Original Research - Special Collection: The use of the Bible in Theology

Reflections on the characters of Dr Rieux and Fr Paneloux in Camus’ The Plague in a consideration of human suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic

Wessel Bentley
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 4 | a6087 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i4.6087 | © 2020 Wessel Bentley | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 May 2020 | Published: 20 October 2020

About the author(s)

Wessel Bentley, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, one is drawn to engage with texts that deal with the topic of human suffering. Two texts will be considered in this article. The first is the novel The Plague by Albert Camus, and the second is the Bible. Two characters in Camus’ work will be discussed as representatives of different theological and scriptural responses to the issue of widespread human suffering. Following a literary analysis research methodology, this article argues that Christian responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are not dissimilar to the perspectives held by Dr Rieux and Fr Paneloux. Theodicy is engaged with either a perspective that questions the Divine in the light of the suffering of the innocent or a perspective that subjects itself to a state of surrender to ‘the God who knows best’. The article then offers a third perspective, one held by Camus himself, suggesting that the question of theodicy could be reimagined from the notion of the absurdity of life.

Contribution: This article provides a theological reflection on common Christian responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. It uses Camus’ novel, “The Plague” as a backdrop to differentiate between a deistic and a science-faith approach to suffering.


theodicy; COVID-19; Camus; La Peste; The Plague


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Crossref Citations

1. God-talk and the question of being human
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Verbum et Ecclesia  vol: 44  issue: 1  year: 2023  
doi: 10.4102/ve.v44i1.2752