Fasting - what's the point?


#1

I prefer the discussion to be one based on a "sola-scriptura" theology. For those that are coming at Christianity from a bible-alone perspective, what is the point of fasting?

Matt Ch6 - the "when you fast" statement assumes that we will fast. Is there any point to it, other than it is prescribed to be done? Does it affect salvation in any way? Is anyone going to Heaven because of fasting? Is anyone not going to Heaven because they didn't fast?

Wasn't the atoning death of Christ enough?


#2

[quote="in_servitude, post:1, topic:295876"]
I prefer the discussion to be one based on a "sola-scriptura" theology.

[/quote]

Why base any discussion on bad theology?

Edwin


#3

What's the point in trying to truncate a discussion by limiting it to only one perspective--and a false one at that?


#4

[quote="in_servitude, post:1, topic:295876"]
I prefer the discussion to be one based on a "sola-scriptura" theology. For those that are coming at Christianity from a bible-alone perspective, what is the point of fasting?

Matt Ch6 - the "when you fast" statement assumes that we will fast. Is there any point to it, other than it is prescribed to be done? Does it affect salvation in any way? Is anyone going to Heaven because of fasting? Is anyone not going to Heaven because they didn't fast?

Wasn't the atoning death of Christ enough?

[/quote]

How are you defining "sola scriptura" to begin with. As a Friend, we do not accept 'sola scriptura' as a "rule of faith" so it's difficult to narrow the focus of a discussion based on something many Protestants on this board don't necessarily ascribe to....at least from the discussions of "sola scriptura' most Catholics understand "sola scriptura" to be.:shrug:


#5

[quote="in_servitude, post:1, topic:295876"]
I prefer the discussion to be one based on a "sola-scriptura" theology. For those that are coming at Christianity from a bible-alone perspective, what is the point of fasting?

Matt Ch6 - the "when you fast" statement assumes that we will fast. Is there any point to it, other than it is prescribed to be done? Does it affect salvation in any way? Is anyone going to Heaven because of fasting? Is anyone not going to Heaven because they didn't fast?

Wasn't the atoning death of Christ enough?

[/quote]

Christ, Himself, fasted. If we are to follow His example, then shouldn't we fast as well?


#6

[quote="Contarini, post:2, topic:295876"]
Why base any discussion on bad theology?

[/quote]

[quote="Tantum_ergo, post:3, topic:295876"]
What's the point in trying to truncate a discussion by limiting it to only one perspective--and a false one at that?

[/quote]

At work, there is only one other Catholic person here, but I'm guy that fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays. I tried to keep it hidden, but lunch is a part of work at times. For example, the boss scheduled a "meeting" over the lunch time on a fasting day - I asked if it was really work or just a lunch outing. He insisted that I attend without answering, and so I had water while the others had lunch. So, I had questions to answer.

As time as gone on, the ex-Catholics seem to want to make sure that I know that I'm "ignorant" or whatever. I try to explain the "tradition" of fasting and what the Church says about it. But, I now want to know more about this because I get the sense that fasting is going to be an on-going discussion. It isn't a hot topic right now, but I hope to be better prepared for a discussion down the road.


#7

[quote="Publisher, post:4, topic:295876"]
How are you defining "sola scriptura" to begin with. As a Friend, we do not accept 'sola scriptura' as a "rule of faith" so it's difficult to narrow the focus of a discussion based on something many Protestants on this board don't necessarily ascribe to....at least from the discussions of "sola scriptura' most Catholics understand "sola scriptura" to be.:shrug:

[/quote]

Well, what the Protestants say to me (after asking me for my explanation, mind you) is that it's disrespectful to Christ to place Tradition on par with Scripture. Anything and everything done must be supported directly through scripture - that's what I mean by "sola scriptura". I totally agree that not all Protestants ignore Tradition. But, the ones that give me a hard time do ignore Tradition - even say that Tradition is not only not good - but is actually a problem.


