Fasting, rather than being a focus on results, should be "a response to a sacred moment", something I'll define shortly. Fasting was not intended by God to provide a way for us to achieve desired results. Instead, fasting is our natural response to the sacred moments that draw us to closeness with our Creator. McKnight describes the process in a "A" leads to "B" which leads to "C" format.
"If one wants to see the full Christian understanding of fasting, one must begin with A, the grievous sacred moment. That sacred moment generates a respons (B), in this case fasting. Only then, only when the sacred moment is given its full power does the response of fasting generate results (C) -- and then not always, if truth be told." (p. xix)
What are these "grievous sacred moments" which McKnight referred to?
Sin; Death; Impending disaster or disaster relief; The lack of holiness and love and compassion; The impoverishment of others; The sacred presence of God; The absence of justice, peace, and love.
These 7 sacred moments (generally speaking) serve as the main body of the book, and are directly addressed in their respective chapters:
#3 - "Fasting as Body Turning": "... the most common form of fasting is part of confessing sin. (p. 24)
#4 - "Fasting as Body Plea": "...in the Bible, pleas and supplications and prayers were accompanied by the embodied act of fasting. (p. 38) The body and the soul were considered unified in worship of God. Today, we esteem the "body" as evil and the "soul" as good. But if the scriptures are true, then we must love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (including body).
#5 - "Fasting as Body Grief": "body grieving here is a response to death and not a discipline performed to gain something." (p. 54)
#6 - "Fasting as Body Discipline": "The foundational sacred moment for body discipline is consciousness of sin, consciousness of weakness, the need for God's empowering grace, the desire to cut back in life...and a yearning to grow morally in love and holiness." (p. 64)
#7 - "Fasting as Body Calendar": "Most of the church calendar has also been wiped away -- we only celebrated Christmas [not advent] and Holy Week [also called Good Friday and Easter]. ... "Yes, we do know what Lent is, but many evangelicals consider it something that Catholics do and therefore something we don't need to do because we have been saved from rituals." ... "Most significantly, we don't read through the Scriptures aloud together as the liturgical churches have always done. Why? Again, the answer is simple: the calendar is Catholic; therefore, we don't do it." (all - p. 83)
#8 - "Fasting as Body Poverty": Citing Isaiah 58, "fasting was a response to injustices in the land" ... and "also responded in compassion to the poor and in efforts to establish justice in the land..." (p. 104)
#9 - "Fasting as Body Contact": "Fasting is to union with God what a marriage ring is to a loving couple. As the ring is not what prompts their union, so also the fasting is not what prompts union with God. Love prompts the giving of a ring, and it is the love that moves the relationship beyond the ring to genuine union with one another." (p. 114)
#10 - "Fasting as Body Hope": Early Christians "fasted because they longed for Christ to return to establish the Kingdom of God." (p. 123) McKnight shows how the Bible uses feasting and fasting in relation to the Kingdom of God. The ancients fasted in anticipation of the coming Messiah Jesus; while He was present, the people fasted; today, the church fasts in hope of the coming Kingdom; and finally, in the heavenly Kingdom, we will feast. Fast - feast - fast - feast. (p. 126)
LIKES: While all the chapters contained invaluable insight, I think chapter 4 was best. McKnight laid out a compelling argument that the body cannot be ignored in our worship of God. We must not confuse the "body" with the "sinful flesh" Paul speaks about. Our entire being -- including our bodies -- were made in the likeness of God. We worship with emotion, with hands raised, with dancing, singing; yet, we forget the body is a vital part of our union with God. We too often seek only union in the soul, but neglect our body union with the Creator.
DISLIKES: Again, while each chapter had value, I started getting bored with the book about half way through. I had to force myself to take a couple days off from reading it so that I wouldn't be negatively influenced by some of the repetition. That said, however, the parts that were repeated, truth be told, needed to be repeated (i.e., the A-B-C formula was found in nearly every chapter). No doubt, those redundancies drove McKnight's point solidly home.
"Fasting" is book #4 in the Ancient Practices Series. Along with "In Constant Prayer", I honestly believe "Fasting" would be a priceless asset to any believer's bookshelf who has interest in learning more about the purpose of this largely-ignored practice: fasting. The book is only 169 pages long, made up of 2 parts, 13 chapters, and a short study guide.
I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars. I deducted 1 star only because it didn't maintain my undivided attention throughout. The content, however, was invaluable.
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