Pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Community Church has embarked on a fifty two week health and fitness programme which he has christened the ‘Daniel Plan’. He has enlisted the services of three renowned medical professionals, namely Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Over nine thousand participants from Saddleback and elsewhere have used Facebook, twitter and the Saddleback Community website and are actively involved in the week by week health journey. Warren himself is personally committed to his cause.

 ‘The Saddleback pastor has pledged to lose 90 pounds through the program. He said he has gained 3 pounds each year since he started the church nearly 30 years ago.’… The megachurch pastor dropped 8 pounds since starting the Daniel Plan this year, said Dr. Mark Hyman, one of three developers of the 52-week, church-wide plan for the Saddleback family in southern California.’ (

The Daniel plan is derived from when Daniel and his three companions were in Babylonian exile and abstained from the king’s delicacies and successfully improved their health after a ten day trial and thereafter consuming a simple diet of vegetables and water.

Unsurprisingly the Daniel Plan has sparked immediate controversy since Warren has endorsed the three doctors so candidly. Dr Daniel Amen is supposedly Christian yet is involved in Kirtan Kriya mediation and advocates hypnosis, Reiki and tantric sex, which are common New Age and Eastern religious practises. Moreover Dr Mark Hyman is Jewish and Dr Mehmet Oz is Muslim and both have an interest in alternative medicine. An initial glance suggests the Daniel Plan is not actually Biblical but is in fact a stew being broiled in the cauldron of ecumenism.

‘Warren responded to criticism that people might have about the doctors not being part of his church or not being Christian altogether. Hyman is Jewish and Oz is Muslim…”My statement on that is: if I have a brain tumor, I find the best brain surgeon I can find. I’m not asking what his background is or what his belief is,” he told online viewers. “If you are dying, you might even let an atheist save your life (”

Later on, the above paragraph will be assessed concerning whether Warren is comparing like for like and also whether the three doctors’ holistic views are separable from Warren’s objectives. Now though, let’s firstly examine Warren’s motivation for his diet, to determine whether it is consistent with Daniel’s action in Scripture. Afterwards the beliefs and practises of Dr Amen, Dr Hyman and Dr Oz will be evaluated and in particular regarding how they relate to diet and health. Lastly recommendations will be offered to establish whether the Daniel Plan is edifying for the Christian and consequences of a weaker believer being exposed to unbiblical ideas and concepts.

The Original Daniel Plan

When Daniel and his three friends were put to the test to see whether their general well-being would improve or deteriorate, physical health was not their primary consideration.

‘But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.’ (Dan 1:8)

Clearly, Daniel was determined not to be defiled. According to Strong’s definition, defiled means ‘to soil, desecrate, defile, pollute or stain.’ (Strongs, p31). Renn provides further insight regarding its usage from his expository dictionary. ‘Ga’al is a verb found eleven times, meaning “defile,” “pollute,” “desecrate,” and used mostly in a metaphorical sense denoting “moral failure,” “wickedness”- although the ceremonial sense of ritual defilement is also evident.’ (Renn, p257)

Concerning the context, John MacArthur writes, ‘The pagan food and drink was devoted to idols. To indulge was to be understood as honouring these deities. Daniel “purposed in his heart” (cf. Prov. 4:23) not to engage in compromise by being untrue to God’s call of commitment (c.f. Ex 34:14, 15)’ (MacArthur p950).

Merrill Unger explains the historical cultural pretext. ‘Meat from the royal table was doubtlessly slain and prepared according to pagan ritual and offered to a god. The Jews were forbidden to partake of flesh sacrificed to a pagan god (Exod. 34:15), for it was tantamount to “serving other gods” in the public eye (cf. I Cor. 10:23-29). Daniel was well aware that ceremonial defilement would open the door to more serious moral and spiritual contamination, against which the ceremonial was a warning in object lesson form.

