Let’s jump into the rest of the conversation we had with Tyler Zach! If you missed the first part, you can find it right here.
Tyler is a pastor and author based in Omaha, Nebraska. In this conversation we are going to talk about the origins of the Enneagram and whether the Enneagram is something we can be confident using as Christians. Tyler has done so much research and work around this very topic, which is one reason I’m so grateful he joined us here on the show! Let’s jump in.
One of the questions I get a lot of is people asking me if it is ok for Christians to use the Enneagram. You’ve done a lot of work around this, and I’d love to get your perspective. You’ve done the work around this; you have made an incredible resource, which we are going to link to; but how do you yourself answer when someone challenges the validity or the spiritual safety of the Enneagram itself?
We glean so much from the sciences, doctors, and culture, and psychology is one of those arenas that we have really gleaned from. A lot of Christian counselors use all kinds of tools and resources from non-Christian psychologists, but the fact that a couple of the major players in developing the Enneagram were from the New Age branch causes a lot of questions.
I think it’s important that we put all the facts on the table and then navigate, in light of all of that, if we can we still use the Enneagram.
In a nutshell, the first mention of the Enneagram was by the philosopher Gurdjieff, and then Bolivian born Oscar Ichazo picked it up from him and sought to connect it to the area personality. Claudia Naranjo from Chile, who was one of Ichazo’s students, taught him the center’s triads and some other things, and Naranjo is the one who really built out the personality types, the Ennea types, and then brought it to the states to begin teaching the Enneagram to people like Helen Palmer and Father Robert Oaks, who I believe, taught the Enneagram to the Jesuit school of Theology.
From there, Don Riso taught the Enneagram after it spread through the Catholic communities and in 1997, he co-founded the widely known Enneagram Institute. And then Suzanne Stabile began teaching the Enneagram, and I believe Ian Cron was a student of hers, and they paired up to write the wildly popular “Road Back to You” which really catapulted the Enneagram into evangelical and Protestant circles.
Finally, Beth and Jeff McCord, who have been studying it long before the “Road Back to You” came out, grew a wonderful ministry teaching it through a gospel lens.
Here’s where the problem comes in, though: Ichazo claimed to receive knowledge about the Enneagram from an angel, and his student Naranjo claimed to receive the Ennea types through a practice called automatic writing, a process where you relax your mind and allow messages to flow through you, either from your sub-conscious, or could be a divine source, which is New Age practice. So that is definitely concerning!
Just to get right to the heart of the matter, we should ask the question if some of the Enneagram’s origins do have New Age roots or occultist roots; and if so, should this fact alone be enough for Christians to stop using the Enneagram? I would say that even in light of those things, we can still use the Enneagram.
I don’t want to get into too much here, but oftentimes people will take the “automatic writing” thing and run with it; but students of Naranjo, like Beatrice Chestnut, who is a well-known Enneagram author, said from all her years learning from him that he not once mentioned automatic writing coming from a spiritual source. And even when Naranjo mentioned it himself, it was one comment made when he was older in one podcast interview, sort of off the cuff. So we don’t exactly know what that means.
Looking at Ichazo and Naranjo, when they started claiming that they received this information from a divine source, I think it was sort of like a power play. We know that he didn’t just write things out of thin air; I think that he was writing from his own experience and vast knowledge of psychology.
Having said that, I still think that we can utilize and glean information from a variety of different sources, even troubling sources, because we have the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the ability to put on our Gospel lens and, and look at whatever we’re receiving and be able to run it through a Christian filter.
Even biblical writers, like Moses and Solomon, did this. You can look at Psalm 29, Psalm 104, or Proverbs 22, which is almost word for word from Egyptian literature. So some of our Scriptures are gleaned from occultist cultures around them, but then put within a Biblical framework.
There is a saying, “all truth is God’s truth.” You can look at church history: Augustine loved reading the Greek philosophers, like philosopher Plotinus, and much of his writing flowed out of that; Thomas Aquinas loved Aristotle, and he made use of philosophy and his theology. What I’ve concluded is that Christians can glean wisdom from non-Christian sources, as long as they don’t adopt a secular worldview. There is a healthy medium there of not adopting the culture or unhealthy worldviews, but also, because of the theology of common grace, being able to look at what our doctors have learned, what scientists have learned, what psychologists have learned, and glean from those things (because all truth is God’s truth) but to put it into a biblical worldview.
I’ve actually written a resource, “Should Christians use the Enneagram” where I go into deep detail about the difference between a biblical Enneagram worldview and a non-biblical one, because I think it is important. I created a Gospel grid where I looked at things like the different views of sin between a New Age worldview and a Biblical worldview, and the difference in salvation, as well as asking where the power source for transformation comes from in each viewpoint. Those are some of the things I flesh out in the PDF.
Would you say that resource is, was written for people to use as an answer to people who say they shouldn’t use it?
I typically give it if people ask, but I’m not sending it to all kinds of people to try to change their mind; I really think it’s for someone who’s used the Enneagram, or is new, and wants to grow confidence in using it.
Paul says to test everything, and you know, pastors are going to be held to a higher standard; so I wanted to go on this journey for myself to make sure that my conscience was okay using it. That’s what sent me on the journey to research as much as I did, and I feel like I’m just up at the tip of iceberg! I’m planning on expanding that, and continuing to do to work on that as the Enneagram becomes more and more popular and more widely used. I know that as it continues to grow in popularity, it’s going to have a bigger target on its back. This is not going to go away; we are going to have to know how to answer people. I want people to have an answer and feel confident in talking about it. “Should Christians use the Enneagram?” is really for seekers and people who want to grow in confidence and explore the origins a little bit more, and just make sure they feel confident using it.
