Fasting: The Ancient Practices

Fasting: The Ancient Practices

by Scot McKnight


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Fasting: The Ancient Practices by Scot McKnight

“Fasting is the body talking what the spirit yearns, what the soul longs for, and what the mind knows to be true.”

— Scot McKnight

Christianity has traditionally been at odds with the human body. At times in the history of the church, Christians have viewed the body and physical desires as the enemy. Now, Scot McKnight, best-selling author of The Jesus Creed , reconnects the spiritual and the physical in the ancient discipline of fasting.

Inside You'll Find:

  • In-depth biblical precedents for the practice of fasting;
  • How to fast effectively—and safely;
  • Different methods of fasting as practiced in the Bible;
  • Straight talk on pitfalls, such as cheating and motivation.
Join McKnight as he explores the idea of “whole-body spirituality,” in which fasting plays a central role. This ancient practice, he says, doesn’t make sense to most of us until we have grasped the importance of the body for our spirituality, until we can view it as a spiritual response to a sacred moment. Fasting—simple, primitive, and ancient—still demonstrates a whole person’s earnest need and hunger for the presence of God, just as it has in the lives of God’s people throughout history.

The Ancient Practices

There is a hunger in every human heart for connection, primitive and raw, to God. To satisfy it, many are beginning to explore traditional spiritual disciplines used for centuries . . . everything from fixed-hour prayer to fasting to sincere observance of the Sabbath. Compelling and readable, the Ancient Practices series is for every spiritual sojourner, for every Christian seeker who wants more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780849946059
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 12/27/2010
Pages: 185
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Scot McKnight (PhD, Nottingham) is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois. He is the author of more than fifty books, including the award-winning The Jesus Creed as well as The King Jesus Gospel, A Fellowship of Differents, One.Life, The Blue Parakeet, and Kingdom Conspiracy.

Read an Excerpt


By Scot McKnight

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2009 Scot McKnight
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4185-7613-4



Christianity has perennially had a problem with the human body.

At times in the history of the church, Christians have viewed desires and the body as the enemy. In the past few years, the question seems to have been, "What's the body got to do with spirituality?" Yet we are finding today a surging interest in what can only be called embodied spirituality. Young Christians express worship with their hands aloft and their eyes closed, more and more find spiritual strength in candles and icons, and some churches are bringing back kneelers. Other churches encourage releasing creative gifts for acting, painting, and art. Fasting, too, is on the rise.

What is this all about? Thomas Howard, an evangelical who first converted to Anglicanism and then to Catholicism, gets it right with these words: "We are all sacramentalists whether our theology admits it or not: we like physical contact with history." Indeed, there is a rise—let's call it what it really is, a revival—of the value of embodied spirituality. We worship God and we love God in our bodies and with our bodies and in concrete, physical, tangible, palpable ways. Deep in the yearning of humans is the need to "do spirituality" with the body.

This raises a problem for fasting. Fasting is whole-body stuff. Many of us are much more comfortable with candles and icons and kneelers than we are with throwing our bodies into this business of worship and prayer. When it comes down to it, this revival of embodied spirituality has one major territory to conquer for Westerners. We've got a body problem. In the next chapter, I aim to reconnect the spirituality of fasting with the body. Body talk, my expression for what fasting is designed to be, flows out of our body image. Until we have a healthier body image, an image of the body united with the spirit, it is not likely that body talk (fasting) will occur as it should.

So, once again, the aim of this book is to reconnect body and soul (or spirit) so that fasting becomes natural and inevitable when you and I encounter a grievous sacred moment that summons us to fast. These kinds of sacred moments confront us annually, but we often don't respond to them with fasting because that practice has become so unnatural. Why? Because many of us don't see a connection between spirituality and body. Even for the increasing number of people who do see the connection—or at least who want to make that connection—acclimating the body to fasting as a natural response to sacred moments takes time. Since fasting flows out of the natural connection of body and soul, we will do well to look briefly at various body images at work in our Western culture. We begin with the Bible's wondrous emphasis on our organic unity.


