Tools are fashioned in the image of their user. Hammers are productive in the hands of carpenters and malignant in the hands of an angry mob. Spiritual tools are a little more complicated than material tools, because souls are complicated. Prayer walking, guided meditation, and lectio divina can wield wonders in the hands of a mature Christian, counselor, or spiritual director. They can also wield destruction in the hands of someone who has only read a pamphlet or written a blog post.

Like every tool, a popular self-assessment test known as the Enneagram has the capacity to heal or to harm, depending on how it’s used. In the first Enneagram resource from an evangelical publisher, InterVarsity Press’s new release The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, coauthor Ian Morgan Cron calls new Enneagram fans “number thumpers.” They “run around typing people and pets, hacking off family members, and alienating people who have no idea what they’re jabbering about,” he writes.

The Enneagram is not a spiritual tool, per se, but it is increasingly being used as one in church classes and faith-based counseling settings. Its origins are obscure. We do know that it was introduced in the West in the 1970s by Chilean psychiatrists, then adopted by Jesuit priests and popularized in 1992 by Franciscan spiritual director Richard Rohr’s Discovering the Enneagram: An Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey.

My description thus far probably doesn’t give evangelicals warm feelings. Indeed, some connect the Enneagram’s roots to Sufism (Islamic mysticism), while others see in the Enneagram a Gnosticism that encourages users to find their “hidden,” true self. ...

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