The same general principle prevailed with the wine the king drank (cf. Num. 6:2-4; 1 Cor. 10:21). If Daniel was to be the instrument of the triumph of God’s power and grace in Babylon, that instrument had to be kept clean in uncompromising separation from the sin and worldliness of Babylon.’ (Unger, p1610).

Daniel and his three friends were swimming against the tide of the Babylonian way of life. They were instructed in the language and literature of the Chaldeans (Dan 1:4) and they were given pagan names to replace their biblical ones (Dan 1:7).

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. In these Hebrew names, the component el means “God” and Yah is a form of God’s name “Yahweh”…(Hence: Daniel means “my judge is God”; Hananiah, “Yahweh is gracious”, Mishael, “Who is what God is?” and Azariah, “Yahweh has helped.”…Belteshazzar…Shadrach…Meshach…Abednego…Suggestions for the meanings of these words include: Belteshezzar, ‘May God protect his life”; Shadrach, “the command of Aku,” (the Sumerian moon god); Meshach, “Who is what Aku is?” and Abed-nego, “servant of Nebo” (a Babylonian god). Bel is another name for Marduk, the chief Babylonian god (cf.4:8) (New Geneva Study Bible, p1331).

Evidently Ancient Babylonian religious culture and Biblical orthodoxy are mutually exclusive, hence the famous lament found in Psalm 137 speaking of when the Jewish captives were longing to return to Zion from a foreign land. In view of the facts, therefore, that Daniel and his companions were so intent on avoiding defilement with ungodly practises that they risked their lives by their refusal to defile  themselves with the king’s delicacies, entered the fiery furnace and spent a night in the lion’s den, it is the height of irony that Warren should designate a health programme under the name ‘The Daniel Plan’ and that its three chief advocates are entrenched in their respective ungodly spiritual practises.

Next, though, the religious views of the three doctors will be examined and most importantly the influence these have on their medical practises will be carefully weighed.

Dr Daniel Amen

The Christian Post mentioned that Dr Daniel Amen was at Saddleback’s Lake Forest Campus  and ‘interspersed medical findings with Biblical verses, said they shouldn’t trash the body, which is the temple of God.’ (

Interestingly, however, it is no secret that Amen also has a blog on his website in which he explains how he likes to focus and re-energise using Kirtan Kriya meditation. This is clearly contrary to the Biblical practise of meditation which involves filling one’s mind with God’s word or meditating about God Himself (Josh 1:8; Psalm 1:2, 63:6). The idea of chanting or utilising repetitive finger movements while chanting is neither supported by Scripture nor compatible with what the Bible permits. Kirtan Kriya mediation originates from the Kundalini tradition, which is often encouraged in Hinduism.

My favorite form of meditation is called Kirtan Kriya. After I finish writing this blog, I’m going to shut my door and meditate. If you want to join me, here’s how you do it.

This twelve-minute meditation involves chanting the following simple sounds-“saa” “taa” “naa” “maa”-while doing repetitive finger movements.

§  Touch the thumb of each hand to the index finger while chanting “saa.”

§  Touch the thumb of each hand to the middle finger while chanting “taa.”

§  Touch the thumb of each hand to the ring finger while chanting “naa.”

§  Touch the thumb of each hand to the pinkie finger while chanting “maa.”

§  Repeat the sounds for two minutes aloud.

§  Repeat the sounds for two minutes whispering.

§  Repeat the sounds for four minutes silently.

§  Repeat the sounds for two minutes whispering.

§  Repeat the sounds for two minutes aloud.

‘When you finish, sit quietly for a minute or two, and try to merge your calmed mind and body with your regular mode of being.’ (

While it may come as a surprise, therefor, that Warren has included Amen on his Daniel Plan, some may object that if Amen is offering his expertise on purely health and fitness related issues, but doesn’t openly advertise his spiritual inclinations, then the end justifies the means if the result is that many people become fitter and healthier and happier.