What strikes a reader today is how significant the body is in the Bible. The ancient Israelites and early Christians "did spirituality" in the body and with the body. What strikes observers of the church is how insignificant the body has become, though there is evidence of a yearning for a more embodied spirituality. Let's take a quick look at what the Bible says and clarify what we need to see is this: in the Bible, humans are organic unities.

The Bible uses a bursting bundle of specific terms for humans, and these terms overlap with one another. The singular contribution of the ancient Israelites to understanding humans is found in Genesis 1:27:

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (emphasis added)

Humans, this text tells us, are "images" (I prefer the Greek word, Eikon) of God. As God's Eikons, we represent God on earth and govern this world for God. In addition, we engage in relationships with God, self, others, and the entire world. These roles of governing and relating are what it means to be an Eikon. And we do what God has called us to do in this world in a physical body. Like a diamond, an embodied Eikon is a multifaceted organic unity of heart and mind and soul and spirit and body. As a diamond refracts light only when all the sides are working, so we need every dimension of who we are to be at work. But we have minimized the body so much in our spirituality that fasting has become unnatural.

There are many "faces," or terms for the Eikon, in the Bible. Each of these terms is important, but it is even more important to understand their organic unity. We begin with the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), where we find the following terms describing the various dimensions of our organic unity:

soul (nepesh)

flesh (basar)

spirit (ruach)

heart (leb)

In the New Testament, we find:

heart (kardia)

soul (psyche)

flesh (sarx)

body (soma)

mind (nous)

spirit (pneuma)

will (thelema)

Let it be said again: in the Bible, all these terms work together to form an organic unity. The Eikon is composed of these things, but the Eikon is a unified person. What has happened is that we have cut the multifaceted diamond into two parts, the good part and the not-so-good part, assigning the various terms for the Eikon to one of two parts. The two parts are "body" and "soul/spirit." The body is the not-so-good part, and the soul is the good, eternal part. Dividing the Eikon, or person, into two parts is what makes fasting so difficult today. Since fasting is a very physical thing, it must be assigned to the body. And since fasting concerns only the body, it can't be that important, we think. Here's what the two parts look like:


Earthly life Will
Eternal life

No fasting

If fasting is the natural response of a unified person to a sacred moment, then the moment we relegate bodies to the unimportant part of our existence we also cease to see the value of fasting. If we want to discover the deepest dimensions of the Christian tradition of fasting, we will have to reconnect the "body" column with the "soul/spirit" column. When that happens, we will encounter a sacred moment, and we will fast naturally.

Unfortunately, we have some work to do, and much of it has to do with recapturing a healthy body image. We have to do this work because dualism has worked like yeast into everything we do.


You and I have inherited the church's problem with the body whether we like it or not—whether we are Christians or not. It's part of our Western DNA. Those of us with a Western mind-set have consistently struggled to embrace the indissoluble unity of humans—body and soul/spirit—at the forefront of spirituality. To repeat what was said a moment ago, we cut ourselves up into soul and body. The soul is immortal and the body mortal. Therefore, the body doesn't ultimately (or eternally) matter.

Wired with this Western mind-set, our bodies and our spirits don't work together very well. As I think of how we look at our body image today, four common images come to mind. We see the body

• as a monster to be conquered;

• as a celebrity to be glorified;

• as a cornucopia to be filled;

• as a wallflower to be ignored.

Each of these body images shapes whether or not we fast and, if we do, how and why we fast.

Which of these—and we could easily add more—is your body image? I'll tell you where I fit when I finish this caricature.


Some see the body as a monster of desires that needs to be tamed by imposing spirit over the body to conquer these unwanted desires. These folks are ascetics. For those who have a body-as-monster body image, fasting attempts to control the desires of the body. Some with this view become radical ascetics intent on keeping desires suppressed. People with this body image are often dedicated to purity or holiness or service, and they focus their spirituality on the kingdom to come, on heaven. Some with this view of the body have become saints; some starved themselves to death. (I'll avoid mentioning names.)


