Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Authority of Scripture, the Enneagram, and faithfulness

Is the tent too big or is it too deep? But this isn’t about people; instead it’s about the Christian faith. How do we know who Jesus is? How are we sure of our salvation and the righteousness Christ has given to us? How do we know that the work of Christ is sufficient? Where is our authority?

Our new Vice-Moderator, Rev. Landon Whitsitt, referring to Phyllis Tickle and her book, The Great Emergence, states “Sola Scriptoria is dead most places and dying rapidly in others.”[1] So the emerging and progressive side of the church will now, it seems, look in all directions for authority.

The sign of this is the various kinds of technique that leaders within the church offer as a means of meeting what seems to be lacking in the salvation Jesus provides. If proclamation is not grounded in the word of God, hell will provide its own version of authority.

For instance in an upcoming conference on church transformation posted on the PCUSA web site, 2010 Transformation Conference brochure, it seems the Enneagram might override the authority of Scripture The lady chosen to deal with spirituality, Suzanne Stabile, is the expert on the Enneagram. A video introduction can be heard here: Enneagram Intro or quickerIntro.

In the introduction she states that Paul, in his 7th chapter of Romans would have had an answer to why he could not do what he wished to do if he had known about the Enneagram. She also tells her new students that their introduction to the Enneagram will be equivalent to having children or “Jesus coming into your life.” She also speaks of the emerging church and states that we need “an added value that stands aside from all our differences.” For Stabile this is the Enneagram.

The Enneagram, in reality, has its roots in the occult and was first introduced by George Gurdjieff an occultist and founder of Esoteric Christianity. (Although many including Stabile consider it to be ancient there is no prove that it is.) The Ennagram filtered into the Catholic Church through the teaching of Chilean Oscar Ichazo, another occultist who developed, alongside others, a numbering system which supposedly applies to personalities. Father Robert Ochs trained with Ichazo as did others in the Catholic faith.[2]

I use this as an example, although I think this particular teaching in the church should be addressed. What can the orthodox in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) do as they watch their faith be torn apart, the Holy Scriptures devalued and the morality of the Church dismissed as unimportant?

Only what Christians everywhere and in all times have done. Remain faithful to the Lord of the Church and the word of God. Keep proclaiming, teaching, praying and worshiping according to the apostolic witness of God’s word. That is, keep proclaiming that Jesus Christ died for our sins. Keep telling the good news that in our union with the resurrected Jesus we are adorned with his righteousness. His work is sufficient.

Keep insisting that the word of God written is the Bible. Sola Scriptoria: our authority.

In some cases faithfulness means participating in renewal work. But above all it means walking straight ahead on the path that Jesus Christ has chosen for each of us individually and together as his Church. Some will leave this denomination. That is the judgment God gives as he begins the work of blowing out the candles of the western mainline churches. (We can still repent and be renewed but that is God’s other business) Some, including me, will remain because God has called us to be faithful in this place.

Paul’s advice to Timothy comes as truth for now and a bit of a pun for our moment.

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn to myths” (2 Timothy 4: 1-4). (my italics.)

[1] See my posting Sweeping Church History: A review of The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why
[2] An excellent article about the Enneagram is Tell me who I am O Enneagram by Mitchell Pacwa S.J.


will spotts said...

“Sola Scriptoria is dead most places and dying rapidly in others.”

Dead according to whom?

It has always been dead to those who chose not to follow Scripture. It hasn't changed. People haven't changed. This suggests the absurd notion that we are too sophisticated now, or that we have increased in our understanding to the point that we have outpaced it.

It is not dead because it is not true, it is "dead" in the opinion of those who don't want it to be true.

That has always been the contention of those who rejected Scripture as authority because they didn't like what it said. It has always been the impulse to pick what you like and cling to it, and reject what you don't. Here (delusional and self-serving) this impulse is being given free rein.

Interestingly, the ones sounding this new tone have been the same ones who have argued that interpretation of Scripture was impossible (or any interpretation was valid), who have berated theological 'conservatives' for their selective readings - sometimes rightly, often quite falsely. These same people - who depend on the non-reliability of Scripture attempt (with varying degrees of competence and incompetence) to use Scripture to harangue those who disagree with them.

Viola Larson said...

Will I agree with all that you write. And I found in the interview nothing that assures the Church that Jesus Christ is Lord and that our leaders are framing our future around his leading. It is as though inclusiveness and emergent is the two main topics that will rule the day.

Anonymous said...

Our new Vice-Moderator, Rev. Landon Whitsitt . . . states “Sola Scriptoria is dead most places and dying rapidly in others.” Whitsitt fails to state by what authority he is able to make such a broad declaration. Christians through the last 20 centuries have rather died for their faith in Jesus Christ as our "solid Rock," rather than wander in sinking sand. Maybe Whitsitt hasn't yet felt the sand sinking under his feet.
Brad Larson

Noel said...

I read Tickle's book. She builds her arguments on facile view of church history--one that artificially slices up the centuries in order to "prove" that something really big is happening or about to happen, and the church has got to get with or lose out. This is pure hype--the same stuff that fills church leaders' shelves for very short periods. After generating something like anxiety over the possibility of "missing out," Tickle takes pot-shots at traditional Christianity, which has always been a very easy target. Unfortunately, her alarmism fails to do justice to the Church's resilience through all of the former upheavals of history. The sky is not falling; there is no reason to go sniffing after newly-hyped hermeneutics.

Viola Larson said...

