My post about Bishop Michael Reid has attracted a lot of interest. Simon Jones’ post which I linked to has attracted even more, to judge by the number of comments.
Well down the comment thread on Simon’s post a discussion has started on fasting. The issue was raised by Dr Raj Patel, and the discussion continued by John, a preacher from here in Essex, who reports the following:
Reid taught that it was not right to fast because the Lord, the bridegroom, is now with us and we do not need to fast. He even stated at a meeting for pastors that “fasting is heathen.” This is clearly false teaching, especially in view of Acts 13:2-3.
Raj continues with
You are absolutely right, Reid has totally contradicted Scripture on the issue of fasting. Indeed, some might say say he has blasphemed on this point, as the New Testament tells us that Jesus taught his disciples to ‘pray and fast without ceasing.’ … It looks as if the ‘bishop’ thought he was so important and authoritatative that he could contradict the teaching of Christ himself !
Strange, these quoted words don’t appear in my New Testament. Can anyone tell me where they come from? It is not Reid but whoever first attributed these words to Jesus who “thought he [or she] was so important and authoritatative that he [or she] could contradict the teaching of Christ himself”. For when we look at what Jesus actually taught about fasting, it is by no means that his followers should fast. He did not condemn fasting, but, in Mark 2:19, laid down a general rule, which Reid faithfully taught, that they should not fast “because the Lord, the bridegroom, is now with us”. So, according to commenter John,
Reid also used to say that we should not fast and pray, but pray fast.
Excellent advice! Fasting may be helpful for some in certain circumstances, but in his teaching Jesus, without condemning fasting, repeatedly teaches on the importance of prayer. Not fast prayer in the sense of babbling words or getting it over quickly, but praying fast in the sense of being quick to turn to prayer when there is a need, and of holding fast to God in prayer.
I agree that Reid went too far in saying that “fasting is heathen.” This is indeed false teaching, as are large parts of what Reid taught. But he should be condemned for what is false, and for his adultery, and not for this teaching which is correct, and explodes a long held myth about fasting.
No doubt some of you my readers will want to point me to Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29 (see also 1 Corinthians 7:5) in KJV and NKJV, in which Jesus appears to commend prayer and fasting. But if you look for this teaching in almost any modern Bible translation except for NKJV, you will not find them. Matthew 17:21 is not in these translations at all, and there is no mention of fasting in Mark 9:29 or 1 Corinthians 7:5. In each of these cases the wording with “fasting” is found only in later manuscripts in the Alexandrian and Byzantine traditions; the scholars of the biblical text who produced the UBS 4th edition Greek New Testament judge that in each of these three cases “the text is certain”, referring to the version without “fasting”. It seems highly probable that the variants with “fasting” reflect the growing prominence of this practice in the 3rd and 4th centuries, and not the actual teaching of Jesus and the apostles. These readings found their way into KJV through the Byzantine manuscripts of the New Testament on which the “Textus Receptus” is based, but are now almost universally (except by “KJV-only” people) rejected as later additions.
Since Jesus is with his church, the bridegroom with his bride, I can agree with Reid, as reported by John, that as a general rule
Christians should be feasting and not fasting.