"Fasting" By Scott McKnight

Scott McKnight, Fasting. Thomas Nelson, 2009.  176 pages. 

Thanks to BookSneeze® for providing a free copy of this book for me to review. 

In this, the fourth book in "The Ancient Practices Series", McKnight explores and explains the discipline of fasting.  According to him "fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life." Within this definition McKnight seeks to avoid the instrumentalism which plagues many individuals practices of spiritual disciplines in modern times and instead affirm that fasting is about responding to God and any results we get from it are secondary.  With this in mind, McKnight explores nine different facets of, or reasons for, fasting: Body Talk (an expression of us as whole beings), Body Turning (repentance over sin), Body Plea (a cry out to God), Body Grief (response to loss), Body Discipline (part of spiritual growth), Body Calendar (keeping the rhythm of our lives in tune with God), Body Poverty (a striving for justice and God's vision), Body Contact (connecting to God), and Body Hope (longing for the world to be made right). 

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  McKnight is exploring an oft neglected aspect of fasting and in so doing connects it, biblically, with much that we ignore.  In this vein, I found the first 4 of McKnight's main chapters (Body Talk to Body Grief) to be excellent.  However, by the time he got to Body Discipline he appeared to be attempting to force all forms of fasting to fit into his initial paradigm of response to a grievous sacred moment.  So, he turns seeking guidance into a response to the 'sacred moment' of not knowing what to do and the 'sacred moment' of realizing the superficiality of our relationship with God.  While I agree that we need to fight against an instrumental approach to fasting, as if our actions could manipulate God, we do not need to go so far as to deny that we fast out of desire for God and yearning for a result.  I think McKnight could have benefited from a little systems analysis here.  What drives us to fast in those cases is the realization of the gap between our experience of God and our desired experience of God (so partly in response to realizing where we are, but also in response to what we need).  

Conclusion: 4 Stars.  Conditionally recommended.  McKnight has hit on some very important aspects of fasting here, and this book is worth reading.  Just know that his is not the only perspective on the discipline and it needs to be balanced by other voices.   


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Toyin O. said...

Great review, sounds like a great book, will have to check it out:)

Maryann said...

I have read this book and found it quite interesting. I couldn't put my finger on the issue I was having, but you did. I agree with the grievous sacred moment and our response to it in fasting, but since so many places in scripture God calls us to lay our requests before Him it seems right that we should. Fasting at that point is more of a revealing to ourselves how serious we are and our understanding of how seriously God takes our supplications. I think that faasting and the taking of that time to reflect would also weed out motives we may not have dealt with to that point. Thanks for the insight. I enjoy your blog.

Andrew said...

Thank you again Maryann for your comments and encouragement, and also to you Toyin.