For many Christians, fasting is ultimately about (1) losing wieght in a “spiritual” way or (2) approaching God in a manner akin to health and wealth advocates, assuming that obedient fasting earns one God’s favor anda positive response to their query. One’s fasting often reduces to a narcissistic drive for a hollywood (or at least an improved) physique or to an attempt to bully God.
In Scot McKnight’s book Fasting he challenges his readers to rethink the spiritual discipline of fasting. Growing out of his background as a biblical scholar, he re-examines the biblical data & exposes these improper views of fasting, arguing instead that fasting is fundamentally a response to a grievous sacred moment. While these sacred moments can occur in multiple ways (consciousness of sin, death, social injustice, and the absense of God’s presence to name a few), it is these moments in which the Christian is overcome where a mere “spiritual” response is not strong enough: rather, one wants to engage in “body talk” as well, which is where fasting provides a powerful bodily response to sacred moments.
The point of fasting is not about whether God responds the way we want to our fasting, but whether in the serious moments in life we make a holistic turn to God, not letting our tendency for dualistic thinking to stop us from responding to God with every facet of our being. As McKnight argues, for the Christian who is not held captive to a dualistic anthropology fasting is an inevitable & natural response to these watershed moments. Fasting then, is ultimately about identification & communion. McKnight’s thoughts are a compelling re-presentation of a classic spiritual discipline, and is to be commended.