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Color-Coding, Counseling, and Self-Centric Christianity: A Biblical Analysis

Color-Coding, Counseling, and Self-Centric Christianity: A Biblical Analysis

by David Frazier, MABC, IABC Certified Biblical Counselor, USMC Veteran, Retired, Th.D. ©2022

February 15, 2022

All Scripture is quoted from the Berean Study Bible unless otherwise stated.1

Robots. Cyborgs. Artificial Intelligence (AI)! The first thing you might think is, ‘What sci fi article are we looking at here?' Sci-fi pop culture has its place and certainly can be very entertaining, but what place—if any—does it have within modern Christian counseling, and where are the lines of demarcation drawn?

Let’s say for instance you’re struggling with a very deep-rooted and extremely personal issue, one that’s super sensitive—a problem that has caused you so much anguish for so long that you’ve tried all you know to find a solution or relief but to no avail. Would you entrust something so absolutely fragile and personally crucial to an AI?

You may be thinking, "C’mon, that’s ridiculous, of course we would totally never do that?" I reply by asking, "Are you totally sure? Some might even respond differently with an affirmative "Yes, if it comes up with the right diagnosis!" This is the postmodern ideology that reasons, "As long as it works, it’s good." But how do we know if it’s really and sincerely good for us?

There are many examples of things that may have— according to our fallen and limited knowledge—seemingly positive results but are activities we as Christians are commanded to not participate in. This is very likely why God’s Word emphatically warns, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 16:25).

I would like to discuss a fast-emerging trend within the church called color-coding based counseling, a form of 2personality profiling that uses colors to identify and categorize certain personality types. I would like to audit its use in counseling for Christians, and whether or not it is biblical. 

Personality profiling is not new in secular counseling circles, but now evangelical churches are adopting this ideology with a new AI-driven color coding system—a system that claims to do the following:

"Identify core motives. . . . Help you to understand why you do what you do versus simply what you do. . . . Improve your relationship vision to a perfect 20-20. . . . Explain where the puzzle pieces [of life] go, and more importantly, why they go there."3 (See endnotes)

Let’s analyze the Color Coding claims by comparing them to Scripture, beginning with their first claim, which promises to do the following:

1. "Identify core motives [and] help you to understand why you do what you do versus simply what you do."

 

This AI-driven survey, by the creators’ own declaration, 100 percent guarantees its ability to discern one’s heart motives and help a person understand why they do what they do.

What does the Bible say to this?

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12, emphasized italics mine).

According to Scripture, God’s Word alone has the ability to identify core motives—the very thing this Color Code personality profiling system is claiming to guarantee instantly, the Bible claims only it can do. God’s Word says it is sharper than any other thing man could create to try to replace it.

What is the biblical counselor’s real role? Is it to help a person understand the core why of what they do and learn more about their authentic self—as if once they understand why they are a certain way, or why they do certain things, that enlightenment will be what catapults them into their desired place? Or is the biblical counselor’s role to help identify sinful thinking and behavioral patterns, help them to see how these are incongruent with Scripture, and then lock arms with them to help them put off the old ways of thinking and put on the new until they develop new godly habits into a lifestyle? We adhere to the latter as biblical counselors.

In congruence with Color Code counseling and other personality profiling methodologies, we agree that the prospective counselee definitely has a wrong or warped self-view, and almost always a wrong God-view. But in disagreement, we as trained and certified biblical counselors never think of such an instant diagnosis. We are trained to never confront core issues until at least week-four or five. To try and do so is at best arrogant and at worst dangerous.  

We as biblical counselors recognize our role as small-case "c" counselors and surrender ourselves to the wisdom of the capital "C" Counselor (the only Counselor), the Holy Spirit. We surrender ourselves to the authoritativeness of God’s Word to transform a life! I can’t write here the terrible stories I’ve heard of counselors trying to identify and/or confront core issues too early with the counselee.

For the biblical counselor, the phase of gathering data and prayerfully identifying key core issues is paramount. This phase is conducive to rooting out all assumptions and presuppositions so the Word and the Spirit can illuminate and eliminate core issues and heart motives. But it also keeps the counselor humble and dependent and in fervent communication with God’s counsel for their own lives and creates an unbreakable bond of fellowship between the two. God is about community and fellowship.

God always uses broken people (not "perfect machines") to help other broken people. That’s why the certified biblical counselor is trained to spend hours in prayer and hold their gathered data over and against Scripture, gathering more data, asking more questions, and then and only then prayerfully proceeding to identify a core issue. This is one of the most precious and sweet parts of discipleship (which is what biblical counseling truly is—discipleship. The word counseling is not in Scripture).

