A Book Review
How do you feel about the enneagram? I had only the barest inkling of an idea what the enneagram even was before I read The Enneagram Goes to Church by Todd A. Wilson. Whether you have embraced it, ignored it, or classed it somewhere between mumbo jumbo and an Ouija board, applying this taxonomy of personalities to the life of the church is a profoundly enlightening experience.
Is the enneagram biblical? Some of it. (I’ve appreciated writers for The Gospel Coalition taking on this question here, here, and here.) A fair bit of it comes across as hokey gnostic nonsense promising limitless potential to its devotees. But Wilson, through some theological alchemy, gives us a biblical framework that rightly says we’re sinners made in the image of God called to put on the “new self” and be humble towards God and others.
You don’t need the enneagram. It is not essential. The Bible is essential. Scripture is our sufficient guide to the Christian life. But the enneagram is a useful model that attempts to classify many different personality types because there are many different personalities. Some of us are doers. Some are thinkers. Others feelers. Arranging these types around intellect (the head triad), emotion (the heart triad), and will (the body triad) is wise because the Bible says we’re made in the image of God and therefore possess each of these. And experience shows that each of us has tendencies to emphasize one of these over the others.
And that’s the important message this book has to offer. God has not made us all the same. People, pastors, Christians are different and this is good. No matter how many different personality types we think there are (be it nine or otherwise), we know the answer is not one. And we should embrace these differences. God made us this way. And as the body of Christ, we’re better for it because each of us has our strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. God is glorified when the parts of the body minister to one another and serve Him.
And while I still don’t know what “number” I am, I do recommend The Enneagram Goes to Church. This book can teach enneagram converts a more biblical approach to personality. This book can teach the unconvinced and enneagram averse that not everyone in your church (pastor and congregants) has the same personality as you. Recognizing this fact is only the first step. Appreciating this fact is what we should strive to do so we can better minister to one another and serve the Lord together.
Special thanks to IVP Academic for providing me with a free digital review copy of this book. This did not affect my thoughts in any way so far as I know.
Appreciate your review Brent! I myself have only slightly more of an inkling of what enneagrams are, though enough to know that they seem to be laden with enough pseudo-spiritual baggage to at least throw up some warning flags.
I wholeheartedly agree that understanding the basics of one’s personality and the fact of personality differences can help an individual understand himself as well as interact more fruitfully with others. There are many tools already available for that though (e.g., Myers-Briggs) that don’t carry the baggage that enneagrams have. If there’s an interest in bringing personality profiles into a a church setting I’d stick to something that can provide useful insights without flirting with being at conflict with what Scripture has to say about mankind.
Thanks for reading, Steve! Your point carries a lot of weight. It would be ideal to have a personality tool without the baggage!