Others see the body as a celebrity that needs to be glorified. Such a body image makes a person a modern narcissist. Such persons are dedicated to happiness, individualism, and personal freedom. They are also dedicated to a slender body, tight buns, fashionable clothing, trendy haircuts, and sleek glasses, and are always in need of a mirror. Fasting for these folks is secularized—that is, it morphs into dieting for the sake of self-preservation and attractiveness. Some in this crowd have also become canonized saints; many more have glorified themselves into a life not well spent.


Some see the body as a cornucopia, the twisting horn that is filled with an endless supply of rich and sumptuous fruits and fancy foods. Those who see the body as a cornucopia are modern hedonists and have no use for fasting. They are dedicated to physical pleasure, rich diets, delicate palates, expensive drinks, and special restaurants. They love food, what Frederica Mathewes-Green calls that "intoxicating pleasure" and our little "cute sin." These folks push their hearts into their bellies. Their spirituality derives from health and wealth and pleasures. Hedonists consider those who fast killjoys or radical ascetics. They might even accuse those who fast of trying to earn their way to heaven. Some in this crowd have become saints; some have eaten themselves to death.


Others see the body as a wallflower that can be ignored because it doesn't matter. Fasting is little more than a strange custom practiced by a foreign spirituality. These folks are neo-Gnostics, for whom the body is a shell and for whom only the insides—the spirit or the soul or especially the mind—really matter. Those who see the body as a wallflower are dedicated to spirituality, meditation on the Bible, contemplative experience, and speculative thinking—even out-of-body mystical experiences. They focus on the kingdom above, beyond, and outside the body and real world. Some in this crowd have become saints; most have missed the intensity of a full-bodied commitment to following Jesus.


Ascetics encounter grievous sacred moments, indwell them, and may never get out of them. Celebrities encounter grievous sacred moments and pretend they did not happen. Hedonists encounter grievous sacred moments and turn the other way. Neo-Gnostics encounter grievous sacred moments and say they are "this-worldly" and need not concern them.

But this book's emphasis is on fasting as body talk, because a body image of organic unity is what we need most if we seek to develop a fully integrated spiritual life that includes fasting. Pope John Paul II was the twentieth century's most charismatic Christian leader, but he was also a profound theologian. The pinnacle of his theological leadership can be found in his brilliant Man and Woman He Created Them. John Paul II essentially argued that our bodies reflect the giving and receiving life of the Trinity. Our bodies and what we do with our bodies visibly demonstrate the very core of what we are made to do: love God and love others. For those with a healthy body image of an organic unity, fasting is a natural and inevitable response to life's grievous, or serious, sacred moments. I think the former pope's book, though it is not about fasting, is one of the most important books for those who want to understand what a Christian body image is all about.

I foolishly stated at the top of this section that I'd admit my own view, but first let me ask you this question: which are you? Now that you've answered, I'll answer too. I think of my body as a wallflower but tend to act as if it's a cornucopia, which means I'm overweight and don't care enough about it to do something radical, such as making a major lifestyle change. The only time I ever thought of my body as a celebrity was when I was in high school, still dreaming of a professional sports career and therefore caught up in typical teenage vanity about how talented and good-looking I was (or thought I was). Now I don't think about my body all that much and so I pretend it is a wallflower, but like a cornucopia, it rarely runs on empty. So I need this book as much as anyone else, and perhaps more.

What we think of our bodies matters, so maybe you should take a good look in the mirror and in your heart and ask yourself what kind of body image you have. Your body image opens a window into your spirituality.

The thesis of this work is simple: a unified perception of body, soul, spirit, and mind creates a spirituality that includes the body. For this kind of body image, fasting is natural. Fasting is the body talking what the spirit yearns, what the soul longs for, and what the mind knows to be true. It is body talk—not the body simply talking for the spirit, for the mind, or for the soul in some symbolic way, but for the person, the whole person, to express herself or himself completely. Fasting is one way you and I bring our entire selves into complete expression. The Bible, because it advocates clearly that the person—heart, soul, mind, spirit, body—is embodied as a unity, assumes that fasting as body talk is inevitable.