God is about community and fellowship, not just fixing things. God uses a broken counselor who has been rescued to study His Word diligently so he or she can then disciple another broken human being. The one doing the counseling waits patiently on the Lord and even more diligently searches His Word to more effectively help. That’s a beautiful dance that an AI machine simply can neither mimic nor reproduce.

The AI of the Color Code personality profiling system, while promising to deliver immediate results, removes this most precious and intimate part of the God/counselor/ counselee relationship, all while claiming to "help improve relationship vision." (Raised biblical eyebrow!)

What good is a light around a bunch of other lights? Lights were meant for the darkness. In all my years and thousands of hours of documented counseling, I can say virtually 99.9 percent of every counselee shared a common issue—a microwave mentality aka a ravenous demand for instant gratification. Can we really call it a good idea to start a prospective counselee off with a system that caters to a behavior system that I think we could all agree is counterproductive, if not a core problem, with not just the prospect but with humanity period?  

I submit that we need a lot less "You don’t need to go through all that hard lengthy process; we can instantly provide that for you." And we need a lot more "We will wait patiently and prayerfully upon the Lord for guidance, diligently study His Word and ask for wisdom for how to properly handle and apply it in the discipleship arena for you." God’s Word implores us to follow this very protocol and stands in direct contrast to the color coding claims and other personality profiling methods.

One Color Coding counseling ministry in particular blatantly puts it forth on their website: "The purpose of [our] research was to develop an accurate, clinical, testing procedure for initial identification of the counselee’s inborn, God-given tendencies/ temperament."4 (See endnotes)

(Sidenote: Can they really say, "clinical"? They say they’re "doctors," but what are they doctors of? Why are their medical credentials nowhere to be found, even on the About Us page?). On this page they list their degrees, including PhD: https://aandbcounseling.com/about-us-3/

We as biblical counselors use what’s called a PDI (Personal Data Inventory) form to gather initial data. It’s a couple of pages full of pointed questions for helping the counselor more easily identify where a counselee is spiritually rather than what they are ontologically. Again, diametrically opposed to an AI that promises to instantly help you uncover and learn more about your authentic self.

Right away we should see the problems of starting with the premise of "I need to learn more about myself." What really needs to be said here is, "No, God wants us to get our eyes off ourselves and learn more about Him and how to align our life and thinking to His ways more congruently.

The Color Code counseling ministry boldly continues, "It reveals the ‘hidden problems’ that normally take the counselor seven or eight sessions to identify." When did this become a bad thing? Apparently, the phase of the counselor waiting upon God, studying His Word, seeking His counsel, and developing a rapport as Jesus did with people and purposed us to emulate—that’s just too long! We need a new system that will cater to our instant gratification and give us immediate results.

Amazing! Just like that, the Holy Spirit, sin, and the beautiful God/counselor/counselee dance of waiting searching, listening, and praying we mentioned earlier . . . all safely and gracefully jettisoned!

It claims, "We have a new way, a faster way, a more dependable and accurate way!" There is a gargantuan problem with this line of thinking when counseling Christians that shows why it is to be rejected. It stems from the notion that since we have all these new problems because the times are new, we need something new and upgraded to deal with it.

Right away theology proper (the doctrine of God) is under attack. Their claim is wrapped with the premise that God somehow didn’t foresee modern problems (which contradicts His omniscience), or didn’t care enough to previously reveal their solutions (which contradicts His ontological character). But this reasoning stems from an even deeper theological issue—a low view of the sufficiency of Scripture, or even worse, a flat-out denial of the all-sufficiency of Scripture.

What does God’s Word say on this? "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man" (1 Corinthians 10:13). In other words, there are no new root problems. There may be endless ways the root issues manifest, and endless reasons why they got there, but at the end of the day there are literally zero "new" root problems of life. All can be boiled down to what the Bible teaches as root issues common to mankind.

This is great news because that means God’s Word is claiming the exclusive ability to speak to and solve all of life’s problems! There’s so much hope there as opposed to, "That’s the way I was born, that’s the way I’ll always be, so I need to learn more about that version of myself so I can be more compatible and function better in society."

God is a life- and heart-changer, not a matchmaker. He’s not looking for a more improved you and me that’s more palatable to the world. He desires a completely new you and me that is more like Himself and will change the world one person at a time. He’s not interested in our learning more about ourselves, He’s interested in our dying more to ourselves. Self-centric thinking is our biggest problem—it always has been.

We have a such a plague of teaching these self-centered messages in the church—all about what God can do for us, rather than what He can become to us so we can become more like Jesus to a lost and dying world!

