Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is much explored, but seldom practiced in contemporary Western Christianity. But it wasn’t always so.
For the first sixteen centuries of church history, abstaining from food and drink for spiritual reasons was a common practice for believers. But something happened. Scot McKnight explores the traditions of the discipline in his new book Fasting.
Contributing to the disuse of fasting is a body image problem. Rather than embracing a biblical understanding of the human existence, the church today sees the body and spirit as separate entities that are usually at war with one another. That duality often results in a complete abandonment of any physical undertaking to nourish or strengthen the spirit.
What is perhaps most unique about McKnight’s perspective on fasting is what he believes should inspire the Christian to fast: a grievous sacred moment. He suggests that avoiding physical indulgence should be a response to sin, sickness or the absence of God’s presence. This perspective is markedly different from the prevailing opinion that fasting is a means to obtain something you want from the Lord.
Originally published in 2009, this new edition of Fasting includes an added study guide.
Fasting is a thoughtful and valuable addition to well-known books including, including Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I hope that its effect on my life would be that fasting becomes a living reality for today, not just a dusty ideal embraced by forgotten saints of long ago.