The emphasis of fasting as body talk operates with another theory: until we embrace a more unified sense of the body, it is unlikely that fasting will return as a routine response to grievous sacred moments. Many today complain that Christians no longer fast; the warnings emerge from the voices of Roman Catholics as well as evangelical Protestants. Here are stereotypical words one can read or hear: "The Bible teaches fasting, and church tradition teaches fasting; therefore, Christians should return to the practice of fasting. It's the original and ancient way of spirituality." So says the voice of complaint.

I don't believe the problem is the willpower of God's people. The problem is body image. Urging folks today to fast is like urging them to milk their own cows—just as there are no cows in their backyards, so there is no body in their perception of spirituality. Western DNA and fasting are connected by the slenderest of threads. The urge to fast will not return among Christians until we understand the connection of body and soul. When that happens, we will once again discover the A -> B -> C pattern: sacred moment, response in fasting, and results. As Kathleen Dugan stated, "Fasting in Christianity is only truly itself when it realizes the sacredness of the body."

A reader informed me recently that he and his wife gave up drinking anything but water during Lent. When I told some of my students at North Park University about this family's practice during Lent, the typical response was this: "What for?" The befuddlement in the students' question is why urging Christians to fast today requires a new kind of patience. Fasting, frankly, doesn't make sense to most of us until we have grasped the importance of the body for our spirituality.



In the early days of researching and writing this book, I daily interrupted my work for lunch. One time I turned off the computer for a plenteous luncheon with some church leaders from Indianapolis at Trattoria Pomigliano, my favorite local Italian restaurant. Normally, however, I simply stopped for a lunch by myself at home. When chomping into my daily turkey sandwich, I sensed the oddity of thinking about fasting while eating. I know this: all people think about eating while they are fasting because hunger pains are present. But, I pondered to myself, fewer think about fasting while eating. So I decided that my routine "hypocrisy" of eating while writing about fasting had to end. About a third of the way through this book, I began to skip my lunches—which made me think about food more than I normally do—but it gave me the tactile experience of what I was writing. Writing a book, I believe, is a serious—if not also grievous at times—endeavor, and focusing on that seriousness enabled me to convert the process of writing this book into a sacred moment worthy of fasting.

The oddity of my experience illustrates the point of this chapter: what I thought and believed to be important was not what my body was doing. This is not a simple case of hypocrisy, for I wasn't fooling myself or anyone else. I was being a dualist at some level. I was telling myself, in my mind, that fasting was important and that my book was a serious endeavor, but my body was not engaged. It was good enough for me at that time to think about fasting and even to believe in it—it was good enough to have my spirit say that fasting was good. But a mental agreement wasn't enough. I sensed a need to make my writing enough of a sacred moment that it prompted a whole-body act. So I started fasting on days I wrote this book. It brought my body and spirit back together.


Excerpted from Fasting by Scot McKnight. Copyright © 2009 Scot McKnight. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword, ix,
Introduction: A Montage of Christian Voices on Fasting, xii,
1. Fasting and Body Image, 1,
2. Fasting as Body Talk, 15,
3. Fasting as Body Turning, 24,
4. Fasting as Body Plea, 37,
5. Fasting as Body Grief, 51,
6. Fasting as Body Discipline, 61,
7. Fasting as Body Calendar, 81,
8. Fasting as Body Poverty, 99,
9. Fasting as Body Contact, 112,
10. Fasting as Body Hope, 123,
11. Fasting and Its Problems, 133,
12. Fasting and Its Benefits, 147,
13. Fasting and the Body, 156,
Conclusion, 166,
Study Guide, 170,
Acknowledgments, 175,
Recommended Reading, 177,
Notes, 178,
About the Author, 185,

