Christ without Compromise: The Application of Covenantal Apologetics to the Crisis of Identity in the Urban Context

Below is the introduction to my D. Min. research project proposal.

Who am I? The question of identity is one that we all must wrestle with, but within the urban context, particularly the African American urban context, the question of identity has turned into a crisis of identity. There is a long history of oppression, rejection, racism, societal, and systemic brokenness that has whittled away at the soul of those who live in the inner city.

Years ago, W. E. B. Du Bois lamented the “double consciousness” of the souls of black folk. He wrote, “One ever feels his two-ness, – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”[1] This “two-ness” rips apart at the very fabric of what it means to be created in the image of God. Even though Du Bois wrote over 100 years ago the issues remain very much the same for African Americans living in some of the most hopeless situations in our inner cities.

More recently, Cornel West, in his landmark, Race Matters, argues that Nihilism is the greatest threat to Black America. He defines Nihilism as “the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness, hopelessness, and (most important) lovelessness.”[2] This life without meaning, life without hope, and life without love is everyday life in the hood. Nihilistic hopelessness is the most pressing issue in our inner cities. West continues, “the major enemy of black survival in America has been and is neither oppression nor exploitation but rather the nihilistic threat – that is, loss of hope and absence of meaning.”[3] It is this hopelessness that Carl Ellis has termed “Ghetto Nihilism.” [4] It is brokenness of identity that leads to a hood without hope.

I want to address the problem of identity in the urban context from an apologetic viewpoint. I will seek to answer the ministry question, “How may we apply covenantal apologetics to the crisis of identity within the urban context?” [5] Hope in the hood is only possible within the Christian worldview. Therefore, we will argue for the necessity of applying covenantal apologetics to the urban context in order to address the crisis of identity within the urban context. Richard Lints writes, “the irony of identity is that by looking away from ourselves we are more likely to discover our identity.”[6] We need to apologetically point others away from themselves to Christ. Holding out Christ without compromise to men and women is the only way to challenge the broken thinking and broken living of those wrestling with their shattered identity in the hopelessness of the hood.[7]

In conclusion, covenantal apologetics offers the best way forward for introducing the hopefulness of Christ into the hopelessness of the inner city. The brokenness of the urban context creates a deep-seated and oppressive hopelessness that is only countered with setting apart Christ as Lord in our hearts and minds. Therefore, for the hope within to offer hope in the hood we must hold out Jesus Christ without compromise as the way, the truth, the life, and the hope. The good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is the only hope for the nihilistic hopelessness of the hood.


Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. 1903. Reprint, New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003.

Ellis, Jr., Carl F. “The Rise of Ghetto Nihilism,” February 25, 2012, video of lecture,

Lints, Richard. Identity and Idolatry: The Image of God and Its Inversion, New Studies in Biblical Theology 36. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015.

Oliphint, K. Scott. Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013.

Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith. 3rd ed. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1967.

West, Cornel. Race Matters, 25th Anniversary: With a New Introduction. Anniversary edition. Boston: Beacon Press, 2017.


[1] W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1903, 2003), 9.

[2] Cornel West, Race Matters, 25th Anniversary: With a New Introduction, Anniversary edition (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2017), 14. Emphasis his.

[3] Ibid., 15.

[4] This crisis of identity results in what Carl Ellis has termed “Ghetto Nihilsm.”

[5] K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).

[6] Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry: The Image of God and Its Inversion, New Studies in Biblical Theology 36. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 11.

[7] Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1967), 3. As far as I can tell, this “Introduction” is missing in the 4th edition.

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