Monday, February 28, 2011
Author: Scot McKnight
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Nashville
Genre: Nonfiction/Christian living
Summary of Fasting
McKnight explains biblical fasting as a whole-self response to a "grievous sacred moment," which could be grief over death or loss, sin in ourselves or the world, needs in our lives or the church, poverty, or a longing for Christ's return. He urges readers to accept that our bodies are an important part of our spirituality, and therefore a whole-self response to circumstances must include bodily response. McKnight argues that in modern Western Christianity, if we practice fasting at all, we have largely made it about the results or benefits of the discipline. He encourages us, instead, to focus on our response, lest we turn fasting into an attempt to manipulate God into doing what we want.
In each chapter of the first section, McKnight discusses a different aspect of the correct fasting attitude or a different circumstance where fasting is appropriate. For example, in "Fasting as Body Turning," McKnight describes how fasting may play a role in genuine repentance. "Fasting as Body Grief" covers the discipline's biblical connection to death and grief. "Fasting as Body Poverty" explains the interplay between voluntary abstinence from food and poverty in the world.
The second section warns against the dangers of fasting, both spiritual and physical.
Why to Read Fasting
If you're looking for an accessible summary of both biblical teaching and Church tradition, Fasting may work for you. McKnight brings in the voices of several ancient fasters and modern authors and condenses their views into more digestible chunks.
Fasting is not a definitive guide. It contains little information on how to actually carry out a fast, and it spends far too much time hammering on its principle concept that fasting is about our response, not the results. The concept, while important, is easy enough to understand after the first couple repetitions. Average readers don't need it repeated every other page or so.
While McKnight does discuss some biblical teaching on fasting, tradition also plays a major role in this work. Some denominations won't mind this; some evangelicals who place a high priority on Scripture's teaching will look for a more obvious biblical base.
Fasting, then, does provide some helpful ideas, but it needs supplementation. I found Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline helpful in explaining the how-to of fasting, as well as its connection to other Christian disciplines. I enjoyed John Piper's A Hunger for God because his explanation of "why fast" made more sense to me. I also found Piper's book to emphasize biblical teaching more highly than McKnight's.
Rating by No-Spoilers
3 out of 5
Note: Thomas Nelson provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review, and these opinions are my own.