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An African symbolic Hermeneutical critique of the theory and practice of penal substitution theory of the Doctrine of Atonement in Church Of Christ in Nations (COCIN) within the context of Jos, Nigeria.

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This study is an African symbolic hermeneutical critique of the penal substitution theory, a theological concept that constitutes one of the ecclesial doctrines of the atonement as understood and practiced by the Church of Christ in Nations in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. The leaders and members live and practice this doctrine within Jos, a context plagued with systemic and symbolic violence. African symbolic hermeneutics is an ongoing broader perspective used in inculturating Euro-centric Christian doctrines within Africa. This perspective offers an afro-centric nuance in transmitting European cultured Christianity in Africa. Through the African symbolic hermeneutical perspective, this study interrogated the penal substitution theory as a missio-cultural tool that the church can utilise to respond to the violence-prone context. The study also examines the extent to which the leaders and laity are equipped with the African symbolic approaches that can adequately respond to the systemic and symbolic violence. The focus on the clergy leaders is because theologically they are trained to communicate the church’s doctrines and disciplines to its members. The penal substitution theory of the doctrine of atonement asserts that Christ took the legal responsibility of human sin and through his death paid the debt in order to satisfy the compulsory justice of God. In light of this, contemporary scholars have argued that this core teaching of the church has the potential for its followers to embrace violence as a method of demonstrating their allegiance to Christ and the church. Consequent to the retributive nuance contained within the doctrine, this study calls into question the context in which the doctrine was constructed and how this it was transplanted by the Western missionaries following the founding of the Church of Christ in Nations. Contemporary scholars have proposed a shift from the traditional Penal substitution theory of the doctrine of atonement which presents Christ as one who was violently punished for the sake of fallen humankind to a perspective that presents him as one who identifies with God’s love of creation. This assertion was made possible through an empirical research conducted within the Church of Christ in Nations in Jos, Plateau State where it was presented, analysed and interpreted. The symbolic hermeneutical perspective used in this study therefore seeks to appropriate the retributive understanding of the substitutionary work of Christ through the symbolic African viii cultural experience of Pyem people, one of the ethnic groups within Jos, Plateau State, which can better serve as a medium through which the penal substitution theory can be expressed within the violence-prone context of Jos. This serves as an alternative model of the doctrine under consideration that can equip the missional identity of the Church of Christ in Nations to positively respond to the religio-cultural, socio-political and violent context of Jos so as to bring about a just peace among its religiously diverse population.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.