book report: Fasting by Scot McKnight (2010)

I have read another book in The Ancient Practices Series edited by Phyllis Tickle, The Liturgical Year, which I liked but had frustrations with. Scot McKnight's contribution to this series on fasting did the same thing to me. No matter what complaint I have with this book, it did re-awaken my interest in the spiritual discipline of fasting. Scot contends that fasting is so foreign in our Christian culture because the church rejects the body's role in worship by elevating the soul or spirit. Each chapter is a description of how the body worships God in a fast as a response to an encounter with God, or repentance, or supplication, or mourning, or training, or liturgy, or social justice, or community, or eschatological hope.

When he quotes from the church's fathers, he let's them inspire his readers, as I certainly was. He also quotes from less ancient, and even contemporary writers who, likewise, make me look forward to finding a rhythm of fasting. I used to fast lunches regularly years ago, as a way to focus my prayers on missionaries I support around the world. But I found myself skipping lunch, but snacking after 1PM. McKnight talks about fasting and legalism and failure in the last chapter. He is very graceful. For that I am grateful.

The one big drawback in the book is his thesis statement that fasting should occur in response to a "grievous sacred moment." But chapter after chapter, I kept waiting for McKnight to address Jesus's 40 day fast and temptation in the wilderness, Luke 4. He mentions this only once, in chapter 9 near the end of the book. I think an admission that there are exceptions to his thesis, such as Jesus. The exception I see to McKnight's thesis is that we sometimes fast because God compels us, but it's not a grievous thing.

Nevertheless, I am adding new books to my Amazon wish list thanks to McKnight's recommended reading to learn more about fasting from all three branches of Christendom. I am also eager to ease back into the earliest prescribed fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays from the Didache 8:1. And maybe, by Lent, I will be ready for the more rigorous fasts of one meal a day. However, as a low church guy, I have more to learn. If you know little about this aspect of the Christian life then I think this book is a good entrance to the topic.

Thanks to Booksneeze for the complimentary copy to review.
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Barry Wilde said…
I will look into this and withhold comment except to say that "grievous" might imply some mystery (sacrament).
John Umland said…
I don't think so. There is another 3 star review on Amazon that goes into more detail.
God is good

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