Dialog's Theological Autobiographies
Oxford, Week 3

L Gregory Jones on Myers-Briggs

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator combines the techniques of the therapist and the manger, purporting to be a neutral tool that identifies my "personality type" within manageable categories that can be used to differentiate those with whom I am compatible from those with whom I am not. Even more, bureaucratic structures in churches are increasingly mandating that such inventories become a primary means of determining whether someone is or is not fit for leadership in the Church. Thomas Long aptly reveals the dangers of the Myers-Briggs in a short piece entitled "Myers-Briggs and Other Modern Astrologies." He writes,

In short, the MBTI profiles read like horoscopes from Camelot. Taken too seriously, they can be perilously close to fortune cookies for the human potential movement. In contrast, running through the Christian theological tradition is a view of humanity that is far more complex, at once far more sober about human failings, far more truly hopeful about the human prospect, and far more infused with mystery, featuring a landscape of exhilarating peaks of communion with the holy and also valleys of tragic denial of our humanity. (Theology Today 49/3 [1993])

The Myers-Briggs is not simply a neutral technique for evaluating personality types and managing people; rather, it is an instrument predicated both on modernity's bifurcation of ends and means and on its construction of the self as an enduring, discrete entity that is impervious to cultural, moral, and theological shapes.

L. Gregory Jones, Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis, Eerdmans, 1995, 40-41.


Paul Lavender

It's a bit easy, and misleading, to put up a few easy skittles to knock down, as Jones does, and then do what he wrongly suggests MBTI does, which is pigeon-hole people. I have a number of questions for him and Tommy Long, such as which churches only use this method for defining leaders, and does he believe that only MBTI users are pigeon-holed by church leaders? But perhaps more suprising is the suggestion that somewhere out there are "neutral" ways of evaluating personalities, and the suitability of people for positions within leadership structures (and I cannot believe that someone with Long's hermeneutical position believes in the concept of neutral positions anyway!). MTBI seeks to provide some ways of understanding why we do what we do now and how we might see ourselves open to the possibility of learning from our behaviours. As a piece of learning, it is incomplete, as are all modern philisophies including religious ones, but within a framework of christian understanding of human nature, it can be helpful as longs as it is not seen as a straightjacket but a momentary description. To that end, it can help - and we need all the help we can get!


The problem is first of all the neo-gnostic/Jungian psychology that the MBTI is predicated on, but the framework that is based on the idea that some how humans are predictable and manageable, can be analysed, sliced and diced, and plugged into a slot that they will work well in.

I have become very suspicious since my last round of tests, not only with the explanation of the results, but the almost religious approach by the counseller and the directors of the mission I am associated with.

Yes, Jones is right, there is a certain presupposition of how the modern sees the the construction of the self.

I won't take the test again, besides, there are better things out there anyway.


Having done this, and other, personality profile tools at various times, I have long since learned to treat them with a pinch or two of salt. The problem is not so much in the tools, I suspect, as those who apply them legalistically. That I came out as ISTJ twice did not surprise me, but threw the person doing the test as ministers aren't meant to be ISTJs apparently. Sorry but I am! According to the enneagram I am a 'loyal' 'perfectionist' which both fits with and complements the ISTJ.

I think that these things can be helpful and harmful all depending on how we use them.

'Embodying Forgiveness' is a great book but as it's over five years since I read I can't remember much of it and had totally forgotten this MBTI stuff.

So here's a thread for you - what Myers Briggs Personality Type is the average Baptist blogger?!!!!

Dan Morehead

Good book. My first theology course was with Greg.


In answer to Catriona

We all all Is

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