Still Eating Sausages: Reservations Regarding Evangelicals and Lent

Matt’s discussion of the Radicals and their revolution against comfortable and convenient Christianity has emerged, perhaps fittingly, during the liturgical season of Lent. The annual forty-day fast has always focused on the sacrifice inherent to the Christian call. Therefore, it should be no surprise that many of the same believers latching onto David Platt & Co.’s message have also begun to incorporate Lenten fasts into their worship practices. This devotional expression, long a hallmark of more liturgical churches, is now a growing trend among low-church Evangelicals.

The Evangelicalism of my parents’ generation lumped Lenten fasting together with saying the Rosary as the dead liturgy of a works-based religion. In other words, they didn’t do Lent. But now many of my friends, including lots of the fine folks here at Mere-O do. The question “What are you giving up for Lent?” is as common at hip church plants as skinny jeans and references to UFC fights. It is so cool that the really cool kids are giving up the practice in order to stay ahead of the trend.

The whole fad has me thinking: was the old-fashioned Evangelical opposition to Lenten observance just one more relic of an irrational anti-Papistry, or is there some real wisdom in abstaining from abstaining?

The Affair of the Sausages
Our parents weren’t the first Protestants to resist Lent. The suspicion of Lent emerged at the very dawn of the Reformation. In fact, less than five years after Martin Luther posted his 95 theses, an intentional violation of the Lenten fast was the event that brought the Reformation to Switzerland. Zurich pastor Huldrych Zwingli had been teaching on Christian liberty and his congregant, Christoph Froschauer, had just published a new translation of the Pauline Epistles. To celebrate the publication, Froschauer shared two sausages with his employees. This violated the terms of the church’s fasting requirements, which at that point completely forbade the eating of flesh meat.

Christoph Froschauer the Younger

Christoph Froschauer the Younger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At that time, the secular authorities enforced church doctrine. Froschauer was arrested.  Zwingli subsequently defended Froschauer’s action as a proper exercise of Christian liberty. Roman Catholic authorities were not immediately persuaded. The citizens of Zurich were; the following year the city became officially Protestant.

In the following decades, English Puritans went even further in their opposition to feast days not commanded by scripture. Their opposition culminated in a 1647 parliamentary act abolishing Lent as well as the rest of the liturgical calendar:

Forasmuch as the feast of the nativity of Christ, Easter, Whitsuntide, and other festivals, commonly called holy-days, have been heretofore superstitiously used and observed; be it ordained, that the said feasts, and all other festivals, commonly called holy-days, be no longer observed as festivals; any law, statute, custom, constitution, or canon, to the contrary in anywise not withstanding. (link)

The Puritans banned all of these holidays because they found them unsupported by Scripture and to be the occasion of superstition. By the latter, they meant that common people would confuse the feast and fasts for the essence of Christianity and would mistake the simple Gospel. This concern also drove Zwingli’s opposition. In his sermon defending Froschauer, he noted that “simple people” may get the impression that if they comply with the Church’s Lenten commands they may think that they are good for the rest of the year. Yet, in truth, “one should at all time confess God, live piously, and do no more than we think necessary in the fast” (Zwingli, p. 107).

Despite all of this concern, many of the denominations founded in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries continued to observe Lent in some form. While no Anglican, Lutheran, or Methodist church commands a flesh-meat fast on Fridays, they conduct Ash Wednesday services and commend that each member individually select some desirable thing to give up during the season.

The Biblical Doctrine of Fasting
With this history in mind, the question is whether Evangelicals should follow their high church Protestant brethren in adopting the practice of the Lenten fast. First, this fast must be Biblical. Fasting is discussed throughout the scriptures and while its use is commended to believers, it is subject to several limiting instructions. Believers are to fast without disfiguring their faces as the hypocrites do (Matthew 6:16) and without lying in sackcloth and ashes (Isaiah 58:5). Abstinence is counseled “for a limited time” in order for Christians to devote themselves to prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5).

When it comes to seasonal fasting based on a liturgical calendar, the most pertinent passage is clearly Colossians 2. Paul is responding to a challenge from the Judaizers to the unity of the church. The Judiazers were insisting that all Christians, including Gentiles, follow Jewish traditions and festivals. Paul disagrees, encouraging the Gentiles to “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism…” (v. 16-18).

