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As I wrote yesterday, a number of seminarians know what their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is.

There is a bone of contention as to whether seminaries should be using a secular test based on Carl Jung’s theories and advanced by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers.

‘The Cult of Personality’ from PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries emphasises the MBTI’s un-Christian nature:

The Bible has the truth about mankind. Personality tests, at their best, are a combination of information and misinformation, truth and fiction, cobbled together. We have recommended for years that Christians refrain from using personality tests and, if possible, refuse to take them. Understanding the self comes from the Bible, not from the imaginative and even educated guesses of humans, who are by nature self-deceived.

Christians should not administer or take the MBTI or its variations. For both biblical and scientific reasons, the MBTI and its variations should not be used to evaluate individuals for Christian service or for personal understanding. Contrary to the Bible, contrary to its apparent occult roots, and contrary to the scientific research, Christians and Christian organizations continue to use the MBTI and its variations. This cannot be pleasing to God!

Perhaps not. However, the seduction of the MBTI is that it is probably the most comprehensive personality assessment to date. If you’ve ever looked at the others, such as the enneagram or Keirsey, you’ll know what I mean, although these, too, are used.

That is not saying that everyone must take MBTI or that they should. Nor is this saying that the MBTI results outweigh Christian formation.

However, Professor Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Living at Columbia Theological Seminary, wrote an interesting article about the book Personality Type and Religious Leadership, by Oswald and Kroeger. Galindo explains:

Personality Type and Religious Leadership reports the result of research done by Roy M. Oswald and Otto Kroeger at the former Alban Institute. Around 1983 Oswald began using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to help church professionals across denominations understand better themselves, their ministries and the people they serve.

Seminaries look for the best fit — e.g. congregational, missionary, youth work and hospice — for those seeking ordination. Some of the faculty no doubt evaluate placement of ordinands after having got to know them through three years of courses and counselling.

Others incorporate the MBTI as part of the candidate’s seminary profile (emphases in the original):

Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, IN; Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) requires it or a similar test for Second Year students:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Complete this or a similar assessment instrument.

Asbury Seminary (Methodist) uses it with those involved in campus ministry:

A retreat model can be developed which will enable campus ministry participants to understand their own personality type (utilizing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and discover a devotional style for this stage in their lives by experimenting with methods of prayer and meditation which draw upon one or another of the four mental

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Methodist) lists it as a requirement for their DMin in Spiritual Direction:

Spirituality, Diversity, and the Global Landscape

Examines the multi-cultural, ethnic, and religious dynamics that shape spiritual practice and the context in which spiritual formation is taught and nurtured.

Direction Module Two: The spiritual journey, developmental issues, and the use of evaluative tools, including the Myers-Briggs Inventory and the Enneagram.

Indiana Wesleyan University (Methodist) has a page on MBTI and includes a sample report:

Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment, our career coaches can help you identify job families and occupations that are a good fit for your reported MBTI type.

Calvin College (Reformed):

We’d like to know a little bit about you so we can more effectively divide the class into teams. If you haven’t determined your Myers-Briggs personality type, please do so now (see the reading guide).

They also suggest that faculty members lecture on their own MBTI results to help students in career development:

1. Making presentations to your class on a topic of your choice, for example:

  • Myers-Briggs personality/career assessment administration and interpretation

Covenant Theological Seminary (Presbyterian Church of America) has a faculty member, Dr Philip Douglass, who is Professor of Practical Theology and also heads a church consulting firm, Douglass and Associates:

Phil has specific expertise in church planting, intra-church communication, discernment of pastoral calling, and troubleshooting difficult issues, and is unusually gifted for dealing with these concerns.  Skill, experience, training, and giftedness combine for a potent readiness to consult in these areas.

Phil received his Bachelor of Arts from Washington and Lee University, a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his Doctor of Philosophy in Education from St. Louis University.  He has also received certified training with the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory (MBTI©). 

Covenant’s Alumni and Placement Services Director, Joel Hathaway

is certified in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree with a focus on leadership issues in the church.

Gordon-Conwell requires an MBTI as part of a student’s general appraisal and Spiritual Formation for Ministry course:

All Master of Divinity students should have completed at the onset of seminary the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Students should bring copies of this test score to class on July 13-14. Students who have not taken this inventory should contact Dr. Klipowicz soon enough to set up a time to take it and have it scored before the second class period. There will be a charge of $20 to take the test. Students who have completed the MBTI in other contexts should familiarize themselves with their type profiles before the second class.

The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (Washington state) uses MBTI. Practitioner Stephen Crippen writes:

In the College [for Congregational Development] and also in our consulting work, the trainers and consultants are skilled in applying the Myers-Briggs Typology Indicator (MBTI) to our work on congregational development, helping teams and even whole congregations improve their communication skills, handle conflict, and more.

