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Fasting: The Ancient Practices Hardcover – February 10, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Scot McKnight is an Anabaptist theologian and is the Karl A Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University. The author of more than ten books and numerous articles and chapters in multi-authored works, McKnight specializes in historical Jesus studies as well as the Gospels and New Testament. As an authority in Jesus studies, McKnight has been frequently consulted by Fox News, WGN, US News & World Report, Newsweek, TIME, and newspapers throughout the United States.

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Product Details

  • Series: Ancient Practices
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (February 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0849901081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0849901089
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,421,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
[ This review originally appeared on [...] ]

Just in time for the season of Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday (this year February 25), Thomas Nelson has just released the newest book in its "Ancient Practices" series: Fasting by Scot McKnight. This volume offers both a deeply rooted theological case for fasting and a firm caution against the dangers that fasting poses to one's health, if done excessively or without an understanding of how the human body works.

Here at Englewood Christian Church, the only practice we have of fasting is to fast during the day on Good Friday, a fast which we promptly defame with our gigantic potluck dinner that follows our evening prayer service. I've tried fasting on my own a few times, particularly on retreats, but to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, fasting is a practice that I've found difficult and therefore one that I've pretty much left untried. I recognize the biblical and historical significance of fasting, but have never really been part of a church community that valued fasting as a significant practice.

It seems to me that at least part of our hesitancy toward fasting here at Englewood is the ways that we've seen fasting being done in theologically appalling ways. At the book's outset, McKnight names one such erroneous and detrimental way that fasting is practiced, to which he will frequently return over the course of the book: viz., fasting in order to produce results. Such a practice of fasting, which McKnight calls an instrumental view of fasting, is not a healthy spiritual discipline, but rather a "manipulative device." McKnight argues instead that fasting is a responsive practice, saying that fasting is a body's natural response to grief.
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Format: Hardcover
"This is not a book for the cowardly." That's how Phyllis Tickle, the General Editor of the Ancient Practices Series, introduces Scot McKnight's startling new book on "Fasting." If it's done right, she says, the experience can be downright "disturbing."

Those are surprising words when talking about a subject we all think we understand: Fasting? It's giving up food, right? Or, maybe it's giving up things in general, right?

Billions of people around the world do it--certainly Jews, Muslims, Baha'is, Christians and followers of many other faiths. We do it, because ... Well, because it's a tradition, right? A requirement of the faith. And because, it somehow ... somehow ... connects us with larger spiritual truths, doesn't it?

Well, yes it does, writes Scot McKnight, the Karl A Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University in Chicago and the popular author of more than 20 books. But--the spiritual truth of fasting is a whole lot larger than most of us suspect.

Fasting is whole-body spirituality. It's disturbing, Phyllis Tickle points out, not only because of the physical demands--but also because it's admitting that we're not merely a spirit hooked to a physical form. It can be disturbing to admit that we are whole beings--mind, body, spirit hooked together as a whole.

The opening line of Scot's book is: "Fasting is a person's whole-body, natural, response to life's sacred moments."

He gives us great examples of fasting out of the lives of biblical figures as well as later major figures in the Christian faith. And he also argues strongly against the temptation to recommend fasting as a sort of boot-camp quick-fix for bulking up on our prayer life.
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Format: Hardcover
It will be unfortunate, yet not surprising, if Fasting, the newest book by Scot McKnight and newest installment in Thomas Nelson's Ancient Practices series does not sell well. Not suprising - because American evangelicals have shown little appetite for the practice of fasting. Unfortunate - because Scot's new book is one of the best treatments of this subject to find its way onto Christian bookshelves.

Not too long ago, a seminary friend questioned my desire to fast during the season of Lent. When I asked him why he was opposed to the Lenten practice, he pointed to its lack of prescription in the New Testament as well as the possibility to take such fasting to extremes. My response? "I don't think that evangelicals are suffering right now from too much fasting."

Scot McKnight claims that one of the reasons why we have neglected this ancient discipline is due to an unhealthy view of the body. Philosophically, we grativate toward dualism, which would have us view spiritual disciplines as just that - spiritual. We then miss the biblical view of embodied spirituality - a living out in the body that which one desires and yearns for in the spirit.

For Scot, "fasting is the natural inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life" (xx). Therefore, we are wrong to see fasting as a manipulative tool that guarantees results. It is instead a response.

Fasting is a comprehensive and helpful book. I enjoyed Scot's honesty in describing his struggles with fasting (even as he was writing this book!). The distinctions he makes between normal fasting, absolute fasting and partial fasts (where we abstain from certain kinds of food or certain activities and things) help to clarify what it is that we are doing when we fast.
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