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Personality Tests & the Christian Part 1: History and Purpose

We have talked about personality tests before on Redeeming Productivity. It’s an important topic as personality tests are promoted in secular productivity literature and continue to enjoy popularity among believers. So, in this series, Julie Trotter examines the topic of personality tests and their appropriateness for Christians in greater depth.

Here in part 1, she addresses the history and purpose of personality tests, specifically the Enneagram and Myers-Briggs tests.

My prayer is that these articles would challenge you to think critically and grow in your discernment.

– Reagan

“I am a 4!”

About two years ago, I was introduced to a personality test called “The Enneagram.” I had lived through the rise and fall of the Myers-Briggs personality test already, so personality tests were simply a part of my life. Like most things, I spent little time concerning myself with deciding if personality tests were helpful or not. By default, I have always sorted people into three categories: extrovert, introvert, ambivert. Did I know why? No. Did I care? No. But did it affect my worldview? Definitely.

Tools are designed for a specific purpose, so knowing the intended purpose of personality tests will help us understand if they can be helpful in accomplishing our goals as a Christian.

With the resurgence in popularity of personality tests, it can be easy to launch ourselves into the fad. However, instead of launching ourselves into assessments that are designed to define us and affect our worldview, there are three things I would like to consider.

First, I would like to evaluate the nature of these tests. This includes their history (where did they come from?) and their purpose (why were they created?). Then I would like to assess the application of these tests. I will look at one of our primary goals as believers and how helpful these tools are in accomplishing that goal. Finally, I will attempt to address any other miscellaneous motives we may have for using these assessments in light of our ultimate authority: Scripture.

My intentions in writing this are not to overwhelm us with information to the point of apathy, but rather to guide us through some helpful considerations that will awaken and encourage us to greater discernment—particularly in areas that consume our time and thoughts.

History: Where do personality tests come from?

Let me begin with a brief disclaimer. While I understand that history can oftentimes be disconnected from modern practices (i.e. tattoos), understanding the history of these tests helps us to know if the spirit behind these tests is true and should be believed. After all, Scripture is clear that we are to “test the spirits,” (1 John 4:1).

Myers-Briggs Personality Test

According to the official Myers Briggs website, the test originates with “the theory of psychological types described by C. G. Jung.” Jung’s theory of psychological types came about through his understanding of atheistic beliefs such as evolution, the origin of personhood (in the mind or “psyche”), and a psychological process of self-awareness known as “individuation” in which a person seeks to reconcile three states of consciousness or unconsciousness to become one whole being.

Enneagram Personality Test

The very name, “Enneagram,” comes from the shape that dictates the nine personality types. These nine types were created by an occultic practice called, “automatic writing.” One spiritual counselor/mentor who claims to have psychological and spiritual insight describes automatic writing in this way:

“[It is] the practice of writing words in a trance-like state that originates from a place outside of conscious awareness. Psychologists and spiritualists have varying beliefs about the origin of automatic writing, with some arguing that it is sourced from the unconscious mind, and others claiming that it originates from supernatural forces such as spirit guides and angels.”

Marcia Montenegro, a former New Age enthusiast, compares the Enneagram to Zodiac signs and astrology, pointing out it’s past in New Age schools of thought.

Answer: These tests originated in evolutionary psychology and occultic religion.

Purpose: Why were these personality tests created?

Before gauging the effectiveness of a tool we must first identify the goal for which the tool was created. Tools are designed for a specific purpose, so knowing the intended purpose of personality tests will help us understand if they can be helpful in accomplishing our goals as a Christian.

From a cultural standpoint, personality tests are often seen as mere tools, neutral data that can be used to accomplish a myriad of purposes. Assuming neutrality of information, however, especially about the deep things of human nature, is unwise. As believers, it is our responsibility to use discernment in all things, approving what is excellent, keeping ourselves pure and blameless for Christ’s return (Phil. 1:9-10). The book of Proverbs calls wise the person who is “cautious and turns away from evil,” but a fool is one who is “reckless and careless,” (14:16). So, in order to be wise about the tools we use, we should take the time to contemplate their origins and intended purposes.

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Myers-Briggs

This test was written with the intention of making Jung’s wisdom widely accepted and applied. It uses Jung’s deep “wisdom” of human nature and spirituality to teach people about themselves so that they may be able to unite the three parts of the consciousness of every human being.

Capt. Jordan Huggins, 50th Space Wing chaplain, explaining the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator. U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo.

The Enneagram

The original purpose of The Enneagram was to “attain self-realization.” The philosophy of The Enneagram, according to the Enneagram Institute, comes from “mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy (particularly Socrates, Plato, and the Neo-Platonists),” which explains why the purpose is to start one’s journey toward psychological and spiritual growth. The assessment is a result of man’s obsession with understanding himself, drawing from any and all sources to accomplish this goal.

Answer: These personality tests were created so that the user might reach spiritual oneness through the unifying of consciousness or self-realization by principles taken from several religions.

What Next?

Now that we have a grasp on the nature of these tools, it is important that we address how these ideas intersect with our faith before attempting to integrate them into our daily lives. It is to that subject which we turn in the next post.

Other posts in this series:
Part 2: Application
Part 3: Examining Our Motives

Julie is a wife, Christian blogger, and student of Scripture. She is passionate about using her theological training and background in various forms of communications to further the kingdom.

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