Christianity and the Enneagram: Book and Conference Review

Sometimes a person or movement or book says “the right things” as in “sounds Christian,” but further investigation reveals that their use of Christian words or stories presupposes a different, non-orthodox position or definition. 

Such is the case with Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile’s The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery and the related Know Your Number conference which I attended in October 2017.

In fact, it calls into question the very question of the historical, factual, bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Psychology as a path find God?

Using psychological instruments for self-awareness is not wrong, so what gives me the right to evaluate this work theologically? The authors themselves claim the enneagram and book are “a practical, comprehensive way of accessing Enneagram wisdom and exploring its connections with Christian spirituality for a deeper knowledge of ourselves, compassion for others, and love for God.” The same claim is that the enneagram renders “uncanny accuracy,” yet Stabile herself began the whole conference saying that the enneagram can’t be tested because tests are wrong 60+% of the time. Further, she claims that she “just knows this is true.” Stabile repeated this claim more than once. If something is true, is it not testable? Neither the book nor the conference offer a single shred of evidence of the enneagram’s veracity (a common means of validating other instruments such as Strengthsfinder, Myers-Briggs, et al).

Finally, the enneagram was an “ancient oral tradition for 4000 years, the implication of which is that it predates Jesus. No (none, nada, zip) attempt in the book or conference attempts to reconcile this as Godly. In fact, the clear implication is that this transcends Christianity in a way that begins to belie an underlying worldview.

Where’s the resurrection?

If there is a creative, personal God who performs miracles including sending his son and raising him from the dead, he has something to say about our understanding of humanity. Finding or growing a relationship with God through psychology is an anthropological exercise, not a theological one. Neither the book nor conference acknowledge the divine nature and authority of a risen Jesus. Using psychology as a path to God is heresy.

Is this Jesus the same Jesus? Is this “trinity” the same? What is “sin” or “atonement?”

The book itself uses one story from the Bible. One. And this looks nice on the surface, but the challenge is in the definitions.

Stabile opened and repeatedly referenced Richard Rohr as her longtime deep mentor (the book notes the connection as well. Rohr, however, not only self-attests to a non-orthodox “universal awakening” position that denies Jesus’ deity, his own work redefines “trinity” in a similar, unorthodox manner. Connect the dots:

Sin, as it turns out, is similarly redefined. “I don’t like the word sin because people don’t like it and are uncomfortable with it” opined Stabile early in the conference. Instead she calls them passions, because “the best part of you is the worst part of you.” This last thought, from a psychological perspective, is an “every strength has a corresponding weakness” assertion.

Where’s the resurrection?

Stabile, Rohr (and other associates such as Brian McLaren) are avowed universalists, and she repeatedly admonished the audience to follow Rohr’s ‘journey to non-dualism.’ And Rohr explicitly denies the need of a savior for atonement from sin.

In contrast, Jesus’ resurrection affirms his personal claim to be deity (among other things). To deny his authority is to either deny his deity, the authority of Scripture, or both. There is no non-dualist relativity in his exclusivity.

The bottom line

The book and its authors are winsome. Their message is attractive and keenly packaged. It promises good things – who could argue about developing better relationships with God and others? Further, it bears the telltale mark of beautiful narrative throughout that is part of the attractiveness of Catholic mysticism (a la Merton). Instead of saying, “Let’s examine this psychological instrument through the lens of a Christian worldview,” the book is diametrically opposite: let’s see God and others through the lens of psychology.

What does this mean in light of the resurrection? The authors and their directly-glorified mentors and influences deny essential tenets of orthodoxy (which is to affirm heresy) and/or affirm relativism (which is to deny the logic – the law of non-contradiction – that flows from it). Paul not only warns of such vain philosophies, but affirms the un-bendable reality of Jesus as head of all rule and authority precisely because of his resurrection (Ga 2:6-15).

The Bible does not say that we find this understanding by “letting go of our personalities” as Stablie claims is necessary for finding our true selves. In fact, to do so presumes that our personhood, created in the image of God, is bad.  Cron and Stabile’s claim is not that sin is bad as an affront to a just and holy Creator — what’s bad is the loss of our selves. It’s what we must rediscover, they claim, in The Road Back to You. Unfortunately, drivers who follow after Cron and Stabile risk finding themselves on a highway to someplace they don’t want to end up.