by Debbie Dewart
Charles Solomon’s approach to counseling is one that seems initially to promise a truly biblical methodology. Specifically, his counseling method promises to be grounded in “the truth of freedom through union with Christ in His death and resurrection.” He claims the cross, and the power of God’s Spirit, to be central to his approach. The following is written in Solomon’s book Handbook to Happiness:
Spirituotherapy is a word coined by Dr. Solomon to identify an approach to counseling that makes the believer’s relationship to the cross of Christ central to its method and goal. The Holy Spirit is the therapist who renews the mind and transforms the life in accord with Romans 12:2 (pg. 11).
Solomon does correctly remind us of the important concept of our union with Christ. Certainly that is an essential concept in the area of sanctification. Unfortunately, Solomon emerges as yet another integrationist promising an approach that is accurate in its combination of psychology and theology. Such attempts at integration are fundamentally flawed, and this one is no exception.
Criticisms of Psychotherapy
Severe criticisms of modern psychotherapy, scattered throughout Solomon’s writings, hide the fact of his integration. He rightly criticizes the strengthening of self, the therapeutic relationship, and the practice of making counseling referrals outside the church. However, he admits his willingness to use psychological categories to understand human nature, yet insists that he uses solely biblical solutions. What we need is a biblical understanding of man’s problems and solutions grounded solely in God’s truth and power.
Solomon’s particular understanding of man as a three-part being (body, soul, and spirit) is unbiblical and leads to some rather strange conclusions. For example, he makes a sharp soul-spirit separation, insisting that the soul relates to people while the spirit relates to God. On this basis, one wonders how Solomon would understand the command to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Furthermore, trichotomy in general implies that the psychologist cares for the soul while the pastor cares for the spirit. God’s Word and Spirit, however, are sufficient for the entire inner man.
Rejection is undoubtedly Solomon’s major psychological category for understanding human behavior. He places a huge emphasis on “the absence of meaningful love.” Rejection, for Solomon, is a very broad category that includes the death or divorce of parents, or even time spent in an incubator prior to the development of conscious memories.
Certainly, we live in a fallen world where all are sinned against to some degree. However, focusing on rejection experienced at the hand of other fallen human beings, as the driving force behind adult behavior, diverts us from the biblical doctrine of sin and the glory of our reconciliation to God in Christ.
Here is another key to unlocking Solomon’s counseling methods. Solomon believes that identity, either assigned by others or created by self, has a powerful impact on our decisions and relationships with others. He sees it as one of the major forces driving sinful behavior. Although Solomon’s teachings appear biblical in his exhortation to exchange identities, he remains subtly focused on self, on guarding personal “identity” or self-concept.
Assurance of Salvation
Solomon believes that assurance of salvation is to be based on the facts of Scripture rather than our feelings. Unfortunately, he insists that emotions most commonly account for a lack of assurance, and that an appeal to biblical facts fails to clear the confusion. He does note the Bible’s teaching that we can have assurance (1 John 5:13). However, his attitude reflects a weak view of the power of God’s living Word (consider Hebrews 4:12!). Solomon claims to be biblical but denies the sufficiency of the Scripture. Similar reasoning is applied when Solomon considers feelings of inferiority, insecurity, inadequacy, and such.
Salvation plus . . .
Salvation, according to Solomon’s teaching, is only one major milestone along the believer’s path to glory. Although denying a “second work of grace,” Solomon clearly proposes “total surrender” as a separately identifiable second experience that almost always occurs at some point after salvation. “Total surrender” involves a daily “aggressive yielding” that borders on works-righteousness. In fact, it doesn’t stop there. Solomon identifies a third experience, that of identification with the cross of Christ. Important as this concept is, Scripture affirms its truth for all believers (Romans 6:1-14), rather than identifying separate experiences that occur at some point after salvation.
Being vs. Doing
Pagan psychologist Abraham Maslow emphasized “being” over “becoming” or doing. Popular recovery “guru” John Bradshaw has a similar disdain for any sort of “doing,” counseling his listeners to love themselves for just “being.” Solomon is far more biblical than these two, yet we encounter a similar concern, perhaps borrowed from pagan sources. Solomon believes that the believer who really matures into “spiritual adulthood” is one who “is interested primarily in his growth rather than in his service—in being rather than doing.” However, Scripture does not dissect “being” and “doing.” Rather, being conformed to the image of Christ is highly correlated with active obedience to His commands. “Being”—in Christ—is accompanied by “doing”—Christ’s commands. Jesus taught that those who love Him will keep His commandments (John 14:15).
Solomon’s being/doing division is evident in his distinction between the blood of Christ and the cross of Christ. Yet, although he makes some biblical statements about Christ’s work of atonement, this sort of dichotomy distorts the biblical message. Christ shed His blood on the cross. The cross and blood are inseparable.
When Solomon considers difficult times during the believer’s life, he borrows heavily from the polluted streams of psychology. The beginning of a “downer,” according to Solomon, is likely to involve a significant rejection, loss of self-esteem, frustration, hostility, or depression. Such factors are emphasized more than sin arising out of the heart. Furthermore, if Solomon were fully consistent with his thesis of the “exchanged” life, the “loss of self-esteem” would hardly be a concern. Rejection, too, would not occupy such a prime position, as the believer can expect rejection and persecution for his faith (John 15:18-20; 1 Peter 4:12-19).
Solomon emphasizes God’s use of suffering in the lives of Christians. Certainly, the reality of suffering is evident from the Scriptures, and God uses it to accomplish His purposes. The necessity of suffering, as perhaps the way in which God works in the believer’s life, is Solomon’s emphasis. Even though Solomon promotes an “exchanged” life in which self is dethroned, his focal point is still self rather than God’s glory. The use of human suffering for God’s glory is a scriptural emphasis that overshadows its use only to transform the believer. The transformation of the believer is accomplished in order that God may be glorified.
Solomon’s work focuses on the important issue of our union with Christ. A biblical understanding of this concept is essential to comprehending the nature of our salvation and sanctification. However, it is important to look carefully at what the Bible actually says and to correct the flaws in Solomon’s analysis. Flaws exist not only in his understanding of our union with Christ, but in his doctrine of the nature of man, and in his proposal that some “second” or even “third” experience is needed to live the victorious Christian life. In addition, careful examination is needed to identify the psychological concepts (particularly rejection) that Solomon introduces and mixes in with biblical teaching. His method sounds promising, and his intentions seem sincere, yet his counseling must be exposed as yet another unbiblical integration of God’s truth with man’s “wisdom.”
For further study:
Those who would like a more detailed analysis of Charles Solomon’s integration may wish to order Debbie Dewart’s 27-page paper titled “Charles Solomon’s Integration: A Critique of Handbook to Happiness.”
(from PAL V5N2)