Paul not only maintains that Christians do not need to follow Jewish traditions, but also asserts that those practices while seeming to make a person more holy, do not actually do so.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (v. 20-23)

Read that last line again—no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. The point here is that Biblical fasting is not some kind of Buddhist self-improvement project. Giving up chocolate won’t do anything to increase your holiness, and it won’t cure your sugar addiction or gluttony problem. Indeed, the only Biblical reason for asceticism is for a time of focused prayer.

Moreover, the Bible seems to indicate two things from which to abstain: food and sex. Neither of these things are inherently sinful (although some medieval Christians were a bit hazy on the latter subject). They are necessities. By contrast, fasting from unrighteousness is always a good idea. Christians do not need a special “season” for that.

Peculiarly, the popular candidates for modern Lenten fasts are luxury items, not necessities. Deserts and adult beverages lead the way. And, in our hyper-connected world, abstaining from Facebook and Twitter is becoming common as well.

The unfortunate effect of these choices is that innocent pleasures gain suspect connotations. Giving up food altogether models the truth that believers are not created to live by bread alone. By parallel, giving up a luxury like cheese cake models that believers are not created to enjoy the good gifts of God’s creation. No one would own that conclusion, but that is the logical implication. Christians know that they are made to enjoy God’s creation. So why is Lenten fasting so trendy?

The Cultural Meaning of Participation in Lent
There are probably dozens of reasons for this fad amongst Evangelicals, not the least of which is their liturgical inferiority complex. Namely, my church lacks sublime expressions of holiness so I’m going to adopt beautiful aspects from older traditions.

That impulse works in concert with more substantive desires such as identifying with Christ’s suffering. Saying something like, “By denying myself coffee for Lent, I am reminded of how much Christ gave up for me because of how hard it is for me to give up something small like a cup of coffee.” The heart of this desire is good; this impulse is one of wanting to understand how he suffered, bled, and died. It’s the idea of walking the Via Delarosa. The problem is that giving up coffee or any other luxury doesn’t come close to forty lashes or any other aspect of Christ’s sufferings.

Folks also believe that Lenten fasting will help them build virtue through self-denial. In this way, Lent has become the spiritual cousin of the New Year’s Resolution. In light of the Colossians passage noted above, Evangelicals ought to know that fasting won’t make them better. The wider American culture doesn’t. A friend of mine was recently asked the What are you giving up for Lent? question by two of his non-believing co-workers. He was not observing the fast, but both of them were! From my experience, it almost seems as though modern spiritual-not-religious people have constructed a Lent which fulfills the Reformers’ worst nightmare. Self-improvement is the watchword, not humility towards God.

Accordingly, unless fasting Evangelicals are extremely careful, their fasts will be interpreted as endeavors for greater sanctification. Why would that be a bad thing? Because Lent is before Easter. An observer unacquainted with the Gospel would gather from that symbolism that we believe our part in salvation is prior to God’s part in our salvation. The precedence is precisely reversed. If we were to design an Evangelical church calendar (as Matt once suggested), we would certainly place the High Day of Christ’s Work before the period of emphasis on the believer’s sanctification; Redemption Accomplished before Redemption Applied.

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After all of these historical, biblical and cultural reflections, I cannot make a simple conclusion like Lent is always wrong. It has surely been practiced by sincere believers for century upon century. But, if Evangelicals are to maintain their fidelity to the Scriptures and wisely discern their historical and cultural context they will adopt this practice only with the greatest of care.

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  • Dave Strunk

    One of the ongoing problems with the project here at Mere Orthodoxy are a few assumptions, as I see them, indicative in this post.

    The first assumption is that “low-church” is equivalent with Evangelicals. Near the very top of the post, “high liturgical churches” are contrasted with “low-church” Evangelicals. Towards the middle of the piece there’s a question as to whether Evangelicals should join their higher-church “Protestant” brethren. The critique is this: high liturgical churches and Evangelical churches are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I help pastor one such church. We have an Ash Wednesday service. We encourage the participation of Lent, and we encourage a rationale for fasting in Lent similar to what you lay out: not as self-improvement but as response to the finished work of Christ, an effort to hollow-out so that prayer and lament increase the joys of Easter. In addition, I’m not sure you have entirely interpreted Colossians 2 well- I’m not sure there’s a one-to-one correlation between fasting for Lent and the religious practices of a proto-legalistic gnosticism outlined in Colossians. I’m not sure Lent has much to do with a docetic OR arian view of the body that seems to be in the background of Paul’s theology for Colossians.

