Jumping the Theological Shark

Rick Warren and his Daniel Plan

…Now Eglon was a very fat man (Judges 3:17)

I do believe I have come to the conclusion that Rick Warren has jumped the theological shark, and I say that at the risk of incurring the combox wrath of Richard Abanes.Some may quibble and tell me he jumped the shark a long time ago upon the publication of his multimillion dollar best seller, The Purpose Driven Life. Others will say it happened in 2008 when he interviewed the then presidential candidates John McCain and Barak Obama at his church. Others may say it happened when he endorsed a document for Christian environmentalism. But I am convinced it for sure happened this past weekend (Jan. 15, 2011) when he invited three alleged quacks to speak on health and dieting.

Called The Daniel Plan, (The folks associated with the Daniel Fast must be gnawing their wrists) Warren and his three gurus have developed a 52-week health program designed to reshape a person’s diet and health routine so he or she can be a better “you” at the end of the year. The plan, as explained in a video by Rick Warren, is based upon Daniel 1 when Daniel and his three friends asked if they could be excused from eating the food given to them by Nebuchadnezzar’s men as they went through their wisemen training in Babylon.


I am all for better health and eating sensibly. The good Lord knows I can lose some weight and have an overall better diet. As I get older, I recognize how my metabolism is slowing down. For a person like me whose natural metabolism is that of an Amazon tree sloth, I do my best to stay active. In fact, when I can, I ride a bike 12 miles to and from work about three days a week. When the weather is favorable in the evenings (in So.Cal, that’s above 60 degrees) my family and I take a walk around our neighborhood. But I am not going to pursue health and eating a proper diet because a group of food pharisees egregiously misapply a biblical text.

Rick Warren explains on his video introduction to his Daniel Plan program that the plan comes from Daniel chapter 1, when a young Daniel proposes a contest between him and his Babylonian overlords. Daniel and his friends would eat a healthy, vegetarian oriented diet, where as the Babylonians would continue to eat their diet of rich, fatty foods high in calories. At the end of the contest, they all will come together to see who was more healthy, and of course Daniel and his friends won the contest.

If I may be blunt: Daniel chapter 1 is not about making a bet to see which diets are the most healthy.

Daniel and his three friends were captives of the Babylonians. They were being groomed to be Babylonian “wisemen” who would be part of a larger group advising the governmental officials in the ways of the Chaldean religion. Part of the training for this role included being fed from the king’s table. In other words, Daniel and his friends would be given a special diet of the choicest foods available in the kingdom. The food was a means to assimilate the young men into the roles of Chaldean wisemen and break them from their previous cultural background. The text specifically explains why Daniel would not eat the food: it was so as not to be defiled (Dan. 1:8). The word “defile” here has a spiritual definition attached to it. To eat of the king’s food would violate the Levitical dietary laws. Daniel’s choice had nothing to do with eating right and maintaining a 33 inch waste line; it had to do with honoring God as a faithful, covenant keeping Hebrew. He and his friends looked “better” than the other trainees because God blessed their obedience to his law, not because they ate specific foods.

This horrendous abuse of Daniel 1 is bad, and if Warren had stopped there we could all just roll our eyes, say “whatever,” and return to eating our shredded BBQ pork sandwiches while we watch Man Vs. Food. But it doesn’t stop there.

In order to kick-off the year of The Daniel Plan, he invited three health experts to his church to speak from his pulpit: Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Dr. Mark Hyman. Glancing over what information I could find on these men, none of them are Christians from what I could tell. Now does a doctor have to be a Christian in order to develop a plan for you to eat better and improve your health? No. Just want to make sure I’m clear on that. I would imagine everyone reading this has visited doctors who were not believers. The problem, however, is context. Visiting an unbelieving doctor in his office is one thing; inviting him to speak from the pulpit, to the church, from an authoritative position about a person’s spiritual and physical health, is quite another.