I am also a practitioner of the MBTI in my work as a psychotherapist with couples and individuals, and I recently used the instrument with a graduate theology/psychology class, helping them learn the theory, discern their personality preferences, and explore ways to apply the learning.

Christ the King Seminary (Roman Catholic) offers an Emotional Intelligence workshop led by Sister Shawn Czyzycki, CSSF, MA, MBTI Cert.:

Sister Shawn holds a bachelor’s degree from the New School University in New York City, a master’s degree from Binghamton University in Management with a concentration in Human Resource Management, and in 2012, became a certified practitioner of MBTI Step I and Step II instruments.

Other seminaries or Christian institutions using the MBTI include Denver Seminary, Ambrose University College  (Christian and Missionary Alliance / Church of the Nazarene in Canada), Oral Roberts University, World Christian Discipleship, Birmingham Theological Seminary (Alabama) and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Of course, as we have seen over the past week of posts on introversion, some experts view certain MBTI types as being better than others. The following study abstract from the Journal of Psychological Type illustrates this clearly. I’m amazed that a group of secular psychologists thinks they know what type a clergyman should be (emphases mine):

A sample of 81 male Evangelical [Low Church Anglican] seminarians completed Form G (Anglicised) of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument. The predominant types were ISTJ (19%) and ESFJ (17%). In the group as a whole, there were clear preferences for Extraversion over Introversion, for Sensing over Intuition, for Thinking over Feeling, and for Judging over Perceiving. The distribution of types among this sample was compared with types of a sample of male Anglican clergy in Wales. The results consistently point to the overrepresentation of Thinking types and the under representation of Feeling types among Evangelical seminarians. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

Thinking is needed to evangelise. Thinking is needed for sermon writing. In any event, ESFJs are the second largest grouping. Note that both predominant types are sensing. And, yes, they will have to make decisions about how the parish operates as well as to how they will spread the Gospel. Therefore, Judging (seeking resolution more than passing judgement) is an important skill.

However, at least one Anglican clergyman and more Roman Catholic clergy are re-evaluating whether certain personality tests should be given in seminary, because of their dubious foundations. Catholic Culture has an interesting article about the esoteric roots of the enneagram:

For nearly two decades, the promotion of the enneagram in Catholic retreat houses, parish spirituality programs, and parochial schools, its use as a psychological screening test for candidates to the priesthood and religious life, have caused concern to many Catholics in the United States, Canada, and Australia, who instinctively recognized it as a New Age device that leads Catholics into a spiritual program of “self-discovery” saturated with the “secret wisdom” of ancient Sufis, gnostics, and one-world religion syncretists.  

The article goes on to say that an Anglican clergyman, the Revd Ed Hurd of Anglican Renewal Ministries in Canada has looked at similar implications which the MBTI might have with regard to Carl Jung. Hurd asks:

To use a visual picture, is the MBTI the ‘marijuana,’ the low-level entry drug that potentially opens the door to the more hard-core Jungian involvement, or is it just a harmless sugar tablet? …

In speaking of Buddhism and Christianity, Jung taught the now familiar interfaith dialog line, that ‘both paths are right.’ Jung spoke of Jesus, Mani, Buddha, and Lao-Tse as ‘pillars of the spirit,’ saying, I could give none preference over the other.’ The English Theologian Don Cupitt says that Jung pioneered the multifaith approach now widespread in the Church

In light of our current Canadian controversies around ‘Mother Goddess’ hymnbooks, it is interesting to read in the MBTI source book. Psychological Types (Carl Jung, 1921), about the ‘Gnostic prototype, viz, Sophia, an immensely significant symbol for the Gnosis.’ Carl Jung is indeed the grandfather of much of our current theology …

My recurring question is: ‘Do we in ARM Canada wish to be directly or indirectly sanctioning this kind of teaching?’ Symbolically, the MBTI can be thought of as a ‘freeze-dried’ version of Jung’s Psychological Types (1921). Since PT teaches extensively about Jung’s archetypes and collective unconscious, it seems clear to me that to endorse the ‘freeze-dried’ MBTI is ultimately to endorse Jung’s archetypal, occultic philosophy.

Catholic Culture concludes:

Rev. Hird’s questions — and answers — should be of interest to officials of the NCCB’s Doctrine Committee.

It will be interesting to see where Christian institutions are with personality tests five or ten years from now.

Personally, I have read nothing of Jung in the interpretation of MBTI personality types which, unlike the enneagram (which I do not intend to take), does not make judgement calls on people’s character.

The MBTI can be useful and fascinating but it is to be hoped that we exercise discernment in using it. Children, for example, are too young to take it but a version of MBTI is being given in some schools as part of a pupil assessment.

Tomorrow’s post concludes this series on introversion with a look at the online world.


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