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Fasting: The Ancient Practices 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recently completed Fasting by Scot McKnight. The book is a part of a series called The Ancient Practice Series. The other books in the series include: Finding Our Way Again by Brian McLaren In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson Sabbath by Dan B. Allender Tithing by Douglas LeBlanc The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, most of the traditions of the Church were not a part of the experience. I never knew anyone that fasted. With the start of the Lenten season, I found myself curious about fasting. I wanted to know why. McKnight's book made this search easy. Fasting is defined as, "Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life." McKnight continues this definition with an easy to understand formula that is woven throughout the explanations in the whole of the book, A->B->C. A, the grievous sacred moment. B, the response. C, results. McKnight also helps the reader understand what fasting is not. "Fasting isn't a manipulative tool that guarantees results." McKnight does an excellent job of speaking in a way that any reader can understand. While the book is based on Biblical passages, the reader is not left to interpret them own their own. McKnight also does a great job of taking the reader through all of the things fasting is and all of the things fasting is not. He even goes into the medical implications. I think many Christian authors miss an opportunity that McKnight was able to capture. I believe books like this should leave the reader informed, yet wanting to know more. The reader should immediately want to open the Bible and understand the source. McKnight did an excellent job on creating an informative, easy to read and motivating book on a topic that not many would final all that interesting to begin.
dll_guate More than 1 year ago
This book review is on "Fasting," written by Scot McKnight and published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. I downloaded the free ebook from Book Sneeze for my new Kindle and am reviewing the book for them. The book is well written, although the author appears to have approached the theme of fasting from a rather "high church" point of view. It is a bit academic sounding, but does convey what I believe to be the essence of biblical fasting, including reasons for, the benefits and problems involved in the much overlooked practice of fasting. Mr. McKnight approaches the subject of fasting from what he calls an A->B->C response. The author feels that fasting is natural and should be initiated because of the "A" which he describes as "a grievous sacred moment". Something happens in the life of the believer which causes him or her to respond by "B" a natural reaction of fasting. As a result of "B" then many times there is "C" which is a certain benefit sometimes received from the process of A->B. The author stresses the fact that the motivation behind fasting should never be the "C" - what we can "get" from God as a result of fasting. He writes: "fasting isn't a manipulative tool that guarantees results." The emphasis is always on the "A" - that something that affects us spiritually to the point of causing a somewhat spontaneous fast because of our concern over the seriousness of the situation. The author also uses terms like "body talk," "body turning," and "body poverty" among other to describe the different facets of fasting. John Calvin said: "whenever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter, it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer." I think this really sums up the overall point of the author in his book. Overall, I felt the book was a good argument for the proper purpose and motive of fasting. As I mentioned before, if you can wade through the "high church" feel of the book, I think you will be refreshed with the principles laid out in this book.
Hopefilledliving More than 1 year ago
Fasting By Scot McKnight "Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life." Scot McKnight Fasting is not a manipulative tool used to attain that which we desire, but rather fasting should be the result of a spiritual connection to God and our desire for His will in our lives. This book is an in depth look at the ancient practice of fasting. The early Church considered prayer to be a whole body activity. "They were hungry enough for God's leading that they wanted to say it with the hunger of their bodies and not just the hunger of their hearts", says John Piper, regarding the Saints of the Church. Scot McKnight has an interesting perspective about the subject of fasting. He compares fasting in the Church of yesterday with the modern Church, describing our modern view of the body · As a monster to be conquered; · As a celebrity to be glorified; · As a cornucopia to be filled; · As a wallflower to be ignored He then goes into detailed explanation of each of these perspectives, which I found fascinating and very true. The author does a great job detailing the ancient spiritual practice of fasting, outlining fasting as body discipline. He backs his perspective up with quotes from the bible and dedicates a chapter in the book to great men of the bible and their encounters with God through fasting. The focus of the book is that fasting is a response to some sacred moment between an individual and God. This book really inspired me to carry on with my practice of fasting, pick up where I left off, but see fasting in a different light. "The tendency is to think that God will love as if we change, but God loves us so that we can change. Penitential practices and disciplines (like fasting) enable us to appropriate and make real in our lives the freedom given through Grace." Thomas