(421) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: CHRISTIANITY TODAY, MYSTICISM & THE ENNEAGRAM (Part 1)

CHRISTIANITY TODAY: “An Evangelical’s Guide to the Enneagram”73320

It is sometimes difficult to understand how quickly Evangelical Christians can forsake the word of God to follow after new trends, new practices, and new traditions. Evangelicals are known for their reliance on God’s word for direction and doctrine, however, they are seemingly becoming more and more influenced by society and many are following after practices that don’t have their origin in Scripture. 

Related to these trends, the premier Evangelical magazine publication CHRISTIANITY TODAY (CT), continues to include articles that further move Evangelicalism from its foundation.   Articles can be seen which promote other religions such as Eastern Religions with the justification that similar practices can be found in Christianity, therefore, we might as well learn what we can from these other belief systems to better equip us in our walk.  Just as troubling is the promotion of other types of mysticism.  Common sources include ancient Roman Catholic mystical practices. These practices can be found in some Roman Catholic churches as well as related church groups.  The ironic thing is that not everyone within Roman Catholicism accepts these mystical practices and in some cases speak out against them.  

Today, Protestant Churches and para-church groups are actively learning these practices involving mysticism – either from ancient Roman Catholic sources (e.g. the Desert Fathers) or even Eastern Mysticism from Eastern religions.  In our previous posting (#420), we discussed how these practices can be mixed in with postmodernism.  This has been originally associated with a more traditional, liturgical mainline denomination that has followed after these trends.  However, today, many Evangelical groups are flocking into these practices – some of which have their origin in these other sources of mysticism and not the Bible.  

An example of these trends playing out within Evangelicalism includes the CHRISTIAN AND MISSIONARY ALLIANCE CHURCH, and their related seminary and Bible colleges. I want to stress, that I could have pulled out examples from many different Evangelical churches.  Schools like Nyack, are falling head over heals into mystical practices such as, lectio divina, contemplative prayer, spiritual formation,……etc.   Mystics such as the popular Roman Catholic priest RICHARD ROHR are becoming even more profound.  Front and center on the “Nyack’s College of Arts & Sciences January 2014 Facebook Page & Blog” is Dr. James P. Danaher’s newest book: The Second Truth complete with Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico endorsement.

Note also that Danaher’s new book is also endorsed by one Maggie Ross.  Ross, a mystic Anglican solitary, is the author of several books including Writing the Icon of the Heart, which in turn, was endorsed (no surprise) by James P. Danaher, author of Contemplative Prayer: A Theology for the Twenty-first CenturyFr. Richard Rohr, Founding Director, Center for Action and Contemplation; and John H. Armstrong, President, ACT3 Network.  (See previous blog: “The Naked Now at Nyack.”)

For more Rohr scroll down the Nyack Arts & Sciences Facebook Page to find a prominent photograph of the Oneing: An Alternative Orthodoxy (The Perennial Tradition)  explored by 21st. century thinkers including:   Richard Rohr, Mark S. Burrows, Ilia Delio, David G. Benner, John L. Esposito, Diana Butler Bass, Mary Beth Ingham, James P. Danaher, Robert Sardello, Jamie L. Manson, James D. Kirylo, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley.

James P. Danaher, Nyack College Philosophy Chair, postmodern and contemplative author of four Rohr-endorsed  books, and advisor to and writer for Rohr’s Oneing journal.  

In the most recent issue of CT is and article titled – AN EVANGELICAL’S GUIDE TO THE ENNEAGRAM.  The growing popularity of the ENNEAGRAM follows after other more traditional practices found from the early church, Roman Catholic practices and actually similar practices found in other religions such as Eastern Mysticism. If you are an Evangelical and that statement shocks you – CONGRATULATIONS – there is still hope for biblical discernment!

WHAT IS THE ENNEAGRAM?   The enneagram (ennea means “nine” in Greek, and gram means “line drawing”) is commonly promoted today as a personality analysis.  It has been a popular tool among Catholic groups who commonly offer workshops and retreats where it is introduced and utilized. 

In the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions by Nichols, Mather, & Schmidt, it is defined as follows: 

Enneagram (»astrology; »occult). A circle divided into nine equal points. The ennegram is rooted in the Kabbalist (see »Kabbala) tradition, astrology, and »divination. The numbers are linked to personality types. The enneagram has come into popular usage among many people today; there is a growing number of books written about how to understand and use it.  [Nichols, L. A., Mather, G. A., & Schmidt, A. J. (2006). In Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions (p. 391). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.]

The following diagram illustrates this structure along with its personality types:

Untitled copy

Most people who are familiar with the enneagram, use it for classifying personality types – “What’s your number?” Christianity Today describes it as follows

Most simply, the Enneagram is a system of categorizing people with a number—one through nine—that represents a core motivation or orientation to others and the world. Clearly these “types” do not explain or capture the whole of a person—and clearly we can imagine many more types of people than nine. Rather, the numbers are what Cron calls “imprecise maps” for how a person moves through the world. Most of the time, each person is a combination of at least two numbers.

Most personality tests such as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator seek to identify personality “traits,” like introversion or intuition. The Enneagram goes deeper, looking at the motivations behind our traits. Traits are “partial giveaways” to what’s really going on, write Cron and Suzanne Stabile in the IVP book. The Enneagram aims to take users to the root.

The language of “blinders” is helpful here. Blinders assume blind spots. Put in the right hands, the Enneagram is a tool to show people how their inner life blinds them to certain patterns and motivations— even to certain virtues. But blinders also assume focus. At its best, the Enneagram aims to show why we impulsively go a particular direction in our imagination, why our hearts burn for one thing over another, or why we are exceptionally driven in certain areas and not in others.

Several mystic groups, used the enneagram for numerological divination. The enneagram was important as a means of divination to foretell future events, as well as a tool to represent life processes, such as personal transformation.  Numerology is an occult science which holds that the characteristics of people and virtually everything in the universe are determined by numbers, and that such characteristics can be divined if the people or things individual numbers can be identified .  

Historically, there have been several variations on how the enneagram is used.  One method uses the numerological background of the Sufi decimal point symbolism in understanding personality dynamics. For example, the number one gets worse by following the direction of the arrow on the line connected to type four; four gets worse by becoming like a two, and so forth.  People improve by moving in the direction opposite the arrows; that is, a one gets better by becoming like by becoming like a seven, a seven should become like a five, and so on. “Remember, that this inner dynamic of the six-point figure and of the triangle is based on the numerology of dividing seven into one or three into one, a dynamic rooted in occultism and divination”.  This occultic dynamic was a structure into which was conformed the nine personality  types  and their inner principle of spiritual improvement or regression.  Many people accept this and adjust their spiritual and psychological life to these principles.

There are three main problem areas that surface when one studies the background  of the Enneagram.  We will continue this in the next posting.

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