#8

This isn't a sola scriptura argument, but why not bring up people in the army? They go through all sorts of rigourous training so that they can have control over their body. You are trying to do a similar thing, though on a much reduced scale because you are not preparing for war. Basically, your giving yourself a little bit of practice at going without some food so that you will not be dependant on having loads of food, or having tasty food etc. Sure, its great to have that stuff, but do you really want to be dependant on it? Just like it is a good idea for people who regularaly drink alcohol to abstain for a while now and again to ensure they don't slip into alcoholism, so it is a good idea for people to take breaks from other things they like just to make sure they don't become too dependant on them. You might not convince them to fast with you, but any reasonable person should be willing to fasting for a reason like this. :shrug:


#9

[quote="Catholic80, post:5, topic:295876"]
Christ, Himself, fasted. If we are to follow His example, then shouldn't we fast as well?

[/quote]

Is that the point, then? To imitate Christ? I'm fine with that as an answer if that's the answer. Is there a verse that says to "imitate Christ in everything he did"? Something like that?


#10

[quote="in_servitude, post:9, topic:295876"]
... Is there a verse that says to "imitate Christ in everything he did"? ...

[/quote]

You are too hung up on sola scriptura. But if you must,

In Christian antiquity the Eustathians (Sozomen, Church History II.33) denied the obligation, for the more perfect Christians, of the Church fasts; they were condemned (380) by the Synod of Gangra (can. xiv) which also asserted incidentally the traditional antiquity of the ecclesiastical fasts (Hefele-Leclercq, Hist. des Conciles. French tr. Paris, 1908, 1, p. 1041). Contrary to the groundless assertions of these sectaries, moralists are one in maintaining that a natural law inculcates the necessity of fasting because every rational creature is bound to labour intelligently for the subjugation of concupiscence. As a consequence, rational creatures are logically obliged to adopt means commensurate with the attainment of this end (see MORTIFICATION). Amongst the means naturally subserving this purpose fasting lays claim to a place of primary importance. The function of positive law is to intervene in designating days whereon this obligation must be observed, as well as the manner in which the same obligation is to be discharged on days authoritatively appointed. newadvent.org/cathen/05789c.htm

MORTIFICATION:

One of the methods which Christian asceticism employs in training the soul to virtuous and holy living. The term originated with St. Paul, who traces an instructive analogy between Christ dying to a mortal and rising to an immortal life, and His followers who renounce their past life of sin and rise through grace to a new life of holiness. "If you live after the flesh", says the apostle, "you shall die, but if through the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live" (Romans 8:13; cf. also Colossians 3:5, and Galatians 5:24). From this original use of the term, we see that mortification, though under one aspect it is a law of death, under another and more fundamental aspect it is a law of life, and does not destroy but elevates nature. What it slays is the disease of the soul, and by slaying this it restores and invigorates the soul's true life. ...
newadvent.org/cathen/10578b.htm


#11

There is a point to fasting apart from the fact that Christ himself did it. Christ fasted for a reason. There was a point to his fasting. He did it because it is one of the spiritual disciplines, and it helped him to overcome the “Lust of the flesh”. Remember that Christ was tempted too.

The spiritual disciplines are not a Catholic or sola scriptura thing. Jesus talks about almsgiving, prayer and fasting in Matthew 6 as part of the Sermon on the Mount. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are called the “Spiritual disciplines” and they are given to us to help us against the three temptations to sin recorded in Johns first letter.

***For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh *and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:16)

Almsgiving and the “Lust of the Eyes”

Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:2-5)

Almsgiving helps us fight against the “Lust of the eyes”, our craving for material goods. Giving to the poor and needy helps us remember that we really don’t need everything that we think we need, but should be content with food, clothing and the other necessities of life.

The next time you find yourself lusting after a new Harley Davidson motorcycle or a five hundred dollar golf club, try dropping a few hundred bucks at the homeless shelter or go buy a few bags of groceries for the family with the out of work father down the street. You’ll forget about that motorcycle real fast.

Prayer and the “Pride of Life”

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6)

Prayer is the primary means by which we remain humble and fight the “Pride of life”, the desire for power and prestige. As a creature, constant intimate contact with our creator, in the privacy of our own hearts, keeps us aware of our proper place in creation - above the rocks and trees and animals but below the angels - so that we remain humble. That’s why Catholics kneel when we pray, in the quiet of our homes or in the adoration chapel instead of standing on the street corner, to help be humble.

