A Critical Review

Our critical review of the book What is Your Church’s Personality? by Philip D. Douglass is not directed at whether or not churches have “personalities.” Our concern has to do with the claims for the “Personality Diagnostic,” upon which the rest of the book relies, and with the author’s ideas that are based on personality tests.

Douglass named his diagnostic the “Opinion Leader Inventory” (OLI) and says: “My years of study of the temperaments and personalities of individuals serve as the foundation for classifying churches in a similar manner.” 1 So the “foundation” is based upon the “study of the temperaments and personalities of individuals.” He goes on to say, “This classification loosely parallels the basic personality types as developed by the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, and further enhanced by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers” (p. 349).

We begin by responding to Douglass’s referring to “the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung” as support for his “Personality Diagnostic.” It may be that Douglass is ignorant of the fact that Jung was an occultist and that it would be more appropriate to refer to him as “the famous Swiss occult psychiatrist.”

Jung was quite familiar with Christianity. His father was a minister, but Jung rejected Christianity. Rather than believing the Bible and following the Holy Spirit, Jung followed his own spirit guide. In his book Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Jung says:

Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I.2

Jung’s theories were developed while under the influence of his spirit guide. Jung’s “basic personality types” are his occult opinion about mankind and are the very ones that Douglas “loosely parallels.”

Douglas says, “Over several decades, this mother and daughter team [Briggs and Myers] expanded and then statistically validated the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, to classify an individual’s temperament” (p. 349, bold added). Douglas thus believes that the MBTI is a “statistically validated” test. That is his opinion and it contradicts the available scientific appraisals of it!

The National Research Council has evaluated the MBTI. The Council members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. In appraising the MBTI, the National Research Council says:

It is probably fair to say that the MBTI is the most popular “self-insight, insight into others” instrument in use today. Unfortunately, however, the popularity of the instrument is not coincident with supportive research results (bold added).3

In other words, research results do not support the popularity! The Council’s particular concern is the lack of validity for the MBTI. In concluding the section on validity the Council states:

“The evidence summarized in this section raises questions about the validity of the MBTI” (bold added).4

Prior to their overall “Conclusions” section, the Council says that “the popularity of this instrument in the absence of proven scientific worth is troublesome.” In their “Conclusions” section, the Council says very clearly: “At this time, there is not sufficient, well- designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programs.”5

The Mental Measurements Yearbook (MMY) is a highly respected and widely used text that provides factual information, critical reviews, and validity of tests. The MBTI has been scientifically examined in both the 14th and 15th editions of the MMY. Reading the reviews in these two editions of MMY would not lead one to Douglass’s false and erroneous statement that it has been “statistically validated.” Just two comments from the evaluations: “The MBTI, therefore, cannot be recommended without reservation until additional analyses that are appropriate for categorical data are conducted and reported in the manual”6 ; “Use of the test in making clinical, employment, or forensic decisions without further validational research, particularly of the predictive kind, might be perilous.”7 Validity is actually the most important test standard and it is clear that the MBTI is lacking in this standard.

Douglass further says, “An independent but related line of work has been carried on by David Keirsey” (p. 349). We checked the MMY and found in the “Summary and Conclusions” the following:

The Jungian typology as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Keirsey Temperament II sorter is intuitively appealing. The underlying theory has given rise to its own culture, and a culture that is closer to popular psychology than it is to scientific psychology.8 (Bold added.)

Annie Paul, an award winning author and former senior editor at Psychology Today, wrote a book about personality tests. The title of her book is The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves. The jacket cover of Annie Paul’s book summarizes well what she reveals in her book.

