Rick Warren’s Book Daniel Plan Vs. Susan Gregory’s Book Daniel Fast
First: a personal anecdote about Rick Warren. In 2013, Warren was supposed to be the commencement speaker for Westmont College’s graduation in May, and I happened to be volunteering as a staff member in the ceremony. Although I’ve never read one of Warren’s books, I was curious to see him speak. And then in April, his son died. It was incredibly tragic. At first, Warren was still on the list as the commencement speaker, which shocked me. And then he canceled, which seemed much more sensible. He needed to be with his family, not making speeches. A senior at Westmont had also died tragically during the school year, and, frankly, it was a heavy-hearted graduation ceremony. As a school
, we prayed for the family of the Westmont student as well as Rick Warren and his family.
Some people don’t like Rick Warren, which is a common thing for any pastor, especially a mega-church pastor — a position that seems to draw as much jealousy from other ministries as it does popularity. Some people aren’t jealous, but they have honest objections over Warren’s political activities and interfaith leanings, particularly his controversial engagement with radical Islamic groups in the name of outreach.
I don’t know Rick Warren personally, and it’s not always easy to decipher the truth from news sources when you’re not an eyewitness on the ground. Regardless of your opinion of Warren, he is a father who recently lost a son, and for that my heart has gone out to him, and I have prayed for him.
So when I saw he had a new book out called The Daniel Plan, I was happy for him — happy that he was back out there after stopping his ministry and grieving for four months.
My second thought was, “Wait, isn’t it called the Daniel Fast? Did Rick Warren and his giant publishing house overlook the typo on the book’s cover and put ‘Plan’ instead of ‘Fast’? Sure, dozens of editors, or probably hundreds, or heck, maybe even thousands of editors proof-read Warren’s book, I’m sure, but hey everyone makes mistakes — even a legion of editors, right?”
The mistake was obviously mine. I was confusing Warren’s title with the popular Daniel Fast diet, which has its genesis from Susan Gregory’s bestselling book The Daniel Fast.
Rick Warren’s book is different than Susan Gregory’s book because it’s not focused on a single diet or fast; it’s more of a “healthier, happier, you” lifestyle book with a strong spiritual undertone throughout. It focuses on five areas: faith, fitness, focus, food, and friends, and it contemplates them from a Biblical perspective with the goal of getting rid of unhealthy habits that drain our ability to pursue a spiritually disciplined lifestyle. The life of the prophet Daniel comes into play, but in a broader sense that uses his example to inspire spiritual discipline — especially Daniel’s 40 days of fasting and prayer, which is not related to the fruit/vegetable-only regimen from Daniel 1. I think the premise of the book is timely for our Age of Immaturity that has come to characterize 21st century Western culture — although it might give ammunition to critics, particularly the ones who have become wary of the American Church’s tendency to replace the simple message of the Cross with the Self-Help Therapy Gospel.
Unlike Warren’s book, Susan Gregory’s Daniel Fast draws its inspiration exclusively from the first chapter of Daniel where Daniel and his friends refuse food from the king’s table and demand only vegetables and water. Susan Gregory’s fast therefore imitates Daniel and prescribes only vegetables, fruit, and water. Similar to Warren, Gregory meant it to be a spiritual discipline, not a health fad or the latest miracle diet.
Unfortunately, our culture has made the Daniel Fast more about the flesh and less about the spirit. Instead of a spiritually focused discipline, it’s become a popular weight loss regimen among Christians. I’ve heard and read about many people doing it for the sole purpose of losing weight — though a few do retain the spiritual emphasis.
There’s one problem with this: Daniel didn’t lose weight and get ripped. He didn’t have a twelve-pack stomach or shoulder muscles like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. In the NASB translation, Daniel 1:15 says he got fatter. The Strong’s Concordance confirms this: the Hebrew word means fat or fatter in almost every place it appears in the Bible. This fatness, from the perspective of the Babylonians, was a sign of health — and that was the whole point. God prompted Daniel to request vegetables only, and then proceeded to do a miracle by giving Daniel’s body a well-fed, fatter appearance, which the Babylonians were not expecting. We know today that it would be impossible to get fatter from such a diet. It makes people thin, lean, and muscular, which is why it is so popular in our culture. Daniel’s fatness was indeed a miracle, and that’s why God did it!
That passage goes on to say that God supernaturally equipped Daniel and his friends with unusual wisdom, intelligence, and the understanding of dreams. The real theme is not health or dieting, it is God miraculously enhancing the physical and mental state of these young men for the purpose of glorifying His Name before the pagan Babylonians. It’s also an inspiring example of Daniel refusing to defile himself by partaking of the delicacies of the king’s table, which serves as a powerful reminder that we should resist the appealing temptations of sin in the world.
That’s why, in my opinion, Susan Gregory meant it to be a spiritual discipline. I personally don’t believe that she was trying to be the next Dr. Oz, but our culture took her idea, extracted and cast aside the spiritual core of it, and then championed it for earthly causes like vegetarianism or miracle weight loss plans that, ultimately, have absolutely nothing to do with the Book of Daniel, which is mostly a prophetic warning about the end of the world just before Christ returns. Like everything else in the Bible, the book’s ultimate goal was to fix the eyes of the reader on Christ. It is not a diet plan.
The question is, will Christian culture do the same thing with Rick Warren’s The Daniel Plan — which is already on the best-seller shelf in Christian bookstores — and morph it into an earth-centric self-improvement plan completely detached from the Bible?
Only time will tell.