Fasting and the “Lust of the Flesh”

And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)

When we deny our body that which it desires but does not need in order to live, we teach ourselves to fight our urges. We learn to rely on God instead of immediately obeying every primitive urge. Fasting is a spiritual discipline which helps us deny ourselves and fight the “Lust of the flesh”, especially sexual temptation. We learn to delay gratification for something better later on, and we learn that what society tells us we need is not necissarily what we really need.

The spiritual disciplines of prayer, almsgiving and fasting help us fight the three sins of the pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh. Jesus went out to the wilderness where he fasted and prayed, and while he was there he was tempted. His fasting and prayer had a point, and it was to help him overcome the temptations which were put before him by the devil.

**The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” **(Matthew 4:3)

That’s the lust of the flesh. The devil tempts Jesus with food.

***Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” *(Matthew 4:8)

That’s the lust of the eyes and the pride of life right there - ruler and owner of all the worlds kingdoms.

And that’s the point of fasting. It is a spiritual discipline which teaches us to fight the “Lust of the flesh”, especially sexual temptation.

-Tim-


#12

[quote="thewanderer, post:8, topic:295876"]
This isn't a sola scriptura argument, but why not bring up people in the army? They go through all sorts of rigourous training so that they can have control over their body. You are trying to do a similar thing, though on a much reduced scale because you are not preparing for war. Basically, your giving yourself a little bit of practice at going without some food so that you will not be dependant on having loads of food, or having tasty food etc. Sure, its great to have that stuff, but do you really want to be dependant on it? Just like it is a good idea for people who regularaly drink alcohol to abstain for a while now and again to ensure they don't slip into alcoholism, so it is a good idea for people to take breaks from other things they like just to make sure they don't become too dependant on them. You might not convince them to fast with you, but any reasonable person should be willing to fasting for a reason like this. :shrug:

[/quote]

I should mention that I'm not trying to convince people to fast with me (but I do pray almost daily for their conversion). Yes, it would be wonderful if I had someone join me, but I'm fine if that never happens. My only point in this eduction that I'm seeking is to be better prepared to properly defend the Church. That's it. I feel crummy when the Church gets attacked and I am not prepared to defend the Church. When I face plant, I feel bad because He deserves a better prepared servant.

Now - you're right in regards to your reasoning for fasting (in my opinion). However, if I were to repeat any of this, I would get the "Unbiblical!!" retort that pretty much ends the conversation. If I know more sola scriptura arguments for fasting, at least I could site where we are in agreement.


#13

[quote="sedonaman, post:10, topic:295876"]
You are too hung up on sola scriptura.

[/quote]

I could say that to my co-workers, but the conversation goes nowhere. Maybe that's the right answer. I'm not so sure.


#14

By fasting from what is good while we are strong, we prepare ourselves to say no to that which is bad while we are weak.

It's not about whether "enough" has been done. It is about doing what we need to in order to be the person that God created us to be. We fast and obey the laws God gave because it is right and just that we do so. But we are able to obey God's law only through grace. In fasting, we say not only, "Lord, I am truly sorry for what I have done", but we also say "Lord, I resolve to not sin again".

Is anyone going to heaven because of fasting? I don't think anyone who says "Lord, I am sorry for my sins, but I would do them all over again if I could" is truly repentant. Such a person is surely not on the path to heaven. Neither is the person who says “Lord, I am sorry for my sins, but I will do nothing to ensure that I do not make the same mistakes again”. But we should make this distinction that if we are preserved from sin; it is by grace that it is so. Fasting is not the cause of our sanctification, but is rather cooperation with God’s grace.

I would suggest you read Scott Hahn’s book “Lord Have Mercy”.


#15

[quote="in_servitude, post:13, topic:295876"]
I could say that to my co-workers, but the conversation goes nowhere. Maybe that's the right answer. I'm not so sure.

[/quote]

See my modified post.


#16

Why not simply tell them you fast...if asked....because you're seeking to become closer to God...and every time on your fast days that you remember you are hungry is a reminder to turn your mind and heart toward God and be more mindful of Him and His mercy, bounty and love.....keep it simple....you don't need a detailed exegis about fasting.....you do it to remind you to turn your heart toward the Lord and disipline your body and "take every thought captive"....even thoughts of eating.


