Peter Leithart’s Irenaean Theology of Fasting

If you want to know what fasting is all about, boys and girls, read this article, posted today at First Things’ On the Square blog. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Leithart places the whole idea of feasting and fasting in the context of Christ’s recapitulation of Adamic humanity. The Adam-Christ parallel is originally Pauline, was systematized by Irenaeus in the second century, and bore much fruit throughout the entire patristic era. According to Leithart’s application of this model, Jesus Fasted where Adam feasted, and in so doing succeeded where Adam failed. Here is an exemplary quote:

Jesus is the Last Adam because He keeps the fast. He enters a world that is no longer a garden, but a howling waste, and in that wilderness Satan tempts Him to break the fast, to be an Adam: “You’re hungry; eat this now. You deserve the accolades of the crowds; you can have it now if you jump off the temple. You want all authority in heaven and on earth, but your Father won’t give that to you unless you suffer an excruciating, shameful death; you can have it all now, no cross or self-denial required. It’s yours, and you only need to do a bit of bowing. Life, glory, power, everything you want, everything you deserve—you can have it all now.”

Jesus refused, and refused, and then refused again, and in so doing broke the power of Adamic sin. Jesus kept the fast; he waited, labored, suffered, died, and then opened his hand to receive all the life, glory, honor, authority, and dominion that his Father had to give Him. He kept the fast and as a result was admitted to the fullness of the kingdom’s feast—because by that time both it and he were ready. And by resisting the devil, Jesus sets the pattern of true fasting and reveals a Lenten way of life.

Leithart sees ramifications of this “Lenten way of life” for politics, economics, and sexuality. This is great stuff. Check out the whole thing.

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2 comments so far

  1. derekryanbrown on

    I still hold strong reservations concerning ovelry developed theologies of fasting (my original questions remain unanswered here: https://jeffreimer.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/a-friendly-reminder-in-light-of-the-upcoming-lenten-season/#comments).

  2. jeffreimer on

    Yes, I still owe you a response, Derek. I started drafting one not long after you left your comment, but it was lost to the ether, which kind of killed my spirit. I’ll get to it here in a little while.


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