Carl Jung and Myers Briggs personality tests

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by Padre, Jul 10, 2018.

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  1. Padre

    Padre Puritan Board Freshman

    Hello friends,

    I first heard about Carl Jung in my Doctrine and Christian History classes in which he was introduced as a neo-gnostic occultist. Following my own research I discovered that he was born into a Christian home, but rejected the faith and started to worship Abraxas (gnostic god). In fact he wore a gnostic ring with a serpent on it and is praised as one of the heads of the New Age movement.

    Jung’s ‘sermons to the dead’ and his commentary on the book of Job, are telling of his beliefs. He had many gnostic beliefs, notably a twisted view of God and he wanted to add a fourth person to the Trinity, representing evil. It’s the whole duality that says ‘good needs evil, light needs darkness, yin needs yang’, and so forth. This concept of opposites has been carried over in the material for the Myers Briggs personality tests (MBTI), who’s founders openly credited Carl Jung as the originator of their principles and methodology.

    At the time, I could not find any scriptural support for Jung’s classification of personality types as intrinsic ‘gifts’ that govern the way we behave in any given circumstance. In a way, the MBTI method seemed akin to horoscopes, star signs, fatalism, fortune cookies, blood type, tarot, and other vaguely worded tools for reading ones life.

    So fast forward three years and I went to a conference/retreat where I was surprised to see the Myers Briggs personality test being promoted to evangelicals as a tool for ministry and worship. I was even more surprised when I raised the issue of its Jungian origins to other ministers and they defended it as an important Christian tool. Regardless of its questionable origins, they seemed to believe that the thought could be separated from the thinker.

    My question is this:

    At what point does Gnosticism stop being gnostic?

    And for those who promote Myers Briggs, how can you justify adhering to a philosophy (of personality types) that is unashamedly connected to the teachings of an occultist (Carl Jung)?

    Likewise, has anybody carried out any extensive research into the beliefs of Carl Jung, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers?

    I am not trying to be rude, I just can’t understand the double standard, as it appears that the same Reformed Christians who reject Carl Jung’s unbiblical views, with the same breath accept his teachings in the form of the Myers Briggs personality test. Some going as far to use it to write sermons, plan evangelism and categorise elders.
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If a pagan discovers a common-grace truth, then this makes it no less true. Pythagoras had a cult of mathematics, but his theorem is still true.

    Personality tests can be somewhat useful in seeing behavioral patterns. I think the West gives them too much weight, but "somewhat useful" is how I would label them.
  3. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I don't think that the Meyers-Briggs test or other methods of personality testing are totally reliable, nor do I think that all the qualities it measures are necessarily fixed. However, I did find it helpful as a way of giving a systematic summary of many of my strengths, weaknesses, and dispositions.

    Remember that categorizing personality types goes back to ancient times, at least to Galen. That doesn't mean it's legitimate, but it does mean that it isn't Jungian in its origin, even though Jung had a large role to play in its modern development.

    Think about what the tests actually do. You answer a series of questions, quantifying your habits and dispositions, and it tallies it all up and says, "You're generally like this." That's not fool-proof, but it's not pagan, either. It's just a way of summarizing your normative traits.

    For what it's worth, those who bring this into the church as a tool for structuring a ministry have reckoned themselves wiser than God. There's no place for that kind of thing in the order of the church of Christ.
  4. Padre

    Padre Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for your reply.

    I think this would lead me to more questions:
    Firstly, can Jung’s categories of personality types be considered verifiable truth, separate from his gnostic philosophy?
    Secondly, what value do personality types have if they are subjective?
  5. Padre

    Padre Puritan Board Freshman

    TylerRay, thanks for your reply.

    I concur and I continue to wonder whether the categories can honestly be considered objective or if they box people in to an unbiblical way of thinking and acting.
  6. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    The results of the tests are empirical. They are, by their nature, separate from his gnostic philosophy. His interpretations of the results may not be, but the tests rather clearly and demonstrably group people by the general tenor of their social predilections. We can then correlate those groupings with outcomes and see their value (or lack thereof). This is all independent of whatever errant worldview or philosophy Jung might have had.

    I don't think the tests have nearly as much value as pop psychology would lead you to believe these days, but I don't think that's due to Jung's issues.
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    No, I don't think it (or any soft-science) can be classified as verifiable truth in the same manner as mathematics. And I would not even call psychology a "science" since its "truths" are mere working theories that get replaced every 3 or 4 decades or so.

    I think there is use. Personality tests are subjective but not totally so.

    For instance, when I became a missionary with an evangelical org, I was made to take several personality tests (which is evidence of the poor state of evangelical missions and which practice I object to, but that is another post).