    The second assumption, and probably the more pervasive one at Mere O, is the idea that “Evangelical” is something easily definable at its center or at its periphery. For instance, note that “Evangelical” is capitalized throughout the article as a proper noun instead of as an adjective, which it is more properly used as. People like Rob Bell or Brian McLaren still being called an Evangelical renders the term basically useless, and no one can agree on “essentials” (core of Evangelical doctrine), so can’t we admit that the project of Evangelicalism is at best, a decent project for unity, and at worst, a waste of time. I suspect that a lot of criticism in the comments section on Mere O has this subtext at work. Your audience appears to be “Evangelicals” but the definition is so amorphous, and therefore the subject matter often tends to be as well. We saw this recently with the hullabaloo over the “Radicals” subjects. It seemed to me, besides a few reaches and mostly analysis I basically agreed with, that the only thing that radicals have in common is that they are “Evangelicals” and that they write popular books.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kyeth Keith Miller

      Dave,

      Wonderful push back on my operational definitions. Thank you.

      I agree that Evangelicalism can be a tough thing to define and I agree that high church liturgy is not incompatible with Evangelical identity. However, I have been seeing previously low church Evangelicals adopt Lent and that spurred this post.

      • Bryan Hunter

        Anyone wanting to see a great argument for High Church (i.e., Formal Liturgical) Evangelicalism should read Paul Zahl’s essay in Exploring the Worship Spectrum. His old church (and my former parish), The Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, AL, personifies High Church Evangelicalism (i.e., high church worship coupled with low church theology). From a purely Anglican perspective, where most people go wrong is equating High Church Anglicanism with Anglo-Catholicism. Start out at the wrong place and one is bound to wind up in the wrong place.

      • Dave Strunk

        Thanks to Keith and Matt. I don’t really disagree with the substance of Matt’s article on “Radicals” or this post, really. I saw and agree with the larger connections Matt makes, and he has a penchant for deep analysis which I’m not as gifted in. And Keith, I also agree that Lent, or many other church practices, can be uncritically adopted. It’s as if “rootless” “evangelicals” are searching for roots in any direction without thought to the coherence of certain articulations of a confession, such as fasting during Lent (which is why we take great care to ground fasting and Ash Wednesday in the Gospel, which is difficult at times). Even still, I hesitate to use “Evangelicals” as a proper noun delineating a clear theological usage of a person.

        I realize I was commenting on more of a meta-issue of evangelicalism, so perhaps the problem is that big-E Evangelicalism is rootless in the first place, as your Lloyd-Jones thought alludes too. I’m evangelically Presbyterian/confessional. I’d just lower-case the e and make it an adjective. ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/kyeth Keith Miller

      I do defend my use of Evangelical as a noun. If you haven’t read it, you should pick up Martin Lloyd-Jones’ What is an Evangelical? book. Therein he states that an Evangelicals’ denominational label should be subordinate. This he preferred Anglican Evangelical to Evangelical Anglican.

    • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com/ Matthew Lee Anderson

      FWIW, Dave, “difficult to define” does not mean “unusable” or “impossible to define.” Additionally, I don’t think that we’ve ever called Bell or McLaren evangelicals. Lastly, the “subject matter” of this blog has always been whatever in the world we find interesting to write and think about. While that has often touched on the phenomenon of evangelicalism it has in no way been constrained by it or determined by it. Nor will it be in the future.

      And if you think that all the subjects of my piece have in common is a name and that they write popular books, then it might be the case that you’re not listening to them closely enough, not that there isn’t any commonality there. : )

      matt

  • http://bookwi.se/ Adam Shields

    Scot McKnight in his book on fasting made a distinction between abstaining and fasting. At first I was not sure it was useful. But in the years since I first read the book I think he is right. Abstaining from something (twitter, chocolate, alcohol) may have some value in helping us to see the power that that thing has in our lives.

    But it is not fasting. Fasting is the complete abstaining of food (and maybe liquids) for a short period of time for the purpose of prayer.

    McKnight also suggests that the real reason for fasting is to seek God because there is a burden on you. It may be a burden for the people around you (prayer for salvation) or fasting for healing for someone or fasting for guidance.

    But fasting without a burden is often more about seeking spiritual high than really seeking God.

    I am not quite on board with the last point, but I do think he is mostly right. People like abstaining, and can get some value from it. But very few fast.