Nonetheless, Amen advocates a holistic approach which makes it difficult to separate the physical from the spiritual. Again, this is evidenced from his own website where he provides a clinical audio series that utilises hypnosis to conquer chronic pain, deal with anxiety and panic attacks, quit smoking, change your brain and battle addictions.

More specifically relating to the area of weight loss, Amen’s Audio CD includes the following, which demonstrates use of hypnosis to achieve positive physical and emotional outcomes:

In the full-length program, Dr. Daniel Amen leads the listener through a medical hypnosis session. He’ll help you change the way you think, feel and react to your struggle with food, diet, exercise and all the related health and emotional pieces of the wellness puzzle. (

Amen’s extensive Audio CD series also includes a lecture known as ‘Create More Passion Tonight’ where he explains how Tantric sex, (which is a practise popular in Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism) is openly promoted.

‘In this fun and highly practical 6 CD series, renowned neuroscientist Daniel Amen, M.D. and advanced certified Tantra educator T.J. Bartel explore many ways to boost your physical and emotional intimacy overnight. Together they show you how to experience maximum pleasure with your partner. Most of us never obtain proper sexual education, even though sexual messages are everywhere. This course will give you the underlying neuroscience of intimate connection, mixed with the ancient Tantra art of sexual healing. You will learn how to enhance your most intimate relationships, as well as learn many very practical suggestions on what you can do right now to improve your lovemaking skills.’ (


Dr Mark Hyman

On Dr Mark Hyman’s website there is a picture of him with Rick Warren at Saddleback Church. Hyman provides detailed information concerning the keys to ‘ultrawellness’. A quote on the homepage encapsulates Hyman’s pragmatic philosophy of medicinal practise.

‘All medicine comes down to this: Find out what’s bugging you; get rid of it. Find out what you need; get it. The body does the rest.'(

On the same website there are numerous articles covering a vast range of health topics. Like Dr. Amen, Hyman proactively endorses unconventional methods to improve health. Hence he has an open mind concerning how to get rid of what is bugging the body. Hyman writes extensively about alternative therapies. In fact Hyman is the editor in chief of alternative therapies in Health and Medicine. In an article entitled ‘Notes from Nepal: Reflections of a medical student on shamans, lamas, serpents and fortunes’ Hyman writes of his experiences:

‘Before the expedition left for the mountains, I found a few days to play in the world of a Tibetan refugee community just outside Kathmandu, in a small village called Boudanath. It is one of Buddhism’s great pilgrimage sites, a place where Buddha himself once gave teachings. This town along with Dharmsala in India has become a modern repository for Tibetan Buddhism. One quiet afternoon in an inconspicuous corner of a large monastery, I was taken to receive blessings from Dingo Kinsey Rinpoche, the living Buddha. In a 1-story brick building at the edge of the temple, hidden among trees and other structures, the Rinpoche received disciples. I entered a large waiting room filled with puja, or prayer scrolls, the written dharma, or teachings. Monks scurried about helping people, ordinary Tibetan peasants come to pay tribute and receive the blessings of the compassionate one.’

It is noticeable that Hyman strives to combine a spiritual approach to the practise of medicine and concludes his article with that question and a response to that also.

” How,” I asked, “can I integrate a spiritual life with the distraction and intensity of work as a physician?” He answered with clarity. “The profession of medicine and the practice of compassion are deeply bound together already. Even though the study and practice of medicine is difficult, requiring long hours, try to find time each morning and each evening to practice, to awaken  your compassion-even if it is a very short time. The vehicle is compassion.” (

In another article ‘The first mind-body medicine: Bringing Shamanism into the21st Century’ Hyman explains what he thinks is missing in contemporary mind-body medicine and suggests an integrative approach, utilising ancient spiritual techniques combined with contemporary scientific practises, is the way forward for overall health and well -being.

