Does Your Church Practice Astrology?

I was surprised when my daughter showed me a survey she got from her Sunday school class concerning a program called “S.H.A.P.E.”

I recognized it immediately as while I was in the Air Force we went through a program in the mid-1990’s that was then called “Total Quality Management” (TQM) that used a very similar survey. Over the years, the same TQM program has undergone many name changes (currently called AFSO21), even though the methods and materials are the same.

This program is geared toward “evolutionary” changes to business processes to promote “continuous improvement”. One aspect of this program is for organizational members to take personality surveys and teaches them a psychological system to promote “self-knowledge” so they know where they fit within the organization and then “self-improvement” by knowing and overcoming their weaknesses.

Part of this psychological system uses personality profiles that goes under many names and forms including Myers-Briggs, Ned Herrmann’s Whole Brain, DiSC assessment, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and Galen’s four temperaments.

I did some digging, and It turns out this program is currently being employed at many Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches and is based on a book available at Lifeway by Erik E. Rees called SHAPE

While the program I went through did not have the “friendly” animal names, the handout my daughter recieved would categorize the participants personality as one of “four temperaments” as follows:

  • Lion (Choleric/Dominance)
    Strengths – Visionary, practical, productive, strong-willed, independent, decisive, leader
    Weaknesses – Cold, domineering, unemotional self-sufficient, unforgiving, sarcastic, cruel
  • Otter (Sanguine/Influence)
    Strengths – Outgoing, responsive, warm, friendly, talkative, enthusiastic, compassionate
    Weaknesses – Undisciplined, unproductive, exaggerates, egocentric, unstable
  • Golden Retriever (Phlegmatic/Steadiness)
    Strengths – Calm, easy-going, dependable, quiet, objective, diplomatic, humorous
    Weaknesses – Selfish, stingy, procrastinator, unmotivated, indecisive, fearful, worrier
  • Beaver (Melancholy/Compliance)
    Strengths – Analytical, self-disciplined, industrious, organized, aesthetic, sacrificing
    Weaknesses – Moody, self-centered, touchy, negative, unsociable, critical, revengeful

Occultic Origins

Empedocles (495-425 B.C.) taught concerning the four elements and how they related to cosmology and personalities of the gods and goddesses. Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) expanded on Empedocles and taught on the four humors and he is generally credited with the “humoural temperament theory of personality”, since he connected the types with both mental and physical states. While Hippocrates focused on applying these concepts to treatment of physical ailments, Plato (427-347 B.C.) would begin applying the concepts of the four humors to treatment of mental ailments.

Plato’s student Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) would continue in this vein, but it was Claudius Galen of Pergamum (A.D. 130-200) who wrote more fully on the relationship between humors and temperaments. He sought to explain emotional and behavioral differences between people and to develop treatments that would be suitable to those of varying temperaments. It is Galen’s work from which we get “Galen’s four temperaments” described earlier.

According to R. W. Coan’s entry “Personality Types” in the Encyclopedia of Psychology (Volume 3, 1984, p. 24):

Central to astrological views of personality is a system of 12 patterns or types that correspond to the 12 signs of the zodiac. The 12 types may be viewed as including three modes of expression of each of the four elements noted by Empedocles, as there are said to be three air signs, three earth signs, three fire signs, and three water signs. This typology has enjoyed some popularity for over 2000 years.

And K.J. Shapiro’s entry “Temperaments” in the Encyclopedia of Psychology (Volume 3, 1984, p. 410):

Synthesizing ideas from classical Greek medicine and astronomy, a theory of temperaments prevailing well into medieval times held that, for example, a sanguine disposition reflected a particular combination of humors in the body and that, in turn, this combination had been fixed by a certain configuration of the stars at the time of an individual’s birth.

In his book Psychological Types (Princeton University Press, 1971, p. 531.), Carl G. Jung, clearly notes the relationship between astrology and the four temperaments. He says:

From the earliest times attempts have been made to classify individuals according to types, and so to bring order into the chaos. The oldest attempts known to us were made by oriental astrologers who devised the so-called trigons of the four elements-air, water, earth, and fire. The air trigon in the horoscope consists of the three aerial signs of the zodiac, Aquarius, Gemini, Libra; the fire trigon is made up of Aries, Leo, Sagittarius. According to this age-old view, whoever is born in these trigons shares in their aerial or fiery nature and will have a corresponding temperament and fate. Closely connected with this ancient cosmological scheme is the physiological typology of antiquity, the division into four temperaments corresponding to the four humours.

What was first represented by the signs of the zodiac was later expressed in the physiological language of Greek medicine, giving us the classification into the phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, and melancholic. These are simply designations for the secretions of the body.

As is well known, this typology lasted at least seventeen hundred years. As for the astrological type theory, to the astonishment of the enlightened it still remains intact today, and is even enjoying a new vogue.

The signs of the zodiac further refine and break down each of the four elements into “trigons” or “triplicities” as follows:

Element Humour Temperament Zodiac
Air Blood Sanguine Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Fire Yellow Bile Choleric Aries, Leo, Sagittariu
Earth Black Bile Melancholy Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Water Phlegm Phlegmatic Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

For a greater detailed description of the link between the four temperaments and astrology, see the e-book by Martin and Deidre Bobgan at this link:

It is interesting to note that Erik Rees is a pastor and leader of the Ministry S.H.A.P.E. Discovery Teams at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. (

It is evident that Rees has relabeled TQM with christian-ese terminology and made it palatable for the church. It is also a book recommended to be used in conjunction with a Purpose Driven Life.

This program is a very subtle way to introduce astrology, psychology, Rick Warren’s program, and Total Quality Management into mainline evangelical churches.

Turns out there are many variations of this program all using the same features, just repackaged under different names.

After speaking with my in-laws who live in another state, their church (also a SBC church) is doing a program called P.L.A.C.E. which follows the same purpose-driven, TQM model and uses the same personality assessment with the 4 DISC personality types (Choleric, Melancholy, Sanguine, Phlegmatic) as the S.H.A.P.E. program.

It is great to encourage people to particpate in the ministry. However, considering that these programs are targeted to new believers and new church members, it is taking these folks and using psychological profiling (which can only measure attributes of the “flesh”) and tries to involve them in the ministry of the church so they are more likely to continue attendance (translate: church growth). This, combined with slogans such as “if you can read, you can lead”, is how we end up with “carnal christians” leading other “carnal christians” in feel good cliques (er, I mean “life groups”).

I don’t find where this is based on anything in the Bible. What happened to discipleship, Bible training, and concepts such as sanctification? I thought that we needed to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and the washing of the word (Eph 5:26; Rom 12:2)? While God can use us at all stages of development, everything I find in the Bible talks of finding leaders who are of good reputation, full of the Spirit, and wisdom (Acts 6:3). Programs such as S.H.A.P.E. and P.L.A.C.E. do none of that.

Great Articles:
Discard the DiSC

Personality Cult

More Information:,_2007.pdf