Relatively free in the cities but persecuted in the countryside, the church in Vietnam has grown rapidly in grace and numbers
The Bible says every human being—unborn or born, young or old, male or female—bears the image of God. But like fingerprints, no two persons, not even identical twins, are truly identical. God creates each person unique, and the Holy Spirit possesses the unique power to transform sinners into the likeness of Christ.
Or maybe all you need is the right personality test.
According to the Enneagram Institute, the Enneagram is a personality inventory developed with “components from mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy.” Oscar Ichazo, a Bolivian-born philosopher-mystic, developed contemporary Enneagram theory in the 1960s. Based on Ichazo’s belief that the ego becomes stuck in childhood, the Enneagram identifies ego fixations that inform nine basic personality types. Variants of Enneagram theory abound—including Christianized versions—but undergirding each is the belief that self-knowledge empowers personal transformation.
Some evangelicals agree. Frank Powell, a blog editor for Bayside Church, a multisite congregation in Sacramento, writes, “The Enneagram is about transformation.” Powell suggests, “The first step in transformation is self-awareness,” and asserts, “You can experience heaven right now.”
In three posts about the Enneagram, Powell fails to mention the presence, power, or necessity of the Holy Spirit but affirms, “The Enneagram is about spiritual transformation.”
Likewise, Otter Creek Church, a 1,500-member congregation near Nashville, Tenn., offered a weekend Enneagram conference last spring. The conference advertised the Enneagram to Christians as a way to help them “fulfill Jesus’ mission of loving God and loving others.”
Both Bayside and Otter Creek churches confess the power of the Holy Spirit for spiritual transformation in their respective statements of faith. But they also ascribe transformative power to the Enneagram.
A search on the website of Christian Book Distributors yields more than 15 titles applying the Enneagram to Christian counseling, parenting, or church work. And even ChristianityToday.com recently offered “The Enneagram for Pastors,” furnishing shepherding advice to each Enneagram type based on that type’s purported weaknesses.
A personality test may offer true personal insights, but according to the Bible, only the Holy Spirit renews a human mind to live according to God’s “good and acceptable and perfect” will (Romans 12:2). The Bible, not a personality test, reveals His will. While the Holy Spirit may use the Enneagram for spiritual good, He has promised to use the Word, sacraments, and prayer.
Only the Holy Spirit turns information into transformation. Self-knowledge is interesting, but apart from the Holy Spirit it is also impotent.
Leaven and Lent
In the Christian tradition, Lent and self-deprivation go hand in hand. During Lent, Christians remember Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice, and in small ways emulate it by choosing to forsake something—whether chocolate or Facebook—while also renouncing personal sin.
At least that’s the way it used to be.
On Feb. 14 the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the teaching arm of America’s largest LGBT advocacy group, launched its third annual daily Lenten devotional. The LGBT-affirming religious meditations serve HRC’s mission to “create a world where nobody is forced to choose between who they are, whom they love and what they believe.”
Jesus, though, demanded exactly that decision. He called a rich young ruler to forsake his money and an adulterous woman to forsake her adultery. Every Christian must forsake himself, take up his cross, and follow.
HRC, by affirming homosexual behavior, offers what Jesus never did: Have your sin and have Him too. —R.S.J.