published Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Student's advice on 'Being Christian'

Chris Kugler says it isn't his intention to paint himself as a spiritual Indiana Jones, but the pursuit for truth in his young life has led him to write about how to more fully live a Christian life.

As such, the Lee University senior recently published "Being Christian," which purports to give Christians a fresh way to understand Scripture.

Kugler, 23, said the tendency for many Christians -- and he doesn't absolve himself -- is to read the Bible as if they are drinking their morning coffee while lightly scanning a minor classic written in the past 40 or 50 years.

"When we do not pay careful attention to historical meaning, if we don't take it seriously," he said, "we're in danger of misunderstanding Scripture and misunderstanding how to follow Jesus."

Too often, Kugler said, people "just want immediate application. That can be deeply damaging."

His book, which is divided into segments on the Christian life, will seem "affirming" and "reassuring" to many, the Cleveland, Tenn., native said, but may be "refreshing," "provocative and different" to others.

Kugler said he is not "so arrogant or naive to say" the entirety of his material is new to the world, but some of it may be new to adherents of some denominations and in some geographical locations.

His idea, he said, "is to get beneath and behind these traditions to get at what the Scripture actually says."

Kugler said he's heard one section of the book, in which he suggests the primary goal of Jesus was to bring the kingdom of God to Earth, has seemed provocative to some.

He said while many people assume Jesus came to provide "basic instructions [for people before they leave] Earth," the idea of his presence was that "heaven would be broken loose on Creation," that "one day heaven would fully be present on Earth."

"My contention in the book," Kugler said, "is that we as Christians have learned a way of reading Scripture and [learned the rules for] living in God's world." However, he said, to most Christians, "that's all secondary to getting into the other sphere.

"The heart cry," he said, "is that heaven will come here again, that God will flood Creation [as a paradise] again. Jesus brought heaven back into our midst. We are to bring about heaven on Earth, and we are to colonize it with the kind of love that Jesus brought."

If heaven on Earth has not returned, people, at death, Kugler said, would "go to be with Christ" not at a destination specifically called heaven but at a place "where God rules, where he has stored up his healing and restoration."

"At some point, the veil [between heaven and Earth] will be removed, and heaven will be poured out -- God's love [in this] dimension," he said. The challenge for Christians today, then, "is to grow closer to God," to seek "pure hearts," to realize a "deeper, fresher way to read Scripture," to learn "how to live in God's world" and "to use our vocations to bring about, with God's help, his kingdom on Earth," Kugler said.

Christians need to pause and remember that, through the Holy Spirit, God is already here, he said. "We need to slow down in a literal and metaphorical sense the loud music and know that God is in our midst. I don't like to slow down, but it's so, so crucial."

The undergraduate, who is majoring in pastoral ministry with an eye toward teaching on the college level, said his pursuit for truth is not unlike many in his generation who "are very flaky and do not have a tendency to be loyal to groups."

So his book, available at online sites such as amazon.com, westbowpress.com, christianbook.com and www.beingchristianbook.com, should both find common ground with -- and challenge adherents in -- any Christian denomination, he said.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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