What is even more troubling is how all three of these doctors are controversial in the medical field and have come under heavy scrutiny from other medical health experts. From the brief review I made of their controversies, I hear a certain conspiratorial tone resonating through their material. I mean, once you start saying ADD and autism is linked to the food parents feed their children and the lack of vitamins, you’d better be prepared to back up your research.

And granted, doctors critique each other all the time and I will say a good amount of the criticism of these men comes from the peanut gallery of atheist cranks supposedly debunking quacks. Yet, if one were to do a search on each one of these doctors, there is enough legitimate concern as to their research and practice to raise red flags. There is enough that I certainly would not welcome them to my church to teach from the pulpit about health.

Of the three, Dr. Oz definitely is the most problematic. He has new agey sympathies, has been promoted heavily by Oprah (and we all know where she stands on things), and he claims to be influenced by Swedish pseudo-Christian mystic, Emanual Swedenborg who believed a connection existed between one’s spirituality and the food he or she eats. Swedenborg’s modern-day followers even claim he was an early promoter of vegetarianism.

Obviously, Dr. Oz didn’t go to Saddleback and preach about Swedenborg – at least I hope he didn’t. None the less, with this Daniel Plan being pushed by a well-known Christian celebrity like Rick Warren, I have to wonder about its overall influence among Christians. Does Warren not consider the fact that his popularity will expose Dr. Oz, and his two buddies, to countless numbers of Rick Warren/PDL enthusiasts? Has Rick Warren thought about how those countless numbers of individuals will more than likely look up Dr. Oz on the internet and see “Emanuel Swedenborg” attached to his name and think, “hmmm. What’s he all about? I mean, if he had such a wonderful impact on Dr. Oz…” Because the way I see it, with these endorsements, there is a serious lack of discernment on Warren’s part. He has truly jumped from being a pragmatic, mega-church pastor to being the peddler of serious theological error.


13 thoughts on “Jumping the Theological Shark

  1. "Deeds not Creeds."The man is not a pastor, as far as a pastor of Ephesians 4, 1&2 Tim & Titus.The man should run for mayor, or something. And leave the Holy Scriptures to pastors who love to preach and teach the truth of God, which is the Word of God.He said about when he was working hand in hand with Obama to fight AIDS, that we need to do good works, and then maybe some will get Jesus. Paraphrased a bit, but basically his heart."Nice" people into eternal life.Thanks for the headed shaken' update of Warren, yet not unexpected.

  2. I once read–can't recall where, unfortunately–that Rick Warren is ADHD. Every so often, I have thought that that would explain a lot. I honestly think that the man means well, he just reasons, writes, and plans like a man who can't concentrate for long. He doesn't look past the surface of things because he can't. His handling of the Scriptures is shallow because that's as far as he can go.Then again, maybe that's totally wrong and full of beans. I don't know.

  3. Yikes. I went to a ladies coffee hour years ago where the speaker promoted this exact thing. She must be doing a happy dance now, knowing that her heresy has been adopted by such a big name.The extent of Warren's "quack-ness" does not seem to have limits.

  4. Good blog post. I really think donsands said it all. Warren should repent, go read the Bible, and then do what it says.BTW – the scripture ref of Judges 3:17 was priceless! LOLFrom the narrow path,Len QuallsOne Over 99 MinistryOneOver99.orgtwitter.com/OneOver99

  5. I notice these types of health programs are promoted mainly by Charasmatic-types. And they seem to have grown in popularity.I visited my local Christian bookstore around Christmas time and noticed that the THEOLOGY section had diminished to two small shelves in the store, over shadowed by hefty offerings of Business/Leadership, Fiction, and Diet/Health.Yea, the health/diet industry is saturated with pseudo-scientific quackery and new age. Though I would say one should follow the principle that God's bounty is always healthiest, and that accords with what we know…eat your fruits and veggies.

  6. Pingback: Answering Survivor Bloggers and Other Sundry Theological Cranks | hipandthigh

  7. This is very timely because our Pastor is trying to introduce the Daniel Plan in our church. Excellent critic, keep up the good work brother. I’ll show this to our leaders. Thanks!

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