#17

[quote="TimothyH, post:11, topic:295876"]
There is a point to fasting apart from the fact that Christ himself did it. Christ fasted for a reason. There was a point to his fasting. He did it because it is one of the spiritual disciplines, and it helped him to overcome the "Lust of the flesh". Remember that Christ was tempted too.

The spiritual disciplines are not a Catholic or sola scriptura thing. Jesus talks about almsgiving, prayer and fasting in Matthew 6 as part of the Sermon on the Mount. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are called the "Spiritual disciplines" and they are given to us to help us against the three temptations to sin recorded in Johns first letter.

[/quote]

Yes! Christ was tempted in the desert. And, His fasting prepared him for that. However, the folks around here say that it was important for Christ to do that because He came to save us. But, just because Christ did this fasting doesn't mean that we should necessarily do that. "He died for us, and that's good enough for me," is what I get when I try to "infer" this point of fasting.

I agree with you Tim, 100%. And, I will try to use this information in my explanation to those that will come to me asking for explanations. (Plus, this education that I'm getting now is actually helping me to better understand the fruits I've been getting from this effort.)

When we deny our body that which it desires but does not need in order to live, we teach ourselves to fight our urges. We learn to rely on God instead of immediately obeying every primitive urge. Fasting is a spiritual discipline which helps us deny ourselves and fight the "Lust of the flesh", especially sexual temptation. We learn to delay gratification for something better later on, and we learn that what society tells us we need is not necissarily what we really need.

The spiritual disciplines of prayer, almsgiving and fasting help us fight the three sins of the pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh. Jesus went out to the wilderness where he fasted and prayed, and while he was there he was tempted. His fasting and prayer had a point, and it was to help him overcome the temptations which were put before him by the devil.

...

And that's the point of fasting. It is a spiritual discipline which teaches us to fight the "Lust of the flesh", especially sexual temptation.

It is interesting that fasting does allow us to view worldly items as so much "less than" spiritual graces.


#18

[quote="Publisher, post:16, topic:295876"]
Why not simply tell them you fast...if asked....because you're seeking to become closer to God...and every time on your fast days that you remember you are hungry is a reminder to turn your mind and heart toward God and be more mindful of Him and His mercy, bounty and love.....keep it simple....you don't need a detailed exegis about fasting.....you do it to remind you to turn your heart toward the Lord and disipline your body and "take every thought captive"....even thoughts of eating.

[/quote]

I've been fasting mostly for spiritual warfare - hoping to push back the edges of darkness while expanding the reach of the Kingdom. I'm have devotion to Mary, and I offer the Immaculate Heart some of my fasts so that she can apply them in the best interest of the Sacred Heart. So, you can see that this would not go over well with the average non-Catholic.


#19

[quote="in_servitude, post:12, topic:295876"]
I should mention that I'm not trying to convince people to fast with me (but I do pray almost daily for their conversion). Yes, it would be wonderful if I had someone join me, but I'm fine if that never happens. My only point in this eduction that I'm seeking is to be better prepared to properly defend the Church. That's it. I feel crummy when the Church gets attacked and I am not prepared to defend the Church. When I face plant, I feel bad because He deserves a better prepared servant.

Now - you're right in regards to your reasoning for fasting (in my opinion). However, if I were to repeat any of this, I would get the "Unbiblical!!" retort that pretty much ends the conversation. If I know more sola scriptura arguments for fasting, at least I could site where we are in agreement.

[/quote]

I guess what I would say with the 'unbiblical' retort is "why in the world does it matter whether or not its biblical? I've given you the reason why I personally want to fast. Are you telling me that since I'm a Catholic I'm not allowed to do anything unless I can cite a passage in the Bible telling me to do it? That is absolutely ridiculous. I have a reason, and a good reason at that, for wanting to fast, so why in the world do you still have a problem with that?"


#20

Thanks! I will enjoy seeing what happens when Church history is tossed into the equation. I suspect it will be rejected, but what you cited is pretty early stuff.


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