Acts 17:11 Archives

Temperaments: a Christian Horoscope?

In response to the modern Christian embracing of "Temperament" teaching, and a general discussion or all such psychograpic categorizations schemas and psychological testing. By Dean VanDruff.

2Cor 5:16 (NKJ) From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

I find MBTI, "The Four Temperaments", and the like do not pass the spiritual sniff test. They smell, in fact, a lot like a horoscope. That might seem like a rash assertion at first, but let us look a little deeper and see what we find.

Consider that God speaks of astrology (horoscopes are the outputs of astrology) in the same breath as witchcraft or sorcery as a practice worthy of death. And what is a horoscope, really? In effect, it is an outside suggestion which forms or reinforces our definition of "self" to pigeonhole certain traits or characteristics in a nicely packaged way. You are the way you are, you do the things you do, because you are a Scorpio or Capricorn or Libra or Pisces; and thus the horoscope shapes, encourages, guides, and reinforces certain tendencies and patterns. The terms used hardly matter; it is the commandeering of "who you are" by power of suggestion that does matter. Sound spiritually familiar? Have you ever thought about why God considers something as entertaining and seemingly harmless as the "personality typing" of being a Sagittarius, or Sanguine, or Sensor, or whatever, so dangerous?

God is obviously trying to get us to take seriously that it is bad enough (a reason to be sent to hell) to have our own self-images; if we sink so low as to turn from this depravity to outside definitions to pattern and pigeonhole "who we are" then we have reached a state of reprobation that is worthy of death. Get it? Rather than go the dangerous direction or reinforcing flesh, instead we should die to self and grow into Christ's image within us. All such "horoscopes" militate against "Christ in us" in the spiritual war of thought, as they are "of the flesh" and "of this world" and "born once" and show a "mind set" on the carnal.

Was Christ a Choleric? Was He proving He was an Introvert on the cross? Was He a Perceiver by starting and not finishing (yet, at least) or a Judger? Was He a Sensor with his miracles, or an Intuitive by His kingdom focus? Eh? By trying to foist these definitions on Christ, hopefully it becomes painfully obvious how anti-Christ and profane these sorts of things are at essence. You cannot "do the will of the Father" and "nothing but" (Jn 5:19) if such notions and self-definitions are floating around in your head. This is a mental war, and accepting such carnal pigeon-holes to shape and explain our behavior is a form of treason to the Kingdom of Christ.

Rom 12:2 (NIV) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed...

1Pt 1:14 (NIV) As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

Eph 4:22-24 (NIV) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Gal 6:8 (NIV) The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction...

Rom 8:5-9,12-13 (NAS) For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God... and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.... So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live...

Eze 20:7 (NIV) ..."Each of you, get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on..."

I would suggest not getting into this sort of thing--and renouncing and repenting of it if you already have--as I hope you can see that it feeds the man of flesh. Rather, let us die to all such "wisdom" and be conformed to the image of Christ. People change. Jesus saves. The whole point of the Gospel is to resurrect into new life. This is the hope and reality we focus on, not on the chords of deceit holding us back to our lower natures.

For example, I was very analytical and morose and reserved when I became a Christian, but God called me to joy, and to love Him with all my heart! As a nerd (another human definition, although not near as compelling as being a Gemini or Phlegmatic) I did not care much for emotions, distrusting them and feeling awkward with them. Well, too bad. God is not interested in human traits abilities or likes/dislikes. He has another "nature" entirely in mind, and with Him "all things are possible".

You and I have to chose between living "in the flesh" and growing by the heavenly Seed planted in us. If I choose to stare at and define who I am by the manure (Php 3:8) I was born into or have become by my own "self"-image; by my tastes and likes and dislikes and abilities and so forth, then I have chosen to sow to my flesh by focusing on it. On the other hand, if a Seed has been planted into me of heavenly DNA, then it will grow and subsume all the dung of my present state as mere fertilizer; and I will become something else entirely along the lines of the pattern or "image" of the Seed. If God has planted His Seed into us, then we will become less manure and more life! So, what are we going to look at, to hold to, to define ourselves (and others) as?

Jas 1:21 (NAS) Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

John 3:6 (NIV) "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."

Gal 4:30 (NIV) But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son."

John 6:63 (NIV) "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing..."

1Cor 5:7 (NIV) Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are...

1Pet 1:23 (NIV) For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable...

Let us turn from the effect case (being effectively the same as a horoscope, and thus giving power to the flesh in us) to the epistemological source / foundation case.

First, at the collegiate level, Laura and I have a saying that puts the epistemological lie in a pithy way.

  • There are only two sorts of people in the world: those who divide people into two groups and those who do not.

  • This sort of joke gives up the lie, and illustrates what is really going on with this sort of thing.

    How much of what is learned in college is this sort of bogus "wisdom"? There are four temperaments--no eight--no five--no ten! Really! Is there some fundamental binary or other structure that gives a basis for making such an otherwise illogical claim? Can we not see this as inherently banal at the start? The asserted number you come up with depends on your base system of considerations, which in this case is wholly arbitrary. Inconsistency and silliness are part and parcel of the "wisdom" of this venue. A makeup "expert" was telling Laura that there are "four seasons" of make-up combinations (mirroring the seasons, of course). We pointed out that there were three or four major hair-color types, times three eye color types, times three or more skin color types. The interplay of these variable yields a lot more than four options. Her response was to look at us like we were Philistines. "Of course there are only four" she replied with a sniff.

    Now if two chemicals put together can only be in one state or another in a gated configuration, and we have two such gates, then only four possibilities exist; if four, sixteen exist; and we have the foundation for a real science. If neurons have only three ways to interact with other neurons, then we can build upon this and perhaps come to some technical understanding of the brain. But can we just "make up" things out of thin air and say: there are four, or five, or seven, willy-nilly! Says who, and more importantly: why?