And she exposes the flawed theories and faulty methods that render their results unreliable and invalid. Personality tests, she contends, produce descriptions of people that are nothing like human beings as they actually are: complicated, contradictory, changeable across time and place.9

We have covered some of the same ground in our books and articles. If we were writing a book titled The Cult of Personality, our subtitle would be How Personality Tests Are Leading Christians to Miseducate their Children, Mismanage Christian Organizations, and Misunderstand Themselves. A prime target of The Cult of Personality is the MBTI. Paul says, “

Perhaps no other personality test has achieved the cult status of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, an instrument created in the 1940s by a Pennsylvania housewife. Fiercely proud of the test she called “my baby,” Isabel Myers believed that it could bring about world peace—or at least make everyone a little nicer. The Myers-Briggs, which assigns each test taker a personality type represented by four letters, is now given to 2.5 million people each year, and is used by 89 of the companies in the Fortune 100. Employed by businesses to “identify strengths” and “facilitate teamwork,” the Myers-Briggs has also been embraced by a multitude of individuals who experience a revelation (what devotees call the “aha reaction”) upon learning about psychological type. Their enthusiasm persists despite research showing that as many as three-quarters of test takers achieve a different personality type when tested again, and that the sixteen distinctive types described by the Myers-Briggs have no scientific basis whatsoever.10

Paul spends some time further discrediting the use of the MBTI.

Douglass’s “Personality Diagnostic” derives no scientific support from the fact that it “loosely parallels” the MBTI. In addition, his support for the use of his “Opinion Leader Inventory” is fatally flawed. Douglass attempts to support the use of his OLI with thirty men and women with the following statement:

The science of statistics uses a sample of thirty people in surveys of various types because of simulation studies based on the Central Limit Theorem. This theorem and the Law of Large Numbers are the two fundamental theories of probability. To put it roughly, the Central Limit Theorem states that the distribution of the sum of a large number of independent, identically distributed variables will be approximately normal, regardless of the underlying distribution. This is the reason that valid statistical procedures produce accurate results (pp. 356, 357).

Apparently Douglass is not aware that if an inventory such as his were either valid or totally discredited by its lack of validity and not recommended for use by the MMY, the distribution of the results of 30 surveys would be the same. In other words, the validity of a test is unrelated to the distribution that results from 30 people taking the test. The distribution means nothing as far as validity of a test. In fact, if the inventory were totally meaningless, the distribution would be the same.

We have now established that Douglass’s inventory derives no support from its parallel to the “basic personality types as developed by the famous [occult] Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung” or to the MBTI, and, contrary to what he says, his inventory is not in any way validated by the Central Limit Theorem. In addition, there are no published studies supporting his instrument and nothing in Douglass’s book scientifically supports its use. Therefore one is left with a useless inventory that Douglass presents as valid. It is statistically appalling that Douglass would abuse the Central Limit Theorem in support of his survey. A simple contact with a statistician or psychometrist would have saved him and others who use his inventory from the embarrassment that should occur when the truth is known.

Douglass’s use of the Central Limit Theorem to support his Personality Diagnostic is a perfect example of the saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” meaning that a small amount of knowledge about the Central Limit Theorem makes him think he is more of an expert than he really is. Douglass is left without one whit of scientifically valid proof for his Opinion Leader Inventory! Anybody using Douglass’s “Church Personality Diagnostic” with its OLI will be as deceived as he appears to be.

(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, November-December 2009, Vol. 17, No. 6)


1 Philip D. Douglass. What is Your Church’s Personality? Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2008, p. 349. Hereafter pages will be given in parentheses.

2 C. G. Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Aniela Jaffe, ed. Richard and Clara Winston, trans. New York: Pantheon, 1963, p. 183.

3 The National Research Council. In the Mind’s Eye. Daniel Druckman and Robert A. Bjork, eds. Washington: National Academy Press, 1991, p. 96.

Ibid., p. 99.

Ibid., p. 101.

Fourteenth Mental Measurements Yearbook. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001, p. 818.

Fifteenth Mental Measurements Yearbook. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003, p. 613.

Sixteenth Mental Measurements Yearbook. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

9 Annie Murphy Paul. The Cult of Personality. New York: Free Press, 2004.

10 Ibid., p. xiii.