I was looking for Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel in the library and came across his Fasting. This caught my interest. I’ve read several books by healing ministers and I was curious how a Bible scholar would address this subject: very differently you can be sure. Back in the day I used to fast fairly regularly, but over the last several years I haven’t fasted much, if at all. To be honest I’ve kind of burnt out on it so I was looking for some kind of spark.
I got it. This is a wonderful book; I would say the best I’ve come across concerning fasting. The first main of point of the book is “a unified perception of body, soul, spirit, and mind creates a spirituality that includes the body. For this kind of body image, fasting is natural. Fasting is the body talking what the spirit yearns, what the soul longs for, and what the mind knows to be true.” This point is very important for Western Christians to get. We are more or less dualists. We don’t really know what to do with the body in a Christian context. We may have gotten past the idea of spending eternity on a cloud playing a harp, but not much beyond that. McKnight helps us see that our bodies don’t just carry us around; they are part of us, and as such are part of our response to the situations of life.
The second main point is “Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life.” Examples he gives of sacred moments: sin, death, disaster, lack of holiness and love and compassion, the impoverishment of others, the absence of justice and peace, and the presence of God or lack thereof. I don’t know if you can tell from this statement, but this is a fairly radical departure from the typical Christian understanding happens. What is the typical understanding of fasting? Seems to me it is – if you want something throw in a little fasting and you’ll be more likely to get it. For McKnight that’s not what fasting is about. In the Bible the people of God experience something grievous and they don’t eat. It is part of being completely human. It’s part of really feeling, really grieving.
There is much more that this book covers (buy the book) – the sacred calendar, church tradition and teaching on fasting, dangers of fasting, health issues, and more – but the last thing I will mention is the concept of fasting and feasting by cosmic age. Leading up to Jesus the people of God fasted in anticipation. In Jesus’ presence they feasted. After Jesus ascended, the people of God fast in hope. When the kingdom of God comes we will feast again. As Jesus said when the groom is with the guests how can they fast, but when he is taken away then they will fast. If our Christianity doesn’t include fasting, is it possible that we are missing something? I know I was.