There is some sense of comfort in learning about the Enneagram and how we can put the Enneagram and what we can glean about ourselves and the world and perspectives inside the Gospel framework, with our Gospel lens, without jeopardizing anything about our faith. Erin Moon calls this “sanctified common sense”, and that’s what I use around the Enneagram myself. How do we handle it if others still say it just isn’t in their comfort zones to use it?
In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about how to handle this when he addresses a conflict about meat sacrificed to idols and whether it oculd be eaten. He tells the people to follow their conscience, but not to force their conscience onto another person. In terms of the Enneagram, if somebody’s conscience isn’t alright with it, then don’t force it on them!
One thing I want to warn against, though, is that I don’t think Christians should have a knee-jerk reaction to things that we hear, Enneagram or otherwise. We need to be more thoughtful. I think a lot of people just hear something, even though it is a straw man argument, and they immediately have a knee jerk reaction to it. Just look around, look at the people who are using the Enneagram. How many of them are going off the deep end? How many of them have gotten into the occult? There are those who don’t follow good Enneagram ethics, and will start typing people and being a little weird; but it’s not New Age, satanic, occultish type behavior. I don’t see anybody leaving the faith or going off the deep end, and I’ve been using it with a lot of people. What I do see are people becoming more self-aware, marriages getting better, teams getting healthier…that’s what I see.
I really, really appreciate you taking us a little bit deeper into this, and we will definitely be pointing to your PDF resource, “Should Christians use the Enneagram?” We want to make sure that people have that resource to really look at all the research that you’ve done and how you’ve laid it out for everyone to understand more and have the information to use that “sanctified common sense” and make an informed choice for themselves, because that’s really what it’s about.
We haven’t talked about this yet, but you are in the middle of an entire devotional series, 40-day devotionals for each Enneagram type, and each one is just so good. They are tailored to each type, and each one shows how you empathize with them and that you have done the work to understand their perspective. What led you to put all that time and energy into bringing those to life?
As a three who was really experiencing transformation and growth, I wanted to see the same effectiveness and other spiritual growth effectiveness in other people’s lives. And I just love writing! One of the things that God has called me to do is to catalyze new ministries; to start new things, to be an entrepreneur and to contextualize the gospel, to put it in plain language for people to understand.
So when I ran across the Enneagram and how it taught all about core fears, core desires, and these specific things, I knew I could apply my knowledge of the Bible and the gospel to those things specifically. Writing these has been such a life giving project! I find so much life in getting up every single day to write for an hour before I go do my pastor gig throughout the day. I love being able to encourage people.
If you read some of the primary Enneagram authors, those who aren’t Christians, like they are really not fluffy, “feel good” books; they are full of conviction. I had to do some work to figure out how I could really encourage people and show them how they’re imaging God as part of the Imago Dei.
So each of these books is sort of like a letter; me writing directly to each type to share where they can be encouraged. It’s trying to pastor people through applying biblical affirmations, and also challenges.
The introduction of each book is showing where the Bible affirms the type and then also common lies they believe, and countering those lies with truth. And then each daily devotion has a body to it, a Bible passage, reflection questions, a prayer, and an action point. So you have 40 action points by the time you’re done with the book. It’s not a fluffy devotional, but it’s meant to really help you to learn a lot as you go through the process.
I’m an Enneagram one and as I was reading through your latest release for Type Ones, it really was what I call that “salty sweet” spot: equal parts validated, equal parts convicted; feeling like we’re understood. So if you’re any of those types that already have a devotional ready for you, please go get it. They are all so good! I know that Tyler put the same care and attention into making sure that every type got the encouragement that they needed. I highly encourage you to go check it out, that resource.
Tyler, where can people find you if they want to connect with you?
You go to the website gospelforenneagram.com, which is where you can find a link to all the books, or Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
On the website you can download the “Should Christians Use the Enneagram” PDF, so you can find the link there, or if you’re on Instagram, it’s in the link tree. I would love to encourage you to read that and email me with any questions you have. I would love to dialogue with anybody; I’m not too busy to answer back and help people. So go ahead and email me if you need to; it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
I so appreciate your time. I always feel edified as people come on and share their stories, and you have also done so much work in helping us understand some of the ways that we can if we choose to, and if that’s what God has for us. You see Enneagram with competence and with the information that we need to know if it’s right for us. So thank you so much.
Tyler is currently writing 40-day Christian devotionals for every Enneagram type. Published books include Type 1, 3, 4, 6, and 9: Check them out on Amazon.
Tyler started an Instagram account @GospelForEnneagram which has grown to over 23,000 followers. You can get lots of free Enneagram faith-related content there. He’s also on Facebook @gospelforenneagram and Twitter @gospelforgram.
Because some Christians are skeptical of using the Enneagram, Tyler’s written a PDF resource called “Should Christians Use The Enneagram?” which you can download for free on his website www.gospelforenneagram.com.
Follow Tyler on Instagram || @gospelforenneagram
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Tyler’s Loving Lately- Holy Post Podcast, Jesus and John Wayne, The Making of Biblical Womanhood
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Get the Book || Enneagram For Beginners
Learn On-Demand + Get Coaching || Enneagram 101 Course
Visit the Shop || Christian Enneagram Shop