  • Dave

    Ditto to Dave Strunk here. I’m an evangelical. I practice Lent (and the rest of the seasons of the church year). And I’m Episcopalian. And I’m not the only one. If I’m not evangelical, neither was Bob Webber.

  • Michael Rea

    One of the main criticisms here seems to be that Lenten fasting is not biblical. (The post says “this fast must be Biblical [if it is to be legitimately practiced?]”, but that “the only Biblical reason for asceticism is for a time of focused prayer.”) There is an equivocation here. It makes sense to say that the fast “must be Biblical” only if “Biblical” means “consistent with what is permitted and prohibited in scripture”; but it makes sense to say that the “only Biblical reason for asceticism is for a time of focused prayer” only if “Biblical reason” means “reason explicitly mentioned in the Bible”. That Lenten practices are not explicitly discussed in the Bible does not make them illegitimate or impermissible. (If that were the view, then what the post says about asceticism might equally rule out dieting–depending, I suppose, on what is meant by asceticism.) As for the criticism of Lenten practice as contributing (symbolically) to a kind of misunderstanding of our role in salvation: this seems to me to be an extremely weak criticism in light of the difference Lenten fasting seems to make in the lives of (evangelical protestant) believers I’m acquainted with–believers who suffer no such misunderstandings themselves, and seem to witness none in the communities to which they belong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.westblade Don Westblade

    For your amusement: I’m told that Robert Schuller (of the Crystal Cathedral) took the word Lent as an acronym for “Let’s eliminate negative thinking.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.westblade Don Westblade

    More substantively, Rom 14 (&15), esp. 14:6, seems to me the best biblical guide to the great care your post rightly calls for in the closing paragraph. Since our motives always give definition to our actions, the decisive biblical question is not “what do you do?” but always “how do you do?” As you rightly distinguish Lent as an occasion to display the virtue of God from its practice as an occasion to add to the virtue of me, so I must also ask whether my giving up of Lent for Lent is a conscious exercise in calling attention to the greatness of God or an exercise aimed at smaller ends (avoiding trendiness, traditionalism, or the temptations of merit).

    My remarks are meant as an affirmation of your argument, and possibly as a suggestion of one additional sentence (which the very writing of your post already nicely exemplifies): “But, if Evangelicals are to maintain their fidelity to the Scriptures and wisely discern their historical and cultural context they will also decline to adopt this practice only with the greatest of care.”

  • Salvatore

    I am an evangelical who was raised in a Lutheran church. Looking to the LORD for directions, I have fasted during Lent many times in various ways, all of them involving food. At least twice I have not fasted during Lent because I had the sense that at that time the LORD wanted me not to do so.

    I am well aware that no fast that a Christian can perform can compare to what Christ has endured for us, and that most fasts that people perform for Lent can hardly be called fasts.

    At the time I first learned of Lenten fasting, many years ago, I was told this reason for it: When one has a desire to break the fast, one thinks of Christ’s suffering for us. For example, if one has given up snacks for Lent (including healthy ones), then when one desires to eat a snack, one thinks of Christ’s Passion.

    I disagree with the statement that, based upon Isaiah 58:5, “Believers are to fast [. . .] without lying in sackcloth and ashes”–not in light of Esther 4:3 and Daniel 9:3, wherein we read of Old Testament saints, including Daniel himself, who did those things.

    In Isaiah 58, God is not criticizing the practice of fasting with the wearing of sackcloth and ashes, nor of fasting by abstaining from food and drink. He is criticizing people who attempt to get His attention through abstaining from harmless physical pleasures, yet INDULGE themselves in sin.

    Thus this passage is similar to Hosea 6:6, wherein God is not criticizing the giving of sacrifices and offerings per se: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

    And similar to I Samuel 15:22:

    “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

    Thus, based upon Isaiah 58:6-7, almsgiving is another Lenten tradition:

    Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
    Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

  • GaryH

    Could you be a little clearer about what Aquinas is supposed to be “a bit hazy” about in the section from the ST on fasting to which you link?

    • http://www.facebook.com/kyeth Keith Miller

      I threw that link up because of how Aquinas justified the lenten prohibition on “flesh meat, eggs, and milk foods” (Art. 8). He writes that the forbidden foods not only taste better, but they provide “greater nourishment to the human body, so that from their consumption there results a greater surplus available for seminal matter, which when abundant becomes a great incentive to lust.” Basically, desire for sex = sinful lust, which echoes Augustine’s take (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15071.htm) on the matter. These great thinkers did not articulate a view that clearly eschewed the Sex-is-inherently-sinful position.