Agreed Noel,

And notice that while she starts with 500 year spans her time lines get longer and longer in order to make her theory work.

will spotts said...

It occurs to me that the authority of Scripture may be less the point. Yes, it is certainly being challenged - including expressly in Tickle's work.

But it strikes me that people misunderstand (intentionally in some cases, accidentally in others) the concept of biblical authority. People often hatefully and falsely portray this as something coercive or 'authoritarian' in the arrogant sense.

The more important consideration is the truth of Scripture. Sola Scriptura presupposes the truth of Scripture. It also presupposes that Scripture is plainly able to be understood - though not all parts in equally isolation. I think what we're dealing with in many cases is not (contrary to the arguments often advanced) differing understandings of the meaning of Scripture as much as plain disbelief in its truth.

Viola Larson said...

I think Whitsitt said both, perhaps without meaning to. To say scripture has no authority is rejecting scripture. Since he doesn't believe in the authority of scripture how does he believe anything.

Pastor Bob said...

From Iona Kells Theme (from CD Book of Kells)

His word shall live forever
His word shall live forever
The word is a sword that pierces the heart
The truth is a light that cuts through the dark
Of this world

Nations shall rise, nations shall fall,
Nothing shall stand
In the way of the word

The word is a sword that pierces the heart
The truth is a light that cuts through the dark
Of this world

Nations shall rise, nations shall fall,
Nothing shall stand
In the way of the word

pretty much says it all, yes?

Viola Larson said...


Doug Hagler said...

It's really too bad this was people's introduction to the Enneagram. I find it to be an excellent tool, and it is no more "occultic" than Myers-Briggs or other personality inventories that are used everywhere, including in psychological assessment of every ministry candidate in most Protestant denominations.

I had a great conversation about the Enneagram just last night, actually, and have found it to be incredibly valuable in my ministry both in the hospital as a chaplain and in the parish, as well as in my own personal development.

But then again, Viola would never call me "orthodox" Presbyterian.

For anyone else, though, I recommend reading about the Enneagram for yourself if you're interested in personality inventories/assessments of any kind. It is the best one I've encountered by far.

Viola Larson said...


The history of the enneagram, which I have provided here with a link is a fact. You may not be using it that way but that is its foundation. And in this case, Susan Stabile, it is being used as an idol set beside , really even above Jesus Christ and his word.

Doug Hagler said...

@ Viola

The history you linked to does have some facts, as well as some conjecture, and it is far from exhaustive. I'm using the enneagram, and continue to use it (I used it today, actually, to great effect) the only way I've seen it used - as a tool for understanding ourselves and other people. I think the article "Tell me who I am, O Enneagram" is actually quite ignorant of it's own topic.

Not that it's really that important one way or another. Just, for the record, I don't think what you're reacting against is the enneagram, but rather whatever this person I've never met was saying and doing, which sounds pretty foolish.

Christine E. said...

Hello, Folks ~ Having just come from Suzanne Stabile's presentation on the Enneagram in Albuquerque, I have to say that I think your attack on the Enneagram and her work with it is sorely misguided. Consider all of us folks saved by the blood of the Lamb. Are we not still, like Paul, caught in the ways of the flesh much of the time inhibiting the exercise of our own freedom in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit . . . and adding confusion and discord to the Body of Christ. The Enneagram can help one identify one's habitual pattern of sinning . . . and freshly bring one to ones knees (again) before our restoring, forgiving Saviour. It is a tool that can provide a structure for "speaking the truth in love" within the beloved community. This is how Suzanne Stabile presents it, and with a healthy dose of humor. Many of her statements such as the ones you quoted are not presented as sober truths . . . but are provocative and meant to be funny. Okay, I did wince a bit when she compared meeting the Enneagram to meeting Jesus. She had to be using hyperbole (one of Jesus' favorite ways of making a point). She is a woman deeply grounded in her faith speaking to people that I imagine she assumes are deeply grounded in their own love and dependence upon the Lord. The Christ of Holy Scripture alone saves and redeems. The Holy Spirit that Scripture says was given to his followers empowers and guides us to walk in His Way. The Enneagram might be an assist in this walk, opening one's eyes to the particular potholes and delusional mountaintops that seduce even His most devoted followers. There is nothing in Ms. Stabile's understanding of the Enneagram that suggests that it has salvific power . . . but it can help one see one's ongoing and desperate need of Christ Jesus, maybe even and especially the proud and doctrinally correct.

Christine Wagner

Viola Larson said...

“The Enneagram can help one identify one's habitual pattern of sinning . . . and freshly bring one to ones knees (again) before our restoring, forgiving Saviour. It is a tool that can provide a structure for "speaking the truth in love" within the beloved community.”
This comment alone is telling. Anytime such a tool, outside of Scripture, is used by the body to as you say-“Speak the truth in love,” there will be spiritual manipulation. This is one of the very reasons some are bothered by the enneagram.

Let me suggest instead, Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together which helps the reader to understand that all of our relationships are mediated through Jesus Christ.

And I listened to the video. If those are jokes they are not funny.

Marcia said...

I find your comments on the Enneagram to be most insightful. I am right now writing an article on the Enneagram - not so much its history but an attempt to provide a biblical evaluation of it. I am astounded and saddened it has entered the church. Your last comment to someone who objected to what you said really hit the nail on the head. Thanks, Viola!

Viola Larson said...

Hi Marcia,
I just realized that was you. I miss seeing you. Please send me a link to your article when you are finished and I will post the link on my blog.