Ryan Suggestions for further reading: Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin To Love Fasting by Adelbert de Vogue The Sacred Art of Fasting by Thomas Ryan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello there! I just got another new book from booksneeze- "Fasting" by Scot McKnight. Before we get started, I'm going to tell you that, due to some long law thing, I'm under no legal obligation to give this a positive review, so whatever I say is my true, unbiased opinion. Okay, now that that's settled, let get on with this. This new book, "Fasting" is quite obviously on fasting. Fasting nowadays is a rather obscure, vague thing that only really really super spiritual people do, if anyone does that at all. This book explains exactly what fasting is, why it is important in a Christian's walk with Jesus, and gives some history on fasting- when it was most common, who did it, that sort of thing. Now, just to be clear, usually I order fiction books from Booksneeze, but this one caught my attention because some people in my family have fasted before, and they have said it was a wonderful experience. So I ordered this, thinking to learn more about it. Fasting is something that you don't decide to do, you have to be called by God to do it- otherwise you won't be very successful? This book can be a bit dry at times, but it is a very educational read, and I liked it because it shared some good history along with ways to apply the rules of fasting to today's life style. I enjoyed it?
Loganaw More than 1 year ago
I was provided with this book in exchange for a review by Booksneeze. (Thomas Nelson Publishers) Is the body relevant when it comes to our spirit and religion? In this book, Dr. Scot McKnight reconnects the spiritual and the physical through the discipline of fasting. The practice of fasting, he says, should not be based entirely off of it's physical effects and should not be done solely for that purpose. It is a practice to be used in response to sacred and life changing moments, just as it was intended. The author gives us evidence of fasting in biblical times, along with information about the benefits of fasting and when we should fast, and what happens to our bodies as a result. This book is excellent for anyone who is curious as to how someone goes about fasting successfully. Many religions throughout history have used this practice as a way to get "closer" to their deities. Many people follow along with the practice not knowing the origins or meanings behind this practice, but strictly to lose weight or gain some sort of health from it. Scot McKnight breaks down the barriers that hold back this knowledge. In the first bit of the book the author talks about how fasting and spirituality go hand and hand and how our bodies are just as important as our souls. He lets the reader know how it can help them build an even closer relationship with their creator and how it can help them get into tune with their spiritual needs. The author talks about how fasting may or may not be healthy for our bodies and how sometimes it can be dangerous if not done correctly. I think this book would be an excellent read for anyone who is considering fasting or just interested in the practice. Overall, I found this book incredibly interesting and even thought of fasting myself. Though I have tried it on several occasions entirely for the wrong reasons, I feel that fasting could not only open our eyes but also be beneficial for our bodies as well.
WagaMum More than 1 year ago
Fasting by Scot McKnight is part of The Ancient Practices series put together by Phyllis Tickle. This is the first book I've read devoted entirely to fasting; I had only read a chapter here and there on fasting in various books on spiritual disciplines. McKnight's approach is entirely different. He doesn't look at fasting as a way to bring us closer to God or to benefit us, but as away we respond to situations in life. His book is centered around this premise: "Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life." I appreciated McKnight's look at fasting and the different situations in which we can use fasting as a bodily and spiritual response. He gives a thorough, biblical (as well as historical) look at fasting--including how not to fast. I plan to use his insight to enhance my life with fasting as a response to grievous, sacred situations. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.
mmary More than 1 year ago
I dont like the book and I dont agree with the authors point of view. Fasting is not a response to grief. i think its a way to offer up a gift of obedience to God. Much as the sacrifice used to be in the days of the Old Testament. The author makes some good points, but anything can be taken out of context; and I just dont like the lines he draws. His sounding point is that we fast in response to grief - of course we dont eat when we are filled with sorrow! Who needs a book to tell them that??
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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PastorJim More than 1 year ago
