It’s not a pickup line. At least, it wasn’t at the pre-conference portion of an event called “Why Christian?”, which was back this past week for its second year at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.
No, this inquiry is actually just a standard part of the Enneagram, an ancient personality typing system that recently has exploded in popularity in Christian circles.
Ian Morgan Cron, who co-led the Enneagram Conference on [September 29] with Suzanne Stabile, called it “disruptive spiritual technology.”
The Enneagram came to the United States in the 1970s, where it initially caught on among Catholic seminarians and priests and became a tool for spiritual formation.
In its present form, the Enneagram includes nine personality types, or numbers, illustrated by a nine-pointed geometric figure. (The term Enneagram comes from the Greek words meaning “nine” and “drawing” or “figure.”) Each, at its worst, is tied to one of the deadly sins – plus two more traits that have been added in.
A person’s “type” is determined by self-examination; the goal being to better understand oneself – and one’s strengths, weaknesses and tendencies – and those of others.
But it may not be as modern as it sounds, or as alien to the faith as some might fear. In fact, some trace the Enneagram to a fourth-century Christian monk and ascetic named Evagrius, whose teaching later influenced the formation of the seven deadly sins, according to Cron and Stabile. Others detect elements of the Enneagram within Sufism and Judaism.
After attending one of Stabile’s workshops, Cron said, “It just made sense at some point to say we should write about this for people and do it narratively through story and not a list of traits.”
The two not only have written “The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery,” out Oct. 4 by IVP [InterVarsity] Books, but also host a podcast by the same name and events such as the Enneagram Conference.
In the weeks leading up to the conference, Rachel Held Evans, a popular Christian writer and co-organizer of Why Christian?, jokingly tweeted: “I can’t figure out my Enneagram number so I might as well drop out of progressive Christianity.”
(Miller, “Are you my type? The Enneagram catches on with Christians,” ReligionNewsService Online, 10/3/16).
[TBC: In 1 Timothy:1:3b-4, Paul warned Timothy, "...that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine. Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do." The Enneagram falls under this warning. George Gurdjieff, a more conteporary promoter of the Enneagram told how in Afghanistan (circa1897), a dervish (Muslim mystic) introduced him to an old man of the Sarmouni (Sufi) sect. According to Gurdjieff, this man took him to a Sarmouni monastery located in Central Turkestan. There, Gurdjieff learned of mystical dancing, psychic powers, and the enneagram. For the Sarmounis the enneagram was a means of divination to foretell future events. It was also a tool that represented life processes, such as personal transformation. (Bennett, John G. Enneagram Studies. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1983, 3-4). The Enneagram is an occult practice and contrary to the Gospel, which is the only hope of humanity.]