    The point? Human wisdom of this sort of false-classification is inherently arbitrary and potentially stupid and generally useless. God gave us a hint along this line from the start. And as we see through it, we have to agree. There are four personality types, eh? Why not three, or six, or 15? Until it has been shown that only 4 can exist, then shall we launch out on such thin ice of foundation? I would encourage you--whenever you hear false-categorization paraded as knowledge or wisdom--to smirk a little and say to yourself: "There are only two sorts of people in the world: those who divide people into four personalities and those who do not." <wink>

    We can safely jettison the entire body of this kind of bogus-classification "wisdom" and lose nothing of substance. The only benefit of such that I can see... is that it is bitingly funny in its feigned "knowledge".

    1Cor 3:19 (NIV) For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight.

    In the distant past, all things of earth were thought to come in fours: four seasons, four directions, four elements (of a now defunct physics: earth, air, fire, and water), and four winds. So of course, there were four temperaments as well: Phlegmatic, Sanguine, Choleric, and Melancholy; aligning with the four elements and winds and so forth. You see this a lot in ancient European art, where the four corners of a ceiling are painted with various pagan gods and forces, etc., interwoven into the zodiac. Well, thanks to Tim Lahaye, this ancient occult belief system lives on, even though the psuedo-science underpinnings of it have long since been proven false. The world has long discarded such nonsense, but it sells like hotcakes as The Four Temperaments within the church.

    The similarity between "temperaments", other non-occult variations like MBTI, and the zodiac is very close indeed. They are based on presuppositions that are purely bogus. One says stars effect our lives, the other that we can "assume" the intersection of two psychographs can explain human behavior. Yet in fact, both are clearly irrational at the core and have no basis in common-sense or truth.

    In source and effect, the zodiac and personality typing are very similar indeed, excepting the sacred number of categories, and that horoscopes are thus inherently richer and more fun. If you are going to sin, you might as well do it with some gusto. Pick any of the zodiac and they seem to fit, you can "identify", not so with MBTI or the temperaments. In fact, I cannot identify with any of them except the first, the rest "crash" on me and have no meaning. And if we are going to be silly, why not bring the stars into it instead of assuming a number? I mean, where is the poetry, the emotional mythological grab.... of an arbitrarily assumed number? <smiles> If we are going to disagree with God and improve on the categorizations of the gospel, let us get a little poetic bang for our soul buck.

    Any personality system based on observations of fallen man will of necessity have to be focused on describing unsanctified personalities. In other words, it is "of the flesh".

    Gal 3:3 (NIV) Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

    1Cor 2:13 (NIV) This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

    How should we, how can we, classify people? If you want to put people in boxes, then try on God's sanctioned boxes. God classifies people very crisply. God's classification offends the Greek in us, for it is brutally simple.

  • There are God's people, and the rest. There are those who are "born-again", and the "born once". There are people who "know Him" and whom "He knows", and people who do not know Him and are not known by Him. There is Israel (after the flesh and "spiritual") and the Gentiles. There are the sons of God and the sons of Satan.

  • Two categories. Saved, unsaved. Simple, piercing, spiritual, true.

    So it turns out there really are only two sorts of people after all! <heh, heh> But not by arbitrary human whim, but by God's fundamental design of the universe.

    Thus, I have given up on all sophistries to the contrary, and am adopting God's perspective. I would encourage you along the same line.

    Often the motive or appeal behind The Four Temperaments sort of thing is that it gives us a euphemized excuse for sin. (Also, it catalyses and rationalizes our "natures", but we dealt with that in the first portion.) For example in this venue: I am not a "drunk" but an "alcoholic". Does not the latter sound more morally neutral, more like a condition than a sin? Perhaps I need "treatment" or to be "accepted as I am" rather than to repent? And I am not lazy or indifferent, but "passive" or "introverted", no? I am not a thug or a bully, but "aggressive" or "extroverted", don't you think? I am not ignorant, I am rather a "feeling" person. I am not emotionally stilted, immature, or retarded; but an "intellectual" or "thinker". Or jumping back out of MBTI, I am not perverted but a "sex addict", right?

    Isa 5:20 (NIV) Woe to those who call evil good and good evil...

    Perhaps we could make a lot of money by saying there were 7 personality types, where we took each of the seven deadly sins and euphemized them into personality psychographs? <just kidding> I mean, why be clumsily cunning? Or perhaps we could leave one out so it would be six, the "number" of man. <smirk> Think of the books we could sell hawking such contrived "wisdom". But there is our souls to think of.

    Even in the rare case where things like this do detail something real, they only have meaning or merit to "map" the carnal man. God is not interested in such, He wants to kill-off the carnal man and resurrect something new and eternal according to the gospel.

    1Pet 4:17 (NIV) For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

    2Thes 1:8 (NIV) He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

    Two overarching categories: those who believe in/obey the gospel and those who do not. This is the dichotomy. This is the important, true, and meaningful distinction. God says it thousands of times in Scripture and never deviates from it, yet there are other voices out there suggesting an alternate way of seeing things.

    Are things like The Temperaments Satanic? Well, there is a pathology mentioned along this line in scripture that is rather shocking in conclusion. There is wisdom "from above" such as previously mentioned: the way God categorizes and sees people in clear distinction. On the other hand, there is wisdom that comes from us--from our dust-brains--that is unspiritual; and has a surprise source when you get to the bottom of it. What passes for human wisdom often has an uncredited and unrecognized source.

    Jas 3:15 (NIV) Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.

    What in the world are Christians doing playing around with this stuff?

    Acts 17:11 Bible Studies

    Acts 17:11 Bible Studies Dialogs and Commentary Home Page
    NEXT Dean and Laura VanDruff's Home Page