Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review - Fasting: The Ancient Practices Series

I just finished reading Scot McKnight's book Fasting, this book is one of the eight books in the Ancinet Practices Series and I thought it was excellent. Editor Phyllis Tickle warns in her forward that this book is not a book for the cowardly, instead it is for the corageous Christian who seeks to more fully understand and serve God. I think that is an appropriate warning.
Scot starts off his book talking about fasting through different Christian voice through history. He talks about how fasting for King David, and everyone in the Bible, was a whole-body experience. He also talks about the prophet Isaiah and his warning to Isreal reminding them that fasting isn't about us, what we give up when we fast should be given to others. He also quotes John Calvin, "whenever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter, it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer. Their sole purpose in this kind of fasting is to render themselves more eager and unencumbered for prayer...with a full stomach our mind is not so lifted up to God." He also points to recent reminders of fasting from authors such as Dallas Willard and John Piper.
Scot then goes on to give his definition of fasting: Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life.
He really unpacks this definition with the analogy that A -> B -> C, so A (sacred moment) leads us to B (fasting) that leads us to C (results). He explains that often times we try to get the results that we want from fasting and jump to B -> C, but reminds the reader that the Bible presents a responsive view of fasting. I fully agree with him about this statement, often times we try to use fasting as an instrument for results rather than a response to God.
Scot then goes on to unpack the different forms of fasting. He really drives home his point that fasting is a whole-body experience, he explains that the Western mind tries to separate the body and spirit, we have a spiritual life and we have our regular life. The soul and the body are separate, the soul is spiritual and the body is of this world, which is why it is so difficult for us to see the importance in fasting, because that has a direct impact on the body, we don't see how it ties into our spiritual side. Scot talks about our body image and does a great job of reminding us that we are created in the image of God!
In the next section of the book, McKnight unpacks the different types of fasting. He starts with Body Turning, the most common form of fasting is in response to the kind of sacred moment when Israel is called to confess sin.
Body Plea, in the Bible, pleas and supplications and prayers were accompanied by the embodied act of fasting.
Body Grief, overwhelmed by the sacredness of a moment we choose not to eat in order to sanctify our communion with God and participate fully in one of life's grievous moments.
Body Discipline, the scheduled practice of fasting
Body Calendar, vital fasts that respond properly to the story of God's redemptive ways that are observed in the church calendar.
Body Poverty, response to injustice in our world.
Body Contact, fasting to experience intimacies with God
Body Hope, fasting because of the hope of Christ's return
Scot finishes the book up with a section called Wisdom and Fasting, he unpacks the benefits of fasting such as making room for God, but also gives a warning about fasting in terms of health and extremes.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I have been interested in the topic of fasting and curious to why it has fallen be the way side in our present day. Scot does a great job of unpacking fasting and all the benefits of returning to this ancient practice. I would highly recommend this book.

I received this book free from the Thomas Nelson Publishers "Booksneeze" book review program. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

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