Daniel seems like a poster boy for the current Christian obsession with healthy eating. As we saw last time, he was far more concerned for the harm that eating bad food would do him than about the harm that reading bad books might do him. He read the Babylonian literature that was set before, but he refused to eat the Babylonian food that was put on his plate.

The rich diet that Daniel was offered was food taken straight from Nebuchadnezzar's table, but he rejected food fit for as king and chose instead to get fit to serve the king on a vegetarian diet (Daniel 1:5,12). In a thoroughly modern scientific experiment, the results of the two diets were compared, and after a suitable trial period, the winner was revealed. Daniel and his friends were in far better shape than those fed on the richer fare.

So it is no surprise that in our day of fads, Daniel now has a Christian Diet named after him. 'Daniel's Diet' is described as "The 10-day Detox and Weight Loss plan".

The creator of the Daniel Diet claims that the story in Daniel 1 is the basis for the diet. He seems qualified to make that claim, with academic credentials in both Health Science and in Theology: the perfect combination for coming up with a biblical diet! So, in his web site promotion he writes,
In Daniel, chapter 1, Daniel himself takes on a challenge to show the value of a natural diet... 
As we argued in an earlier blog, we are less sure that a natural anything is a good thing, for the Bible usually uses the word 'natural' in a pejorative way. But even if we were to take the adjective 'natural' as a positive description of a diet, we have some food issues here that we are tempted to stumble over.

We have no expertise to doubt the author's academic competence to write about Health Science issues, but there should be some questions raised concerning his theology. It is stretching the text to suggest that Daniel took on this challenge "to show the value of a natural diet." That was the farthest thing from his mind. Fortunately he was not a 21st century health food nut; he was a 6th century (BC) holiness nut. He was not a poster boy for vegetables; he was a prophet who would not violate God's Word by eating food dedicated to idols - and if that meant he had to live on vegetables and water, that's the price he was prepared to pay. Even if making such sacrifices meant, as later became apparent, ending up on the menu of the non-vegetarian lions. Daniel never thought about living a healthy life; he only thought about living a holy life. Resisting despotic ruler's wishes on a regular basis is not making healthy lifestyle choices. The story is not about the health benefits of veggies.

But the good doctor's theology should be examined carefully on another front too. He uses this Bible story to promote his 10-day Weight Loss Plan. He even has the nerve to quote verse 15 as proving the success of the vegetable and water diet. But he conveniently fails to mention that that verse describes the successful outcome of the Daniel Diet by saying that its adherents were "fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food". There's a novel idea! A diet to help you get fat! Far from being a weight loss diet, the real Daniel Diet was successful for those who needed to gain weight. I'm not sure how successful a new diet program would be today if it promoted itself by saying
If you avoid all that rich food and only eat the vegetables we tell you to eat, cut out the alcohol and pop and drink only water - we guarantee you'll gain 10 lbs in ten days, You'll look fatter than all your friends in no time! 
That would be a Daniel Diet.

But of course Daniel was not interested in weight gain any more than he was interested in weight loss. He was interested in God's glory. And in his case, that meant that the pagan king needed to see in Daniel's chubbiness that obedience to Israel's God resulted in blessing. Daniel is not promoting obesity, but obedience. What matters is not weight but sin, and of course gluttony and lack of self-control in our eating habits are sins. Holiness matters - and holiness is measured in light of the commands of Scripture, the perfection that God demands, not the perfect body that our culture sets up as a norm.

So, far from giving us a weight loss program, this chapter gives us a mirror to look into to see what kind of spiritual shape we are in. On what basis do we make our lifestyle choices: Healthy living or Holy living? Are we pursuing God's glory, whatever the personal cost, or are we pursuing our own well-being in the terms in which the world is currently defining wellness? Would we, like Daniel, be willing to choose to be more holy even if it mean being more fat? Here's Daniel: holier and fatter than those around! Yet many Christians seem more fearful of gaining weight than losing holiness. They certainly put more effort into it.