagram is encouraging sin. Instead, the Enneagram serves as a tool that points out our need for God's grace and forgiveness and helps us walk in alignment with the truth of the gospel.
Christians can move too far from Christian orthodoxy and assimilate non-Christian beliefs. No matter what subject we are studying or integrating into our life, we should all be careful not to inappropriately blend non-Christian ideas or practices to the point that it replaces or dilutes the essential tenets of our faith. But there is also the opposite temptation to isolate ourselves from culture and create our own subculture. Separating from our culture is, in many ways, easier because it feels safe and certain. However, Jesus calls us to be in the world, not of it—to transform culture with his presence (John 17:14-15).
Our approach at Your Enneagram Coach is to take the concepts of many Enneagram teachers and filter them through the lens of the gospel. The Enneagram is not like other personality systems, like Myers-Briggs or Strengthsfinder, that have one source you go to for training. The Enneagram is a collaborative tool, which means contemporary Enneagram teachers do not necessarily follow previous teachers' ideas, beliefs, or practices. On the contrary, you will find that each Enneagram teacher presents the Enneagram according to their worldview, often adding, subtracting, or redefining concepts contained in the Enneagram.
In our presentation of the Enneagram, we removed or redefined all aspects that do not align with a Biblical worldview. We direct people to spiritual disciplines, not unbiblical spiritual practices. Our goal is to focus people's attention on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and our primary purpose is to point people back to Christ by helping them know who they are in him.
In John 1:46, Nathanael says to Philip, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" We now know that a lot of good can come out of Nazareth! God has always been in the business of redeeming what man has distorted, disdained, or discarded. He brings life out of death. Jesus was accused of being/having demons by the people of his day. Yet nothing could have been further from the truth. People often fear things they don't understand and make bold claims about whether they come from a pure or impure heart's desire. Just because we don't understand or like the origins of something doesn't mean it can't point us to God's truth.
In the secular world, the Enneagram's goal is to know yourself. We say, no, the ultimate goal is to know God—your Creator— glorify him, and enjoy him forever. But we can all agree that we have brokenness and all long for redemption. Something is wrong, and we are trying to find the cause of that problem. But I can't be the solution if I'm the problem. I can't save myself. The biggest difference in a Christian approach to the Enneagram is that God is the solution. He is the only one who can rescue you, and he's done that through the personal work of Christ. The Enneagram does not conflict with scripture when viewed through the lens of the gospel. Instead, it helps point us back to our ultimate identity and calling, being more like Christ.
Beth McCord (Type 9: Peaceful Accommodator) and Jeff McCord (Type 6: Faithful Guardian) are best-selling authors and co founders of Your Enneagram Coach (YEC), one of the largest Enneagram platforms in the world and the only one of its size that teaches people how to use the Enneagram from a faith-based perspective. Their podcast,Your Enneagram Coach, has more than 3 million downloads since launching in April 2019. More than 2 million people have taken their online Enneagram Type assessment, and more than 2,000 people have enrolled in their Become an Enneagram Coach program. Their latest book is 'More Than Your Number: A Christ-Centered Enneagram Approach to Becoming AWARE of Your Internal World.'