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There is a question on here about the importance of fasting.
But this is different because I want to know what denominations don't believe in fasting and why they think that its not important. I personally have great faith in fasting and in the power of fasting such as found in Mark and Matt, when the 12 have tried to cast out a devil but failed.

Mark 9:28-29, 28, (end of verse)...Why could not we cast him out?
29, And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

Matt 17:21 Howbeit this kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting.

Which is a clear example of where the disciples could not do something unless they fasted and prayed for the power to do it first.

Edit:
Changed as per the comments.

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    Since you already believe in fasting, a better question might be what denominations don't believe in fasting and what is their biblical basis?
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 14:40
  • You've already answered the why question. Could you define what you mean by belief? Teach fasting from the pulpit? Conduct fasting as part of the worship service? Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 15:03
  • I have answered the why question for myself I want to understand why others do it. Also As for finding out which don't do it, I'm not that interested in that question. I want to know what others share a common belief in fasting and their reasons for it.
    – Ryan
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 16:00
  • I would be surprised if there were any denominations that officially don't believe in fasting. Commented Mar 8, 2012 at 14:42

2 Answers 2

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Who fasts and who doesn't?

Do, and its important

  • Both the Eastern Orthdox and Roman Catholic churches have required fasting periods for their members, as shown by the links.

  • Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are encouraged to fast for the first Sunday of every month, which they call their fast and testimony meeting. Instead of speakers, members come up to the microphone and bear their testimony about the truthfulness of their experiences in the Gospel [per Gilbert LeBlanc]

Encourage, but in practice don't

  • Episcopalians are supposed to fast on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and on "lesser fasts", but I've never heard it preached from the pulpit in the five years I've been one. Pancake Tuesday? Sure. Fasting the next day, not so much.

  • Baptists practice fasting as a private discipline but have no agreed upon days on which fasting is to occur. (Baptists can't even agree on a lectionary, so if you think you'd be able to pry the fried chicken out of my cold dead hands, think again! When I was ordained as a Baptist minister, I explained to my ordination committee that Baptists only believe in three sacraments - marriage, communion, and potluck. They agreed.)

  • Methodists encourage fasting but offer no official guidelines on when to do it, since it is a "private matter"

  • Presbyterians, per the Westminster Confession of faith encourage fasting on Sundays, but do so with the admonition of Matt 6:17, in which believers are encouraged not to brag about how spiritual they are.

  • Lutherans encourage fasting but do not require it.

Why don't many Protestants fast?

Most Protestants don't fast - not because they think fasting is wrong, but because there is nothing compelling to make them think that it is important. Very few Protestants I know would say fasting is wrong, but in practice, it just isn't important*. (See note on "Papistry" below, however.)

For most evangelicals at least, and many protestants in particular, the emphasis on grace is such that anything that smacks of "works" is relegated to the "nice, but optional" category. Puritans would call some of the spiritual disciplines "superciliousness" - an over attention to the perfection that leads to pride. Additionally, many older Protestants view fasting as an artifact of Catholicism. This isn't accurate, but for many centuries, anything that smacked of "Papistry" was viewed with suspicion.

All of these basically leads to a culture in which many spiritual disciplines are just not part of the culture. Kids don't grow up thinking you do it, so they don't, and in turn, their kids perpetuate the cycle.

After attending a spiritual disciplines seminar or after reading Foster's Celebration of Discipline or anything by Dallas Willard, they tend to learn, but the point is that the culture of Protestant churches (and I am generalizing a bit there) simply doesn't emphasize it.

Finally, if you ask me, "why don't I fast?" It's really just laziness. I know it would be good, and I have done it from time to time, but in my personal experience it hasn't done a lot. I suspect I'm not alone in thinking that. It doesn't justify it, it just explains it.


Excursis on the textual evidence for fasting

For example, while I wouldn't argue this, the verse you reference in Mark is considered by many scholars to be a minor variant inserted after the original manuscripts. I won't argue it either way, but it just doesn't rise to "really important" for a lot of Protestants.

From the Net Bible's footnote on Mark 9:29:

38 tc Most witnesses, even early and excellent ones (Ì45vid א2 A C D L W Θ Ψ Ë1,13 33 Ï lat co), have “and fasting” (καὶ νηστείᾳ, kai nhsteia) after “prayer” here. But this seems to be a motivated reading, due to the early church’s emphasis on fasting (TCGNT 85; cf., e.g., 2 Clem. 16:4; Pol. Phil 7:2; Did. 1:3; 7:4). That the most important witnesses (א* B), as well as a few others (0274 2427 k), lack καὶ νηστείᾳ, when a good reason for the omission is difficult to find, argues strongly for the shorter reading.

Matthew 17:21 is often ommitted (NIV, NRSV, ESV, Net Bible, HCSB, for example) for the same reason:

tc Many important mss (א* B Θ 0281 33 579 892* pc e ff1 sys,c sa) do not include 17:21 “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” The verse is included in א2 C D L W Ë1,13 Ï lat, but is almost certainly not original. As B. M. Metzger notes, “Since there is no satisfactory reason why the passage, if originally present in Matthew, should have been omitted in a wide variety of witnesses, and since copyists frequently inserted material derived from another Gospel, it appears that most manuscripts have been assimilated to the parallel in Mk 9.29” (TCGNT 35). The present translation follows NA27 in omitting the verse number as well, a procedure also followed by a number of other modern translations.

Just as a translation of some of those symbols, א is the Codex Sinaiticus (aka the Tischendorf's stolen manuscript) and B is Codex Vaticanus, two of the most important manuscripts available.

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  • Ditto. I don't know any denomination that is literally against fasting. But at the same time, I've attended churches of many different denominations, and none has ever talked much about fasting. It's just rather, well, forgotten.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 6:56
  • Ok, that's an interesting view on Mark and I would lend it more credence if it didn't say the exact same thing in Matt: 17 21: Howbeit this kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting.
    – Ryan
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 15:43
  • @ryanOptini Again - I don't think fasting is wrong, and I do think its wrong that I don't fast - but the manuscript evidence isn't there. I added the footnote on Matt 17:21 which is omitted in the NIV, ESV, NRSV, Net Bible, and many others. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 16:01
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    A better support for fasting would be Matthew 6:17, "When you fast..." Jesus is simply giving advice on how you should fast, implying that you should be fasting. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 16:16
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    Before someone tries to trip me up for this question, I'd argue this textual variant actually proves the point for many protestants that again, no major doctrine relies solely on textual variants. Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 18:40
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From GotQuestions: Christian fasting - what does the Bible say?

Scripture does not command Christians to fast. God does not require or demand it of Christians. At the same time, the Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. The book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions (Acts 13:2; 14:23). Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33). Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God.

Although fasting in Scripture is almost always a fasting from food, there are other ways to fast. Anything given up temporarily in order to focus all our attention on God can be considered a fast (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when fasting from food. Extended periods of time without eating can be harmful to the body. Fasting is not intended to punish the flesh, but to redirect attention to God. Fasting should not be considered a “dieting method” either. The purpose of a biblical fast is not to lose weight, but rather to gain deeper fellowship with God. Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example). Everyone can temporarily give up something in order to draw closer to God.

By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God. Fasting is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. Fasting is to be done in a spirit of humility and a joyful attitude. Matthew 6:16-18 declares

  • “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
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