      • GaryH

        I’m pretty sure Aquinas doesn’t think “desire for sex = sinful lust,” and I’m pretty sure that even if he did he doesn’t come close to saying that in the passage you cite. I won’t try to unravel Augustine’s thoughts on the matter, but I think you’re wide of the mark in your criticism of Aquinas. For one, it’s true that Aquinas does not articulate a view that eschews the “sex-is-inherently-sinful position,” but that’s because he doesn’t think that sexual acts are inherently good. If they were, then any sexual act would be good, unless we’re disagreeing about the meaning of “inherently.” He does think that sexual acts that are (i) within the confines of marriage, (ii) are not done with an intention to deny procreation, and (iii) are done with the intention to deepen spousal friendship are good, maybe even inherently so. Anything less than that, in his view, falls short of the ideal.

        It’s also important not to confuse his assessment of the sexual act with his assessment of sexual pleasure. I don’t think Aquinas thinks of pleasure as inherently good (or bad). In the relevant sense of “good,” pleasure is only good when it accompanies (in some way) good things; it’s bad when otherwise. So he would deny that sexual pleasure is inherently good, though it’s not as if his arguments for this are absent or unclear.

        • http://www.facebook.com/kyeth Keith Miller

          I agree that Aquinas is less bad on this than Augustine, and you’re right that he doesn’t hold the position that sex is bad (http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3153.htm).

          But I do think his rationale for why meat and cheese are forbidden rests on an assumption something like “Increased Desire for Sex is Bad.” That’s a problem.

          • GaryH

            I fear that my response at this point crosses over from “reasonable discussion” to “pedantic,” but Aquinas doesn’t rest his argument on the assumption that “increased desire for sex is bad.” The only assumption he needs for his argument in this context is that during periods of fasting it is good to avoid foods that lead to an increased desire for sex. In particular, his argument in the first reply is that the reason we should abstain from dairy and meat is that their effects last much longer than, say, wine. None of this implies that he thinks that an increased desire for sex is bad, tout court; he only thinks that it’s imprudent in some situations and for some times to do things that increase one’s desire for sex. I don’t think that most people would object to that because most would agree that there are appropriate and inappropriate times to do things that would increase one’s desire for sex. You might question whether Lent is one of those times, but then we’d be back to debating the merits of establishing regular periods of fasting. And we’d no longer be attempting to source the impetus for fasting in anti-pleasure, anti-food, or anti-sex assumptions.

            (Of course, I think Aquinas’s argument depends on bad science, but I also think the principle remains.)

  • Bryan Hunter

    Man, those Puritans had it figured out. “Brother Silas, lighting the Yule log is so banal; let’s fire up some WITCHES!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/erin.zoutendam Erin Risch Zoutendam

    After reading the statements “Accordingly, unless fasting Evangelicals are extremely careful, their fasts will be interpreted as endeavors for greater sanctification” and “In light of the Colossians passage noted above, Evangelicals ought to know that fasting won’t make them better,” I wonder how the reader is supposed to view any spiritual disciplines. Praying, fasting, meditating, reading Scripture, etc., don’t make us “better” (only grace does), and they could all be viewed as endeavors for greater sanctification.

    And although none of these automatically make us holy, we still pursue holiness through these disciplines, knowing that, by God’s grace, they can be conduits for grace.

    I think Lenten abstention should be seen in the same light . . . yes, it is subject to all sorts of corruption, just as the Pharisees tainted prayer, fasting, etc., but that shouldn’t keep us from pursuing it in the most humble and fervent manner we know how.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kyeth Keith Miller

      Erin,

      Thanks for your close reading and well-stated challenge to my point. I do agree with you that practicing spiritual disciplines can make us “better,” if by that we mean more sanctified. “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow” is pretty sound theology.

      But we have to let Colossians 2 mean something. I take it to be saying that there is a certain kind of ascetic self-denial that *seems* like it would aide in our sanctification, yet doesn’t. I believe Lent–at least as currently understood as a self-improvement project–falls into the class of things that Paul is warning against.

      This doesn’t exclude the Biblical practice of fasting. Fasting (as explicitly discussed in the New Testament) is never suggested as a method to control one’s appetites. It could be that fasting can be good and curbing your appetites can be good, but that using fasting to curb your appetites is not good.

