Some of our clients mention that while online personality tests can be fun, they have the mindset that psychological testing may be contrary to Scripture, and that Christians should avoid it. Are psychological tests for Christians harmful or helpful?
They contend that it is a secular humanist methodology that people can use as an excuse for bad behavior or to remove hope for change and growth.
Secular personality tests are available in a variety of venues and formats. They generally provide superficial results that typically confirm specific behavior patterns. Most people glance at the results and continue on their way.
Psychological testing, on the other hand, is more widely practiced and accepted. The term “psychology” means the study of man; how much of the total picture can it address? Fortunately, there are God-centered alternatives and it begins with the terminology. If someone professes a belief in Christ as their Lord and Savior, doesn’t it make sense to employ a testing model that incorporates biblical teaching and the power of God?
Christian Psychological Testing Renamed
As pastoral counselors with the National Christian Counselors Association, we use utilize the term “temperament analysis” rather than psychological testing. The NCCA employs the Arno Profile System (APS), a diagnostic tool, to help assess a person’s God-given temperament.
The APS assesses a person’s needs in the areas of socialization, control and affection to help understand strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. This model uses terms like melancholy, sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and supine to describe different temperament types in each area.
The NCCA applies the term “personality” to behavior masks that people put on, and these can vary from one situation to the next (consider the effect of alcohol, for example).
Man is created in the image of God but, like snowflakes, we are unique testimonies to His creativity. No one can argue, however, that we are all the same. Some of us are loners, others are more gregarious. Some like to be in charge in relationships while others are much more dependent. Some express affection and love openly while others are more reserved. A rose by any other name is still a rose. It’s important to quantify and explore these differences in some format.
We are strong supporters of the Arno Profile System and use it extensively. My personal experience is that those who oppose temperament analysis most vigorously fall into one of two camps:
- Those who adopt a religious viewpoint that it somehow labels people, precludes the transforming power of God in a person’s life and offers a convenient license to sin, or
- They do not like the results!
I counseled a married couple a few years back, and we went through the profiles. Their marriage was in disarray primarily because of the angry and controlling behaviors of the husband. After I presented the profiles, the man declared pre-emptively that neither profile was accurate. His wife, through tears, ventured quietly that hers was accurate and so was her husband’s! It was a telling moment as he berated her and tried to convince her otherwise.
I believe that temperament analysis, in the hands of a skilled therapist, can be a useful tool to help individuals and couples understand their uniqueness in Christ by looking at their needs, strengths and weaknesses. Armed with understanding and a willing spirit, this kind of knowledge allows someone to better focus efforts on specific areas for improvement. For example, a melancholy in inclusion (social interaction) is very prone to perceiving rejection so they would be more sensitive to that weakness in interactions with others.
In conclusion, personality tests may at best be fun and harmless. However, understanding one’s God-given temperament is a positive force if properly explained by a Christian counselor and if helpful tips and strategies are properly applied.
Temperament analysis does not offer an excuse for bad behavior and does not preclude the power of God to change and transform weaknesses in us. A reasoned and reasonable understanding and interpretation of the results, coupled with correct action, is what makes the difference!
Do you agree? What has been your experience with psychological testing or temperament analysis?