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Fasting: The Ancient Practices Hardcover – February 10, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very thorough and educational book about fasting practices. Enjoyed it.Published 6 months ago by Dana Baunton
This book posits that fasting is the proper response to grievous sacred moments. McKnight also suggests Westerners are afflicted with a dualism, which considers the body... Read morePublished 20 months ago by A. Vaughn
This is a very good discussion of the facets of fasting within a Christian's life. I learned a lot and hope to put some of the ideas into practice.Published on June 23, 2014 by Phil Gilliland
This book was immensely helpful in putting fasting into the proper perspective. I found these to be most helpful aspects:
*McKnight's grasp of early church history and... Read more
I liked it. Very readable, well supported premise. Thought provoking and worthy of consideration when promoting fasting as a expression of spirituality.Published on November 26, 2013 by lucinda
Is the practice of faith centered solely on the spirit? Is the body an enemy, or can it actually play a role in our pursuit of God? Read morePublished on January 11, 2013 by Brian Ayers
Don't even waste your money on books of Biblical fasting unless you read this book first. Today, there is a popular preacher that should be ashamed he is selling "his" book... Read morePublished on December 20, 2012 by Joshua-Paul Johnian
I learned a lot from this book, about a topic I have misunderstood for a long time! I really like Scot McKnight's writing style.Published on November 18, 2012 by faithfull