‘Shamanism is an integrated system of mind-body medicine. It was the first mind-body medicine, yet it contains more than methods to calm the mind or to shake off stress in a mechanical way. It provides a cosmology and architecture for healing not only the mind but also the soul, for navigating the confusion, injury, pain, or trauma we encounter as human beings walking the earth. Most modern attempts to adopt mind-body medicine such as biofeedback, breathing techniques, muscle relaxation, and massage may briefly relieve the symptoms of stress, but they do not address the root causes of suffering and stress.’ (

‘The ancient cosmologies and modern molecular biology take us to the same places and provide complementary tools to achieve a healing of the body, mind, and soul, all of which are necessary for health and to establish our place in the world. The challenge of mind-body medicine is to embrace, contain, and include the human need for purpose, connection, and meaning.’ (


Dr Mehmet Oz

In a transcript from a radio programme ‘’ Dr Mehmet Oz explains his approach to integrative medicine relating to alternative or traditional therapies. Akin to Dr Amen and Dr Hyman, Dr Oz encourages a broad spiritual tolerance of belief systems to aid the recovery process.

‘Dr. Oz: In many cases the alternative therapies were brought to me by folks outside of medicine. But within the institution that I work in, in New York Presbyterian Hospital, I found that there were folks who came to us from all parts of the globe who had their own healing traditions that had been effective for them in the past. And they wanted to use those, but they kept feeling that we didn’t want that to happen. They would abdicate all responsibility for their care once they walked into our hallowed hallways. And so we tried to change that. We tried to give them the confidence to play an active role in their own recovery process by letting them use their own healing traditions. And that’s how I actually learned about many of these alternative therapies.’ (

Again one has to question Warren’s decision to draw upon the experience of Dr Mehmet whose religious concepts are not confined merely to the context of a place of worship or personal isolated practises but are linked specifically to improving health, which is the basis of the Daniel Plan. In short Dr Oz practises what he preaches.

The doctor follows his own orders for healthy living, and it shows, both in the slender frame he reveals in close-fitting surgical scrubs and in his seemingly boundless energy-“electrifying vitality,” as Diane Sawyer puts it. His diet features fruits and veggies, grains, and lean protein. (Raw nuts soaked in water, in the Turkish style, are a staple.) He does Transcendental Meditation regularly and says his 20-year habit of daily yoga is “the most important health practice I have adopted.” (


Canadian Medicine interviewed Dr Oz concerning how he incorporates Sufi Islam music while treating patients.

I understand you play mystical Islamic Sufi music for patients during operations. Are you inspired by Sufism?
Influenced by it. The biggest influence for my alternative medicine interest are my wife and her family. They are very insightful people. My father-in-law is a very well-known heart surgeon, Gerald Lemole. I saw how they were using it in their own family and to create a healthy environment, and I liked it. In Islam, of course, it makes you realize that you have to have your own connection with the divine, there should be no one between you and God, so it makes you very autonomous, very free thinking. Organized religion are the rules, Sufism and other mystic sects of Christianity and Judaism allow us to transgress those rules and actually begin to enjoy the game.(

In addition Dr Mehmet advocates Reiki and his wife is a Reiki master. These are practises based on eastern religions that focus on channelling energy through meridian channels.  Dr Mehmet was also influenced and inspired by Emanuel Swedenborg, founder of a cult known as Swendenborgism. In the November/December 2007 issue of Spirituality& Health Dr Mehmet explains how he has gained an appreciation of Swedenborgism.

‘Swedenborg, I later learned, was a scientist and theologian whose great and defining quest was to find the nature of the relationship between the body and the spirit. In his mid-fifties he came into an altered state of awareness in which he experienced a simultaneous dual consciousness of this life and the afterlife. This sounded spooky to me at first, but as I came into contact with his many writings, I began to understand his profound insights and how they applied directly to my life.