Historically, the Christian spiritual discipline of fasting has been recognized by its unhealthy excesses. Stories of early ascetics starving themselves in an attempt to curry God's favor immediately come to mind. Horror stories of those excesses have caused the spiritual "baby to be thrown out with the bath water" in Western Evangelicalism over the past several generations. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in the traditional spiritual disciplines, including fasting. With that renewed interest, a bevy of writings has been produced on the subject. Scot McKnight's book, Fasting, stands uniquely above most of those I have read. Most books I have read on fasting focus on using it as a way to get God to do what we want Him to do. In essence, they distill it into a form of divine manipulation-fasting is promoted as the best means to accomplish the ends we desire. In those writings, it is viewed as a kind of "super prayer." McKnight has a much different, and far more biblical, approach. Throughout the book, he teaches the idea that, "Fasting is not a technique we ply that makes things happen just because we ply it.. The heart of the deep Christian tradition about fasting is that a grievous sacred moment prompts the integrated person to fast. Sometimes the resolution comes about, and sometimes it doesn't." While I am uncomfortable with much of the author's underlying ecumenism, his view of fasting is refreshing because it is biblical. Although his argument is not bolstered by detailed scriptural exposition (which would have been helpful), it is informed by an accurately informed biblical worldview. Fasting is not a tool with which to manipulate God. Fasting is a whole-body response by Christians who are experiencing grief over a particular situation. Particularly helpful are the author's treatment of dualism and the potential problems with fasting. This is not a "how-to" book on fasting and should not be the only book one reads on the subject, but it is a valuable resource to enable readers to have the right focus. While it is not designed to answer the "how" questions, it does a wonderful job answering the "why" questions. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is either wholly neglected or widely abused. This book will guard the reader against both unfortunate extremes. More than 1 year ago
Fasting Scot McKnight Thomas Nelson, 2008 ISBN: 9780849901089 5 Stars Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for, 02/09 What is fasting. While I have been a Christian and attended church regularly for over 40 years, I know little about fasting. Scot McKnight tackles a topic that many Christians avoid. Fasting is not something readily taught in many mainstream churches. The few times my church has suggested fasting, the response was to give up something during Lent such as coffee, chocolate, meat, television, etc. McKnight explains this is not fasting. McKnight shares theological insight and methods, health warnings and "pitfalls." Fasting is a historical practice. It is a response to grief, such as death or the recognition of sin. Fasting is also used along with our prayer requests. Fasting is not to be used as a means of manipulating God. Fasting is a time of intimacy with God. Scot McKnight writes in an easy-to-understand style. It is obvious that McKnight did in-depth research before writing Fasting. I recommend this book to pastors and worship teams.
BeautifulExcellentBooks More than 1 year ago
The spiritual activity of fasting is important throughout scripture, yet the fact that it is really a simple physical activity has confused me. What is the point of fasting? When should we fast? And what good does it do? I've always wondered if it was supposed to accomplish something good in the world, or in me, or both. I've fasted in order to hear the Lord speak to my heart, and to build myself up for a spiritual trial, but frankly have never been quite sure I understood fasting. The author's position is that "fasting is a person's whole-body natural response to life's sacred moments." By that I assume he means that we lose our appetite because of intensely upsetting events or emotions. I agree that in a severe enough crisis, people are unable to eat, but possibly he means for us sometimes to go a step further than a natural response, to a willful fast. I appreciate the discussion of how we in the Western world have divided our selves into the spiritual part (mind, emotions) and the non-spiritual part (body). I have noticed in scripture how a person's devotion and faith were demonstrated physically in those times and places so much more than we do here (North America) and now. In times of grieving or crisis--spiritual or not--we read of some wearing sackcloth, tearing their garments, tithing living animals, and traveling many miles to join in a national religious holy day. In a way I have envied them for their culture which brought a person's religious faith from the inside to the outside. In reading this book, I did struggle a bit with the "body" terminology: body turning, body plea, body calendar, body hope. I think the text would have flowed a little more easily if I wasn't interrupting my train of thought to wrap my head around what those terms really meant, and trying to chase away society's current connotations of body image and body contact. The idea of fasting as a response to a situation, versus fasting for a result, appeals to me as a purer motive, yet there seems to be no way of getting around the scriptural and traditional practices of fasting for certain outcome. In fact, one of the latter chapters, "Fasting and its Benefits", seemed to conflict with the earlier chapters in the book. So I'm still gathering information and wisdom on my personal attempts to understand the practice, and this book is an important launch for that journey. I would recommend Fasting to all who desire to follow completely the Lord's multi-faceted plans for transforming us to be more like Him. I enjoyed some of the fringe benefits of reading this work, such as learning more about devoted Christians from the time of Christ to today, and about ancient and modern religious practices. I even learned a bit about myself, some of it disappointing. But I am grateful for the way Scot McKnight's book very gently and subtly suggests that we take a close look at what makes us grieve, and what we truly yearn for. Any book that does that is of immense value to a believer. [Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.]