Have I said it before? I shall say it again: “Every argument is a theological argument.”
So why do we fast? What difference does it make if I eat a huge hamburger on a Friday or not? Isn’t that just a dumb rule?
Let’s start at the very beginning…
There is this heresy called Gnosticism and Gnosticism has lots of different forms. In the old days in included lots of myths and fantastic stories, esoteric teaching, magic and occult practices, supernatural philosophies and theories about gods, goddesses and demigods and all sorts of superstition and special ways to gain knowledge to get to heaven or the spiritual realm
But the key belief in all the forms of Gnosticism was the idea that the physical world and the spiritual world were separate and the spiritual world was pure and clean and good and eternal and nice whereas the physical world was dirty, painful, smelly and full of suffering.
All the techniques and teachings and rituals and ceremonies and philosophies and fantasies and myths and mysticism were all ways to somehow or other get out of this nasty, smelly, dirty physical world and ascend to the lovely spiritual realm of angels and clouds and beautiful things.
Gnosticism is still with us. Big time. It takes the form of Eastern religions which teach meditation techniques and exercises and whatever to help you forget this world of suffering and enter into that higher state of bliss. Thus all the folks who want to be “spiritual but not religious.”
Let’s face it. If you were going to make up a religion, this is pretty much what you would come up with.
But Christianity stands all this on its head and makes the outrageous claim that, because of the Incarnation of the Son of God, who took human flesh of his mother Mary, the spiritual world and the physical world are NOT separate forever, but they are intermingled. The Word became Flesh.
Now the Gnostic Christians called Docetists couldn’t stomach such an outrageous idea. “You mean the holy Son of God sweated and stank and went to the toilet? Nooooo!”
So they proposed that the Word only seemed to become human. It was a convincing illusion, but it was still only an illusion. God did a magic trick. A little bit of the old smoke and mirrors.
But hold on. We believe in the incarnation. Spirit and Flesh are mingled. We may be part apes, but we are also part angels. Our Spirit-soul is not separate from our bodies. Our bodies are not just containers for our souls. Instead our souls are infused into our bodies like tea in hot water. They are one. You can’t separate out the body from the soul.
Therefore we fast.
In other words, what we do with our body affects our soul. What we do with our soul affects our body.
If you pollute your body with bad sex, bad food, bad thoughts, and bad actions your soul suffers. It becomes weak and cowardly and selfish and lazy if you do weak and cowardly and selfish and lazy things with your body.
Physical sin makes you spiritually blind and spiritually weak.
The obverse is also true. What you do with your soul affects your body. If you pray more and worship healthily and trust in God and have faith you will be better physically and mentally, and if you suffer from physical ailments you will have the strength and power to bear it with meaning and purpose.
Fasting is a way to discipline and control our physical appetites and when we control that part of our lives we have more power to control the spiritual aspect.
Its there in the Good Old Book: “Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”