On first glance, many of Swedenborg’s teachings seem familiar: the idea of one God, infinite and absolute; the belief in an afterlife; the reliance on the Bible as a source of divine revelation. These are tenets familiar to most Western faiths. His emphasis on overcoming the delusion of the self and on the profound interdependence of all things in both the spiritual and natural worlds aligns so closely with Buddhist thought that the Zen master D. T. Suzuki referred to him as “the Buddha of the North.” ‘(

Finally Dr Mehmet summarises how he has managed to incorporate Swedenborgism whilst treating patients.

‘In my practice I have struggled to provide holistic healing. For example, helping a transplant recipient deal with the emotional crisis of a rejecting heart is often more of a challenge than the surgery itself. Nothing in science can address the hopelessness we feel when our hearts fail us completely, or give us comfort when we face the possibility of our own death or the loss of a loved one. As a physician, I seek to connect with my patients on both the physical and spiritual levels, since true healing is never about curing just the body. Although I rarely mention him by name, Swedenborg has made this easier for me.’ (


Is the Daniel Plan really Biblical?

From examining the evidence presented, it is apparent that the religious and spiritual views advocated by Dr. Amen, Dr. Hyman and Dr. Oz are at odds with Scripture and are aligned with a holistic- and ecumenical-centred approach to medicine.

That approach to medicine is alien to what the Bible permits. The first of the ten commandments states, ‘You shall have no other God before Me’, and Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me.’ (Exod. 20:2; John 14:6) Instead of succumbing to the easy road of multi-faith inclusivism Jesus warned,  “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in it.” (Matt 6:13)

The Lord Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8) and Scripture is God breathed and inspired by the Holy Spirit, not man (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21). Therefore the words contained in the Bible and the doctrines Jesus taught have no need to be updated or recontextualised since His Word and teachings are authoritative in all matters pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3)

Whilst it is sensible and also encouraging that the Daniel Plan will probably improve adherents’ physical health over the coming year, the original purpose of Daniel’s decision to abstain from the king’s delicacies in Babylonian was in order not to become spiritually defiled. It was not a bid to win a health contest.

No doubt some will state that what is mentioned above is factual, though unnecessarily hypercritical since it would be almost impossible to avoid contact with others from various religions whilst carrying out ordinary day to day activities, such as the fact that it is likely that your doctor will not be a Christian so why make such a fuss about the Daniel plan?

Whilst the typical G.P. may not be a Christian concerning the treatment of biological issues, unless someone consults an alternative or complementary medicine practitioner, in theory they are not being directly exposed to a spiritually holistic approach to medicine irrespective of the GP’s personal spiritual convictions.

Thus it is a great shame that in an effort to make a commitment to improve physical health, Warren called upon three individuals with worldviews that are incompatible with what the Bible instructs.

Worryingly though, although Warren isn’t necessarily in agreement, or even comfortable with what the doctors believe, it is likely that people involved in the Daniel plan will read or investigate their holistic approach to medicine further since Warren promotes them so readily. In particular, inexperienced Christians may inadvertently engage in spiritual practises advocated by the doctors, since they were so strongly associated with Rick Warren in the Daniel Plan.

Ironically Warren could have introduced three Christian doctors to help him devise a well-balanced and effective health plan. That would probably achieve a really positive outcome since obesity is a serious issue particularly in the United States at present. More importantly it would have avoided unnecessary contact with the three doctors, who one way or another, generate unwanted exposure to a myriad of ungodly practises advertised under the banner of health. In 1 John 3:2, John writes, ‘Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health just as your soul prospers.’ While godliness profits more than bodily exercise, the latter does have value (c.f. 1 Tim 4:8). Since Daniel’s actions were not originally aimed at achieving maximum physical health but avoiding spiritual defilement it could simply be called the health plan!

Another Agenda?

