Scot McKnight has written an excellent treatise on fasting, which is part the "Ancient Practice Series". I would highly encourage others to pick up anything he's written and this would certainly be a good intro book as well.
McKnight talks about various components to fasting through these 13 chapters. His big overarching thesis is that we typically approach fasting incorrectly. Most modern folk tend to fast in order to try to receive something from God. McKnight corrects this understanding (by repeatedly pointing to Biblical examples) of how fasting should be done in response to God's work in serious and grievous moments. That is to say, rather than try to please God with our fasting, it should be done as a physical reaction to what is happening in our world (much like how we kneel and close our eyes when we pray). I liked this distinction and it came up quite a bit throughout the book.
If you are remotely interested in fasting or are planning to teach or preach about this subject, I would certainly recommend this book for you. It's well-written and has plenty of great Biblical and historical examples to back up what it says. McKnight does a great job in countering problems we bring into fasting and also respectfully explains that there are possible health issues in any type of fast. I also liked that he differentiated between fasting and abstaining from things - I don't know if I personally agree with that, but I thought it was an important topic to bring to light.
One odd thing about the book was that I found two typos (and there may have been others that I missed). I could understand something like this in a self-published or a smaller company, but Thomas Nelson is pretty huge. So I was a little disappointed in their editorial department over this.
"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:16-18, NRSV
Fasting, by Scott McKnight, is a voulme in the wonderful Ancient Practices Series from Thomas Nelson Publishers and edited by Phyllis Tickle.
it's a great book. it's part theology/Biblical study/spiritual disciplines; part personal stories and reflections.
it's not simply a book about fasting; it's a book about the spiritual life and the idea of "whole-body spirituality."
the book contains Biblical examples and precedents for fasting, tips/ideas on how to fast safely/effectively, and the different types of fasting practiced in the Bible.
we hunger and thirst for God. fasting illustrates this desire for God in a way we can feel in a very real and practical way.
Fasting is an excellent read for devotions and study
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.
So when Thomas Nelson offered Fasting as one of its books in the Ancient Practices Series, I jumped at the chance to get some of my questions answered. Thank you, Scot McKnight, for sensing the confusion in the church community and offering us a way out of it.
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 crisisâ€”spiritual or notâ€”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 BookSneezeÂ®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.]
One of the book reviewing sites I'm working with is Booksneeze and today's review is a book I received from them. I was given a copy of the book to review, but am under no obligation to review it favorably.
Fasting by Scott McKnight
This book is a part of the Ancient Practices Series that the Sabbath book I reviewed comes from. I enjoyed and was convicted by that one and with Lent on the way, this was a great one to sign on for. McKnight's book talks about the discipline of fasting, the history of it, the reasons for it and gives examples of different types of fasting. He breaks down how fasting relates to different aspects of our being in a logical and sensible way.
I've read a great deal about spiritual disciplines, but have, for a variety of terrible reasons, avoided delving much into the world of fasting. I've not even read up on it much, to be honest, lest I be convicted to make it fit. I'm not a food addict, but I'm an American. We don't like anything that even looks remotely like inconvenience and fasting looks terribly inconvenient. For about 5 or so years, I was constantly pregnant or nursing, and that was my excuse. Then I started training for marathons, and nutrition is important and that's been my recent excuse. Before that, the most fasting I had done was for the 30 Hour Famine.
McKnight isn't just talking about the giving up of chocolate or facebook or alcohol that so many folks do at Lent. While he doesn't have a problem with discipline abstinence of certain distractions, he is clear that when the Bible talks about fasting, it means not eating and sometimes it even means not drinking. Knowing that there are many folks who tout fasting as the healthy thing to do and others complain that it's not healthy at all, he spends the entire last chapter talking about fasting and the body. He also reiterates time and time again that we must not fast for results, but rather as a response to a sacred moment in life. Fasting is not primarily a way to add power to our prayer. It is an act of reverence.
This book has certainly opened my eyes about the importance of the practice of fasting and has convicted me to make a careful effort to add the practice to my life and to beware that I'm fasting with the right motives. I highly recommend this book to all my Christian friends and family, especially those of you who, like me, haven't really taken fasting seriously in the past. And even if you have, this may give you an interesting new perspective on it.
McKnight addresses the often-misunderstood subject of fasting by insisting that it is "the natural inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life." Fasting may bring results such as answers to prayers but McKnight labors at length to emphasize that results are not the reason for participating in fasting. In fact, focusing on the results that might be obtained leads to misunderstanding of the real value of fasting.
The book is valuable in challenging readers to understand why fasting is a useful spiritual discipline. One should not fast solely as a matter of obligation. One should not fast simply for the assumed benefits one gets from it. One fasts because it is the natural human response to the spiritual need of growing closer to God.
McKnight's work is not without significant weaknesses. It contains numerous assertions but lacks supporting evidence for the claims made. Not enough is said about Bible teaching about fasting, which is a major flaw for readers seeking Biblical authority for the way they practice their faith. Understanding that this book is part of the Nelson "Ancient Practices" series, it still seems that too much weight is given to the practices of the post-apostolic church.
If pressed to give a letter grade, this reviewer could award nothing better than a B minus. It is worth reading, but leave an unsatisfying sense that it could have been much better.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÂ®.com <http://BookSneezeÂ®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255