Personality tests: Yay or nay?

April 15, 2019

I’ve never been a fan of tract homes. While I like symmetry and order, tract homes seem to lack creativity. You walk down the street and see Home A, Home B, Home C, Home B, Home A, another Home B, and so it goes. God doesn’t create cookie-cutter homes. He’s a much better designer. In his creation we see order and symmetry, but also complexity, beauty, and diversity. This is especially true in his creation of human beings. While there are some clear categories, such as two clear sexes, humans are created as unique individuals. People don’t fit into just four types of personalities repeated over and over. There are thousands of variables and these are changing over time as individuals develop.

Personality tests can sometimes box people in. DiSC, Enneagram, Myers Briggs all attempt to describe us and sometimes can be wrongly used to define us. I’m actually fascinated by personality tests; I enjoy taking them and have learned a lot from them. They have their place, but they also have their misapplications.

Personality tests can be wrongly used to excuse our sin.

Sometimes when we hurt others, we use our personality as the reason. “I wasn’t being rude. That’s just who I am.” We believe who we are is static, yet we arrogantly expect others to change to accommodate our personality. This ignores the biblical principle of considering others as more important than ourselves.

We can also use personality tests as a way of boxing ourselves in and letting our sin and temptations define us. “I can’t help this sin; that’s who God made me.” “I’ll always be a 2. I can’t change. I might as well give in to my people-pleasing.” Believing we can’t change is hopeless and untrue. It ignores sanctification. God is at work changing us. We are new creations. We aren’t stuck. Yes, there are some propensities I will fight until the day I die, but I’m not given over to them.

Personality tests can be wrongly used to accuse others.

“You are such a 7.” “Okay, Miss ENFJ!” “You always…” “You never…” “There you are showing your C again.” We categorize others and attribute motives to their actions. An innocent mistake or an off-hand remark can be perceived as characteristic of that person or as showing malice. Someone trying to serve and further a project can be perceived as domineering because they are such a “D.” As fallen human beings, we are all prone to what has been termed by social psychologists as the “Fundamental Attribution Error.” We often understand our own actions in light of the surrounding circumstances, but others’ actions we attribute to resulting from who they are. For example, when I cut someone off in traffic it is because I am late, I didn’t know where I was going, or I was thinking of the fight I just had with someone, but when someone cuts me off in traffic it’s because she is a jerk who doesn’t care about anyone but herself.

Defining others by their personality or interpreting their actions based upon a category ignores God’s work in others. If understanding personalities helps us sharpen our brother or sister, encourage them, or lovingly ask a question to better understand their motive, it’s good. If it leads us to accuse them, it’s not. After all, Christ sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, while Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Which side do we wish to join?

Personality tests can help us better understand ourselves.

Calvin in his institutes links the knowledge of God and knowledge of self. There is a benefit to self-contemplation. Personality tests can expose us and show us our need for Christ. It can also help us live out who God made us to be for his glory. Taking the DiSC profile before I moved to my new job helped me expect ways the transition would be difficult for me. The report rightly identified that when I make decisions or bold changes I tend to consider all the potential failures rather than the possibilities. The profile allowed me to not be surprised by the list of horrible possibilities that came to mind in that transition. I was able to identify what was going on when my mind went down that path, to take courage, and to ask God and others for help as I walked through the move. Personality tests are helpful where they help us understand who we are in our gifting, propensities, and temptations so that we can better serve God and others.

Personality tests can help us better understand and work with others.

I can foolishly think everyone else sees things the same way I do. That assumption can lead to conflict. Personality tests remind me that not everyone else is motivated by the same things as I am or has the same thought processes as I do. It helps me celebrate and utilize my brothers’ and sisters’ gifting, and it also helps me work through conflict that comes while working on projects with people who differ from me.

At an event I was throwing with a friend, we had handwritten instructions posted on a piece of paper for the guests. All night long my co-host and I were at battle with one another moving the sign. She kept moving it to a more prominent place. I kept moving it to a less-visible place where the instructions were accessible when needed but weren’t an eye-sore. We got frustrated with each other. We talked about it later and laughed, but it wasn’t until a personality test told me that aesthetics was one of my highest values and utility one of my lowest, that I realized what had motivated our war. With this knowledge of myself, instead of being annoyed with her, I could have recognized why it was important to me, recognized she was trying to be practical, not annoying, and I could have created a more attractive sign to accomplish both.

Personality tests can be wrongly used to box ourselves or others in, or they can be used to grow in understanding, humility, service, and to celebrate diversity. Personality types can be helpful in describing how God created and wired different human beings. They should not be used to define ourselves and others. Enjoy and delight in differences. Be challenged by a friend who thinks, responds, or is motivated differently than you in a situation. We are all humans in progress. Personality doesn’t excuse my sin or hopelessly define me or others.

Jenn Kintner

Jenn Kintner is the associate dean of academic affairs at Gulf Theological Seminary. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24