The author, Tyron Inbody, wants to know in the first chapter if readers know "Jesus" and if they do, which "Jesus" they think they know. There are three approaches to the "historical Jesus" he says - and they are "The Premodern Approach," "The Modern Approach," and the "Postmodern Approach." The Premodern Approach occurred prior to the 18th Century Enlightenment, and in this approach Christians believe that the man whose identity was the "divine savior," the man who came into the world and died on the cross for the sins of mankind, and whose life - and his death and ascension - "opened up the possibility of eternal life for humanity. The Modern Approach has it that "we bring a critical attitude to every document we read," historical "claims" must be carefully analyzed, and third, "faith statements about...Jesus" must be within the limits of the natural world. The Postmodern Approach is that the lines have been blurred between "historical facts" and "interpretation" and "imaginative construction." Also, since we humans in the 21st Century have no access to pure historical facts, and then facts are not as important as faith.
Chapter Two: Jesus Christ and the Identity of God: The Christological Creeds of Yesterday and Today
The concept of God that Christians accept originally came from Judaism. The "theistic God" is the God of "philosophy, theology, and piety," according to Inbody. But the concept of God is under attack, writes Inbody: He is being dismissed as "an illusion" or a "key concept in an ideology of alienation and oppression, suffering, and injustice." Meanwhile, historically, by the early second century, some Christians believed that Jesus Christ was not "a human being at all," but only "appeared to be human." In the 5th Century the question was often asked, were Christ's "divine and human natures" thoroughly "fused"? But these are the kinds of questions, Inbody writes, that are raised only when theologians "interfere with popular piety" - because most modern Christians tend to avoid "theological debates and definitions" - in particular, Christology.
Chapter Three: Evangelical Christology
Most people probably don't realize that one-fifth to one-third of the citizens living in America are believers in the evangelical approach to Christ. Inbody writes that evangelical person does not have a distinctive Christology, but they generally believe what "true Christians" believe to be the truth about Jesus Christ as revealed by God in the Scriptures. Evangelicals offer a "deep challenge to modernity," because they are as a rule believers of things which are "rooted in scripture." There is a big difference between evangelicals and "liberal Christian theologies." Liberal thinkers maintain that religious beliefs are "fallible and thus to be held tentatively," that "reason and experience" in some combination offer the basic tests of believe, and that "diving and human realities are continuous rather than oppositional," and that Christianity is social in construct as well as personal. Juxtaposed with the liberal Christian, the evangelicals internalize the content of scriptures, they are not doctrinal or theological or sacramental. It is more like "an experience" and sometimes evangelicals get pushed "over the edge" toward an extreme individualism and subjectivism, Inbody continues.
Chapter Four: Liberal and Postliberal Christologies
This chapter uses the brilliantly acted and beautifully filmed movie, "The Mission," starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons, as illustrative of key questions that need to be raised: who really represents Christ? What is the role of a priest (liturgy or revolution)? Who does Christ identify with (the Church or the natives)? Is Christ in this movie representing the priest with his ethic of "love, his pacific faithfulness to the cross in the face of gunfire... " Or is Christ represented by the ex-slave trader who offers armed resistance to injustice? All these questions lead up to Inbody's belief that "Liberal Christology is Christology based on "an appeal to history" (to either the traditional Jesus or the Christian faith as a historical movement), or on "human experience" (which he defines: "reason, metaphysics, phenomenological description," or "moral consciousness"). He writes that Liberal Christology could be exemplified through the views of a rationalist like Immanual Kant, who saw Christ as a moral and spiritual ideal, or philosopher Georg Hegal, who saw Christ as "the self-emptying of the Absolute into history.