Logic 101: Syllogism for the All-Sufficiency of Scripture.

A.  Since God created life, He must also possess the ability and knowledge to solve all of life’s problems. If there’s one problem of life, ancient or modern, that God can’t solve or didn’t foresee, He would not be God.

B.  If God then possesses all the solutions to all problems of life, ancient and modern, He, being perfect and good in His very ontological essence, would then communicate and disclose to mankind all those solutions; otherwise, he would be a withholding god and therefore not good.

C.  Since God would indeed, in conjunction with His character, possess all life’s solutions, He would indeed communicate them to mankind, and He would do so in a way that is fixed and unchangeable, most likely in the same manner He revealed Himself, His nature, and His will to us—through His Word, just as the Bible exclusively claims.

So, in light of what we’ve learned, just how biblical is this (very loudly championed) idea that we need "new methods" for our "new problems"? The answer is not at all. In fact, the idea stands in direct opposition to God’s Word, both evangelically and theologically.

(Note to reader: So many churches and leaders have bought the lie that we need new methods for new times and problems. But just because Christians say "Christian" things doesn’t automatically mean their counseling motifs are biblical, or even "Christian" at that.)

Around 1877 three strong concussions hit Christendom—evolutionary naturalism, higher criticism of the Bible, and the newer idealistic philosophy of theology. Theology was no longer viewed as a fixed body of eternally valid truths. It was seen rather as an evolutionary development that should adjust to the standards and needs of modern culture." —Paul T. Butler, Are We Fundamentalists? Copyright © 1988, College Press Publishing

Let’s move on to the second claim of this Color Code AI-driven personality profiling:

2. "Improve your relationship vision to a perfect 20-20."

In other words, once you identify your color, it will become easier for you to have right relationships because you will naturally match up with the right compatible color codes of others.

I wonder if the eleven disciples had used this methodology whether or not they would have chosen the right apostolic replacement for Judas. I propose probably not. I’m personally glad they surrendered the decision to God through casting lots rather than trust their relationship compatibility meters.

When discussing relationship problems, does the Bible teach the reason we have them is the clashing of our personalities, or does it teach that the reason our horizontal relationships with others are off is because our vertical relationship with God is off? I submit the latter is true.

Doesn’t the Bible teach that the more we see God rightly, the more we see everything and everyone else rightly? Are we to see ourselves and others through AI-generated color codes and endless personality profiling methodologies, or are we as Christians commanded to see ourselves and others through the eyes of Christ and His Word?

Did Jesus have good relationships with others because of compatible personalities, or were His good relationships because of His perfect selfless love (the very thing He told us to emulate more than any other) that broke through the barriers of personality, even culture and race? If you think about it, Jesus was compatible with no one but made Himself compatible to everyone through His self-sacrificing compassion and love. He told us to emulate Him, meaning we can still be our unique selves but love and walk as He did.

On the one hand, I do fully concur that each of us possesses certain personality qualities that make us, well . . . us. I look at fingerprints and see an astounding supporting clue to how we all have unique personalities, ones God created us with and that should never be forced to change or be chiseled on by human hands.

However, we won’t see anything in Scripture that supports differing personalities being a pressing problem that God needed to address. I don’t see a charge to get better at finding compatible personalities or learning more about our God-given temperaments or our authentic selves. Jesus did, however, say, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves" (Matthew 10:16). Last time I looked, sheep and wolves have two totally different personality types, just saying.

 

I’ve never seen character or spiritual growth happen when people want to be around only those like themselves. In fact, all I’ve seen is negative and destructive results. On the contrary, Jesus commanded, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). He didn’t say, "The reason you don’t love your enemies is because you haven’t learned yours and their personality types yet."  

Jesus told us to love our enemies, and guess who those people are? You guessed it, those we typically deem different from us. Those we deem unlovely or unlovable. Those who have even hurt us. It’s easy to love people who are just like us, but because we really are self-centric people, we love our comfortable, safe, fast, "more palatable" methods. There was absolutely nothing the Gospel of Jesus was compatible with when God started His church. If Jesus had based His teaching on being saved from clashing personalities and learning more about our "authentic selves," they never would have crucified Him.

Unfortunately, the Bible is vacant with any references to clashing personality types being anywhere on the scope of humanity’s core problems, let alone surface problems (symptoms). The Bible is, however, replete with direct mention of sin, pride, and unbelief. Remove these three from the equation and watch the most explosive of clashing personalities end with peace and harmony.

