A Biblical Perspective on Fasting -- By: Kent D. Berghuis

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 158:629 (Jan 2001)
Article: A Biblical Perspective on Fasting
Author: Kent D. Berghuis

A Biblical Perspective on Fasting

Kent D. Berghuisa

In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times. In fact, fasting has been in general disrepute both in and outside the Church for many years. For example, in my research I could not find a single book published on the subject of Christian fasting from 1861 to 1954, a period of nearly one hundred years. More recently a renewed interest in fasting has developed, but we have far to go to recover a biblical balance.”1

These remarks by Richard Foster open his chapter on “The Discipline of Fasting” in his widely read Celebration of Discipline. Although the call for fasting appears to be on the rise, even this renewed interest has not produced much in the way of academically serious biblical or theological works. My own search has found just a handful of monographs, dissertations, or theses, and a scanty array of periodical articles. These are accompanied by a modest number of popular books and booklets encouraging Christians to reclaim the discipline of fasting.

The trend to emphasize spiritual disciplines is exemplified most clearly in the evangelical world in the writings of Richard Foster and Dallas Willard,2 with a recent pastoral book on fasting by John Piper, A Hunger for God.3 But perhaps the strongest push

to encourage fasting is being promoted by Bill Bright, who publicized his goal of encouraging two million American Christians to join him in fasting and praying for America and the fulfillment of the Great Commission by the year 2000.4 Bright has been sponsoring “Fasting and Prayer” meetings each November since 1995, encouraging Christian leaders to join him in this vision.

Although Bright’s numerical goal does not seem to have been realized, this renewed emphasis on fasting has been spreading through evangelicalism. Catholic and liturgical churches have long practiced Lenten fasts as part of the Christian calendar, but recently evangelicals have begun to emphasize the role of fasting in spiritual discipline, repentance, and revival. Evangelical churches are beginning to teach about fasting and to call on their members to engage in the practice.

In this environment it seems wise to examine Scripture thoroughly in order to understand the dynamics of fasting and its applicability...

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