Countless individuals have taken personality tests over the years. Many simply take these tests as a matter of course and are not affected by them one way or another. Others, however, have been denied jobs and other opportunities as a result of taking personality tests. Most, however, obtain a view of themselves that is distorted, exaggerated, or far off the mark, but which may be received as true, either because there are enough generalities that apply to all people to make the test appear accurate or because they believe the mystique of hidden knowledge being revealed by the test.
We demonstrate the poor validity of personality tests in our book Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing and also in our book Missions & PsychoHeresy. However, in spite of the poor validity, people rely on these tests to determine all kinds of things about themselves and others. These tests are used in criminal court cases, in custody cases, for employment, for various kinds of certification and credentials (i.e., teacher credentials), in counseling, in self-improvement seminars, and for various other purposes and in numerous other situations. Psychology Today (Vol. 32, No. 3) reports:
For a new generation of job seekers, a polished resume may not be enough. They may need a winning personality, literally. More and more employers these days are asking job candidates to take personality tests as part of the hiring process. In fact, personality testing is now a $400 million industry, according to an estimate by the Association of Test Publishers.
Well, business is business in the world and we’re not surprised that the world would use these tests. However, we are greatly concerned about the confidence exhibited by Christians regarding these tests. Because of our knowledge of the failures of these tests and the misinformation eagerly received by those who already have the blessed truth of Scripture, we began to express our concern. As we did, we found out about people whose lives had been negatively impacted through the use of these tests. Therefore, we decided to look into the missionary candidating process. We found that the great majority of the largest missionary agencies use such tests.
Two questions loomed in our minds:
- Can a missionary candidate refuse to be screened by a mental health professional or psychological test without being discriminated against for doing so?
- Has any missionary candidate refused such screening?
The facts are that missionary candidates know that refusing the psychoexpert screening and psych tests will lead to being rejected by the mission agency. Missionaries have told us that as a candidate you just do it because it is required.
The following is excerpted from a copy of a letter sent to us from a couple who had been subjected to such psychological testing:
This whole process of psychological testing strikes me as having several serious defects.
(1) In the tests used, certain “norms” are provided as to how the majority of people perform. Do these norms really reflect what is right or wrong for Christians? How can the norms of lost men be used to determine the quality of my character?
(2) These norms are a product of comparing people with other people. This is strictly forbidden in the Scriptures. We do not dare to classify or “compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12).
(3) We are tested by God in the milieu for the purpose of proving our character. The artificial environment of the assessment center and its tests simply cannot take the place of the tests God has put me through during the last 30 years, and especially in the last 3 years of my life.
(4) It was pointed out to us that one of the reasons that psychological tests were being used was, “Who do you get your references from? From your pastors and elders who are your friends, right? And what are they going to do but give you really good reports, right?” The understanding was that the testing would get to the real truth. This attitude is unbiblical and expressive of a very low opinion of the pastors, elders, and Christian friends who are being asked to give their assessments. The premise that these men cannot be trusted, therefore psychological tests which can be trusted must be used and depended upon, is patently wrong.
(5) The assessment center seems to be pursuing a process of worldly wisdom to achieve its goals. “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Does this testing program operate on that premise? It does not. How many Pauls and Jeremiahs would make it through these tests? We are in danger of cutting off the head of anyone who stands out as being not “normal.” Many men of God are not altogether “normal,” as I am sure you know.
I am disturbed that capable men are being rejected across America because they do not measure up to some false standard.
Others have written to us and described the devastation they experienced when they were told that their psychological tests did not match the profiles the “Christian” organizations were looking for. Some have described how they were undermined by the descriptions that were spewed out by the test results.
Besides the possibility of candidates being rejected for missionary service, personality tests can have devastating affects on people. Some billow in pride and others cringe in despair. Others are simply frustrated.
One woman described having been required by an orthopedic doctor to take the MMPI2 because of a medical problem with back pain. She wrote:
I was told that I could not leave any answers blank. That can present a problem for some people like me. I don’t attend movies. So the statement about enjoying movies is not fair. If I say I enjoy them I’m lying, since I don’t attend. If I say I don’t enjoy them, then I look like an anti-social person. There’s no other choice. The same thing about the statement stating that my sex life is satisfactory. As a virgin, I have no “sex” life. If I say it’s satisfactory, it is assumed that I’m having sex. If I say it’s not satisfactory, it’s assumed I’m having sex and not enjoying it. Yet I had to answer one way or the other. In fact, the lady giving the test would not allow me to leave until she checked to see that every blank was filled. What unfairness!
One other question stated that there is a devil in my afterlife. For Christians there won’t be a devil in their afterlife and yet we believe there is a devil. Again, how can this be properly answered?
I was also given an MMPI when I attended a pain clinic. At least there I was allowed to leave blanks, although the test was returned to me and I was told I had to respond to more question than I had done. All this foolishness, just trying to get medical help for a medical problem!
While these are personal responses to various tests, Christians are to examine everything according to the Scriptures. Furthermore, we are admonished to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word.
1 This article is a reprint from Vol. 8, No. 4., and it is more applicable today than ever.
2 The MMPI is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. For many years it has been one of the most widely used personality tests given to missionary candidates.