Yes, we must focus on what needs to change in us, but our personalities definitely are not on that list. God loves us being the way He made us. Personalities in a relationship stop clashing when those involved get their eyes off themselves and onto Christ and start aligning their thoughts and actions with Him and His Word.

Again, the Bible speaks prolifically on sin, pride, and unbelief as humankind’s innate core issues. Color Coding speaks much about understanding personality types and learning more about one’s authentic self. I will be bold enough to state, there is absolutely nothing authentic about the self apart from Christ. Left to ourselves, we are selfish and hypocritical. That’s why Jesus commanded us to die daily to self, not learn more about it. The self will always be concerned about one thing only, self, and there’s just no authenticity to be found there.

Jesus Himself implored Christians who want to follow Him to deny self and pick up their cross (Matthew 16:24). Because of the Romans, everyone in that time who heard Him say that knew what that meant. To "pick up your cross" was a complete handing over of one’s right to govern themselves to whoever they were following, whatever the cost! Again, the self, along with its illumination and improvement, is nowhere in Christ’s equation for the disciple. 

On the contrary, we have a tremendously difficult time finding any mention of sin or repentance with personality profiling systems like Color Code counseling. There’s some mention of Jesus, sprinkles of Bible verses perhaps, but the system itself is diametrically opposed to systematic theology simply according to hamartiology (the doctrine of sin), one of the twelve main attributes of systematic theology.

Dr Dennis Frey writes, "Rejection of man’s sinfulness is a foundational cornerstone of humanistic psychology. Thus, humanistic psychology has clearly become a competing religion alongside Christianity. There is absolutely no congruence between the biblical doctrine of sin and humanistic psychology’s dogma that man is essentially good."
—Biblical Directionism: A Biblical Approach to Counseling Methodology

Dr. Kilpatrick writes about this uncrossable chasm between sin and humanistic psychology’s rejection thereof: "Christianity doesn’t make much sense without sin. If we are not sinners turned away from God, then there was no reason for God to become man, and no reason for Him to die. Our slavery to sin is the thing that Christ came to free us from. That is the most fundamental Christian belief. . . . We can state the matter more strongly and say that once you grant the notion that [sin is not the problem in] people, you must admit that Christianity is all wrong." —Kilpatrick, William Kirk, 1983, Psychological Seduction.  (NY: Thomas Nelson Publishers)

You could say, "That’s not so bad; it’s just one point of theology a little wonky. What’s the big deal? No one’s got it all right!" It’s a huge deal! If one point is off, they all fall like dominos. A faulty knowledge of hamartiology (the doctrine of sin) leads to failure in soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). If a person has a faulty understanding of sin, they will have a faulty understanding of their salvation from it. On it goes.

At the heart of the doctrine of soteriology is the change of thinking that salvation brings into the life of the individual. Jay Adams comments, "Change is possible; that conviction must be maintained as a foundational fact of Christian counseling. Radical change, the most radical change known to man, is described in the Scriptures as a ‘new birth.’. . . . Nothing less than an entirely new start toward life is in view." —Adams, Jay E., 1970, The Christian Counselor’s Manual. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing House)

"For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. So they will turn their ears away from the truth and aside to myths" (2 Timothy 4:3–4).

The propensity to abandon God’s immutable and all-sufficient truth for the new, the ultramodern, the newfangled is nothing new. The apostle Paul had to deal with the same thing from the people of Athens when he was preaching Christ. These people had roots in Henotheism, meaning they believed in many gods whose respective power was based upon the number of people in that region that worshiped each particular god. The more worshipers, the more powerful the god was and the more area it ruled over. You can see why they would be so anxious to hear about something new! If they saw benefit or power in something new, they would embrace it and add it to their collection.

So, they took Paul and brought him to the Areopagus, where they asked him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you are bringing some strange notions to our ears, and we want to know what they mean" (Acts 17:19–20).

They were a very religious people but oddly enough were not threatened by Paul’s preaching of the Gospel of Christ—rather they were extremely curious about it. They thought perhaps it could offer something that could benefit their power or status or knowledge (gnosis). They even had an empty altar to what they called the "Unknown God." In other words, they had an empty box ready for the next god they could add to their collection for self-gain.

Paul’s response: "Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and examined your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD" (Acts 17:22–23).

I once heard a professor of mine teaching on eschatology sum up the doctrine of antichrist with this statement: "Anyone that tries to advocate a ‘Jesus, and . . .’ or a ‘God’s Word, and . . .’ doctrine, they are speaking the message of antichrist, and it will always sound religious and pose itself as good for humanity."