It is difficult to establish why Warren chose those three doctors to be at the forefront of his project. The abilities of the men are not in question. Perhaps their respective knowledge brings a professionalism that is desirable when running an operation of that size. Nevertheless, it could also be the case that Warren is subtly orchestrating an ecumenical agenda. In 2007 it was noticeable that Warren controversially signed the ‘love God and neighbours together’ document between certain Christian and Muslim leaders. According to the Christian post…

 ‘Christian leaders urged for an interfaith dialogue that moves beyond “polite” ecumenical talks between selected leaders. Instead, leaders of both faiths should hold dialogues to build relations that will “reshape” the two communities to “genuinely reflect our common love for God and for one another,” the Christian letter stated.’                                            (

Whilst the above may sound reasonable and practical in this day and age, the term, ‘common love for God’ is a presumptive statement, since Christians worship a triune God (God in three persons) whereas Muslims are monotheistic (There is only one God) and believe that he is one person.  This demonstrates that the two communities cannot build a relationship based on that fallacy.

Rick Warren is also a member of the Religious Advisory Council on the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which is an interfaith committee, though it is certainly not the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) because Hebrews 11:6 confirms ‘But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.’ Clearly the same ‘faith presumption’ is being repackaged, which assumes that there can be unity on the basis of having a faith, despite the fact that the requirements of the faiths differ amongst themselves.  Ultimately everyone has faith in someone or something, irrespective of whether that person, belief system or set of principles is consistent and so therefore to achieve unity or build relationships based on ‘common love for God’ or on the basis of ‘a faith’ is meaningless.

Reaching Out

It is possible that those involved in the Daniel Plan may experiment with some of the many unbiblical ideas that Dr Amen, Dr Hyman or Dr Oz would advocate by watching their programmes or from purchasing something from their vast array of resources on offer. Although Rick Warren endorsed them so prominently in the Daniel Plan, what they teach and encourage themselves should be weighed up alongside Scripture.

Although the plan itself is taken out of context, concentrating on health instead of avoiding spiritual defilement, the greater issue is clearly the involvement of three holistic health professionals and their philosophy of treatment, which as demonstrated, is not limited to general medicine but incorporates alternative medicine. A general health plan in itself is certainly not a bad thing, in fact quite the opposite and would have numerous benefits. Even though many may pick up valuable health tips whilst taking part in the Daniel plan and have no direct involvement with alternative medicine, it is foreseeable that particularly new Christians or weaker believers could obtain resources from any of three doctors and subsequently expose themselves to unbiblical practises.

Lastly, please pray that Rick Warren will recognise that it is the holistic approach, in addition to the beliefs of the doctors, that is the issue in question. This is a valid objection and is not being pedantic or hypercritical. Whilst Warren makes the point that if he had a brain tumour he would want the best brain surgeon irrespective of their beliefs  (and that is sensible because in a fallen world it is not possible to utilise only Christian doctors), these three doctors attempt wherever possible to integrate the spiritual dimension within the capacity of the physical treatment offered.


Rick Warren loses 8 pounds in Saddleback’s health plan

Editor. Stephen D. Renn Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005), 257.

John MacArthur  The John Mac Arthur Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 950.

Merrill F. Unger  Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga: Tyndale, 2002), 1610.

Editor R. C. Sproul New Geneva Study Bible NKJV , 1331.

Dr Daniel Amen  I’m taking a time out to focus and re-energise

Dr. Daniel Amen  A Comprehensive list of Dr. Amen’s  video and audio library

Dr Daniel Amen & T.J. Bartel  Create more passion tonight

Dr Mark Hyman   Notes from Nepal: Reflections of a medical student on shamans, lamas, serpents and fortunes

Dr Mark Hyman  The first mind-body medicine: Bringing Shamanism into the21st Century’

Heart and Soul: The Integrative Medicine of Dr. Mehmet Oz

Mario Orsatti  Health Tips from Dr. Oz

Canadian Medicine The Interview: Dr Mehmet Oz

Spirituality & Health The Soul/Body connection Issue Nov/Dec 2007 Mehmet Oz,  Finds His Teacher Mehmet Oz, Md., with Jonathan S. Rose, Ph.d., and Lisa Oz

The Christian Post  Christian Leaders Invite Muslims to Love God, Neighbours Together