      • http://www.facebook.com/erin.zoutendam Erin Risch Zoutendam

        Some further thoughts based on your comment: if it’s true that Evangelicals can see Lent ONLY as a season of self-improvement, then by all accounts, they ought not to attempt it. However, I see this as a fundamental misinterpretation of Lent, which is a season not even of fasting but of repentance. In our (Anglican) church, the Decalogue is read every Sunday during Lent, which is as much a part of Lent as the abstention.

        However, I wonder if it’s profitable to say, “Evangelicals, in misinterpreting Lent, will fail to profit from it.” That seems something akin to a truism. Perhaps a more profitable line of thought is, how can Evangelicals learn to properly interpret Lent so as to gain from it the intended effect? Perhaps it’s not possible to surgically remove it from a broader understanding of the church calendar . . . after all, Advent in evangelical churches has been a mighty flop. But I think it’s necessary to distinguish between a proper understanding of Lent and an Evangelical misunderstanding of Lent, which seems to be represented by most of the things you say Evangelicals ascribe to it in this post.

        For example, the line “Giving up coffee reminds me of how much Christ gave up for me” seems trite because it is. I don’t personally know very many people who subscribe to that line of thought when it comes to Lent. (In fact, I’ve only heard that from Evangelicals describing Catholics! Never from someone actually practicing Lent.) I see many reasons for abstaining from “luxuries” during Lent, reasons such as becoming more aware of their undue power over my life, creating an atmosphere of sobriety and penitence appropriate to the Lenten season of repentance, and freeing up time/money for more appropriate causes.

        I guess my main point is this: it’s one thing to point out that Evangelicals are misinterpreting and misapplying Lent, and that that’s wrong. But is it fitting to offer that criticism without simultaneously offering up a proper understanding of Lent so that we can determine whether the practice is irredeemable prima facie or just irredeemable among certain circles . . .

        • http://www.facebook.com/erin.zoutendam Erin Risch Zoutendam

          PS- Thanks for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully and individually to my comment. Much appreciated.

  • Greg

    Lenten practice over time makes a difference.

    For those of us who gravitated from evangelical to liturgical churches (for me, the Catholic Church) in our 20s, and now in our 50s, several decades of Lenten experience with a Christian community adds context and perspective to both the discipline and theology.

  • Roxy

    Firstly, I must admit, I had a bit of a chuckle over the name of the blog. “Mere” and “Orthodoxy” seem to be almost polar opposites. Mere, to me, implies “only” or “it doesn’t matter”, or “bare”, or “scant sufficiency” which seem quite opposite of Orthodoxy and yet it can also mean “defined”, or “specific”, or “pure”, or “fulfilled” or “absolute” which is closer in definition to Orthodoxy which plainly is defined as Ortho (Greek) – pure/right/true/straight/upright/correct and Doxy (Greek) – teaching/doctrine/praise/worship/opinion

    Anyways, on to the topic at hand. I thought I’d give you a few links to read the capital O – Orthodox views on fasting. I am terrible at explaining, so these links will say it best.

    http://orthodoxwiki.org/Fasting
    http://www.orthodoxconvert.info/Q-A.php?c=Piety-Why%20Fast
    http://www.orthodoxconvert.info/Q-A.php?c=Piety-What%20is%20an%20Acceptable%20Fast
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_Church
    http://www.omhksea.org/2013/03/why-do-orthodox-christians-fast-40-days-during-great-lent/
    http://www.antiochian.org/discover/feasts
    http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/lenten.html
    http://www.ukrainian-orthodoxy.org/articles/fasting/hunger.html
    http://www.orthodox.org.nz/fasting.php
    http://www.orthodox.net/articles/orthodox-christian-fasting-john-chrysostom.html
    http://www.conciliarpress.com/pages/Some-Thoughts-on-Fasting,-by-an-Orthodox-Priest.html
    http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/lenten-fasting

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  • Josh Cushing

    Keith, thank you for your thoughts. I think that the fascination with Lent right now in my generation and in those churches where we tend to find “skinny jeans and references to UFC fights” is part of a kind of pendulum swing reaction of dissatisfaction with the kind of non-denominational evangelicalism that has broken itself of all semblance of heritage. That is part of why the “New Calvinism” movement seems to be taking off. There is an increasing realization that these “old guys” had some important things to say.
    it is important that discussions like this are happening to curb the pendulum from swinging to far in the other direction.