    From those tests, I poo-poo'd a lot of it, but was impressed by how these tests could summarize how I would react in predictable situations, the ENTJ classification did fit me.
  8. Padre

    Padre Puritan Board Freshman

    I am not sceptical of personality type indicators as a whole, rather the reason I am directly associating Myers Briggs with Jung, is because their own material uses Jung as an authoritative support for their explanations for each type. See their book ‘Introduction to Type’.

    Many secular psychologists and pop sources accept personality indicators, but they reject Jung’s MBTI classifications as pseudoscience and subjective.

    · Here is an in-depth critique of MBTI by Vox:

    · Psychology Today:

    · Smithsonian Mag:

    · Huffington Post:

    · Fortune:

    · Wired:

    · Forbes:

    Jung’s definitions of ‘Sensing and Intuitive’ were used in the Greco-Roman Latin understandings. Therefore, his basis was not empirical, rather he appealed to philosophy and gnosis. In other words, knowledge of self and identity is found in self, rather than God revealed in scripture.

    The founders of Myers Briggs carried Jung's understanding over and they explained that their motive for creating MBTI was to make Jung’s type classifications available to the masses, who were not familiar or accepting of Jung’s teachings.

    I am not trying to be pedantic, but it seems like Christians are holding on to MBTI while the secular world has moved on.

    My questions are now:

    In what ways are Myers Briggs classifications better than the modern classifications for personality type?

    What was Jung’s motives for adapting his version of personality types in the first place?

    Is there any evidence that Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers separated their model from gnostic philosophy?
  9. Padre

    Padre Puritan Board Freshman

    I understand and I guess I’m not behaving like a very good ISFJ ;) but Jung said “everybody is an exemption to the rule”, which makes me wonder, how there can be a ‘rule’ if everybody is an exemption to it?
  10. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    I actually have a background in psychological test and measurement analysis and development and, as such, have a pretty good understanding of the MBTI, though it's been a decade or more since I've been conversant with the scholarly research on the topic. I think your first question is a good one and the answer is, they aren't. Most of the research on the MBTI shows that it has very poor validity and is not generalizable to social paradigms in the manner in which consultants and pop psychologists purport it to be. The difficulty, however, with better instruments is that they are generally much more time consuming to administer and much more expensive to acquire the training and license for which are tightly controlled in most cases.

    On a more fundamental level, however, I think that you are committing a genetic fallacy with respect to the test. If, for the sake of argument, the test did in fact demonstrate reliability and validity such that it accurately predicted interpersonal dynamics and success in particularly roles or occupations, Jung's motivations in developing the categories would be virtually irrelevant. Of course, Myers-Briggs deviated from Jungian models in developing it to begin with, but its usefulness is an empirical question. It doesn't matter what Fleming's motivations were when he discovered penicillin. It matters for his standing before God, of course, but it doesn't affect our use of the discovery. That doesn't mean that the root of something is always irrelevant as there is the question of scandal, but I don't believe that Jungian categories carry the cultural cache or consciousness (pardon the alliteration) that scandal is a concern in this case.
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  11. Padre

    Padre Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you very much for your response.

    I think you answered my question well in your first paragraph and have given me food for thought in your second paragraph.

    As you have a background in psychological tests, I am wondering if you aware of any personality tests or psychotherapy methods that have their basis in scripture?
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I was a big fan of Jung back in my Hegelian days. But when I started studying his background, the darkness is really clear.

    But even when I liked Jung, I always thought the Myers test was bogus. I change my personality all the time.
  13. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm not aware of any tests that specifically have their basis in Scripture, but, again, I've been out of the field for some time. The MMPI was the gold-standard when I was working with such tests and was developed to be atheoretical, that is, it was developed based on empirical categories rather than starting from a particularly theory of psychology or psychopathology and developing a test to match.

    Nouthetic counselling claims to be based on Biblical principles but I really don't know much about it. I was involved more on the research than the counselling side of the discipline. It didn't have much of a presence at the university I studied at and none of the clinical psychologists I was acquainted with practiced it, so there are probably others who can explain it in more detail.
  14. Padre

    Padre Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for your reply, yes it only takes a little digging to unearth just how dark and occult Jung was. It is still mystery for me why Christians give his research any weight. I have learned to remember that there are Pastors and Elders who genuinely have no idea about Jung's history and there are also those who know full well what they are introducing to the church.

    One of the problems I have with Myers Briggs is how it over simplifies and generalises personality traits. It's like a psychic saying "I think there is someone in the audience who has lower back pain", or a fortune cookie saying "you are about to make a big decision that is going to make you happy". The likelihood is that there are quite a few people who fit that character. Likewise, Myers Briggs uses vague terminology and false dialectics to make people identify with one of their 16 personality types. It is the same principle under different packaging.
  15. Padre

    Padre Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you very much for your reply, I will definitely look into MMPI and Nouthetic counselling.
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