Satan masquerades as an angel of light (enlightenment). The name Lucifer means bringer of light (enlightenment). It was Lucifer that came to Eve in the garden of Eden offering a new revelation, one that would tempt her to doubt God’s all-sufficient Word and embrace a message that promised self-upgrading enlightenment, something he would negatively frame God as selfishly withholding.

Lucifer always comes with a fist and an open palm. The fist is to crush to dust any belief in the all-sufficiency of Scripture, and the open palm is his tempting offer of some new thing that will fill in the gap. Here also is the danger of integrationismthe attempt to combine secular psychology with counseling in the Christian arena—but that’s another article.

Does the Bible itself directly claim to be all-sufficient in dealing with life’s problems? The answer is absolutely! "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Peter 1:3, italics mine).

It says "has given"! It does not say will give in the future when those new problems spring up. It does not say might give. It says "has given," as in it’s a done deal, it is finished!  And how do we suppose God would relay everything we need for life and godliness, including all the solutions to all the problems we would ever face in this world? Well, the Scripture here tells us through the knowledge of Him . . . by coming to know Him! And how do we come to know Him other than through His Word? Here we see exactly what was stated earlier— the more we see and know God rightly the more we’re able to see and live rightly. God’s Word is not just sufficient—it is super-sufficient.

"Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens" (Psalm 119:89 HCS).

In conclusion, may I analyze Color Coding’s third and final point and promise:

3.  "Explain where the puzzle pieces go-and more importantly, why they go there.

Color Coding boldly promises an enlightenment, that through their AI-driven methods the person will become enlightened to all the missing puzzle pieces of life and then will learn the theory of why the pieces go where they go. In reality, this is just another clinical euphemistic way of saying you’re going to be enlightened, then indoctrinated. It also sounds a lot like "I will be your light and guide." Can this system really provide that? What does the Bible claim?

The Bible says the Holy Spirit is the Christian’s guide. Jesus said to His disciples right before His departure, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16–17).

Again, the Holy Spirit is our guide, the one who alone leads us into all truth—not some truth but all truth! If Christ has saved us from sin and death, and we have God’s Word containing everything we need for life and godliness, and we have the Holy Spirit forever guiding and leading us, why do we need something new?

Should we believe and entrust ourselves to God’s all-sufficient Word with thousands of years of testimony of being powerful enough to radically change lives and keep them whole all the way home? Or should we look to these new, clever, ultramodern competitors to be our help light and guide?

The Bible says Jesus is our Light. "Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life’" (John 8:12).

I like how it says "Once again." Jesus had to tell them more than once of His exclusive ability to be our light and guide. Perhaps many more need to hear Him say it again right now.

Let’s gather some key biblically learned points here. Remember,

A.)  Jesus is the Word of God incarnate. (John 1:1–14)

B.)  He is the Light of the world, not the discloser of new enlightenment for modern minds. (John 8:12)

C.)  The Word of God claims exclusive ability to discern people’s hearts and motives. (Hebrews 4:12)

D.)  The Word of God claims to exclusively possess the solutions to all life’s problems (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16–17)

E.)  Following biblical instruction keeps a person from stumbling. (Proverbs 4:11–13)

F.)  The Bible speaks loudly against man-made philosophies that emerge to compete alongside God’s Word. "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, which are based on human tradition and the spiritual forces of the world rather than on Christ" (Colossians 2:8). That’s very unambiguous!

Therefore, after carefully silhouetting the methods, claims, and promises of Color Coding and other AI-driven personality profiling counseling systems over and against Scripture, we should arrive at this final conclusion: They are not biblical at all. Not only are these ultramodern methods unbiblical, but they are also blatantly warned against in Scripture.

The beautiful divine dance between God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, the counselor, and the counselee—where there is much waiting upon God, training in His Word, and even more seeking Him in prayer—is God’s way of discipleship/counseling. It always has been and it always will be. May we preserve it as such.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

Let us be confident. Let us be diligent. But let us also be shrewd as vipers.

by David Frazier, MABC, Th.D. ©2022

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Endnotes:

  1. The Holy Bible, Berean Study Bible, Bsb. 1st edition, Bible Hub, 2016.
  2. Personality profiling is a scientific method of determining human personality characteristics and establishes person-job fit across the talent management life cycle. The personality assessment establishes a candidate’s strengths and potential weaknesses, key work styles and motivations. See https://www.collinsmcnicholas.ie/personality-profiling
  3. https://www.colorcode.com/about/.
  4. https://aandbcounseling.com/history-of-arno-profile-system/
  5. Holman Bible Publishers (Nashville, Tenn.). HCSB Study Bible Personal Size: Holman Christian Standard Bible Study Bible, Personal Size. 2014.

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