Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Plague, by Camus

Camus wrote a novel about a plague. In the novel Camus poses a dilemma: if a plague is sent by God, is it impious to fight the plague? Are we fighting God by fighting a heaven-sent plague? 

Since the world is currently experiencing a pandemic, this is a good time to revisit the proposed dilemma. 

1. God sends adversity to change people. It can be designed to change them in different ways. 

Historically, for instance, plagues were an opportunity for Christians to practice sacrificial compassion. The pagan response to plagues was to cast the sick outside and leave them to fend for themselves. As a result, the fatality rate was extremely high for plagues, because in many cases, the sick would have been able to survive if someone cared for them and nursed them through the illness. 

By contrast, Christians, emboldened by the hope of heaven, practiced heroic compassion by taking in the sick and nursing them. Christians took the risk of contracting a fatal infection. Not only did this save many lives, but it was also a powerful witness to the pagan world. Todd Wood discussed this in a recent video:

2. Sometimes God sends adversity for adversity to be overcome. Opposing the adversity isn't contrary God's will; to the contrary, the purpose of adversity, in such cases, is to pose a challenge to be surmounted. Take the cultivation of soul-building virtues. 

3. Sometimes God sends adversity to overcome us. For instance, God striking Nebuchadnezzar with lycanthropy to humble him.

4. What these examples of different kinds of change share in common is that God doesn't send adversity for us to do nothing in response. We're not to passively submit to adversity in the sense that we don't allow it to make any difference, but just sit there and take it without letting it have any effect on us. No, we're supposed to interact with the adversity. We're supposed to grapple with the adversity. So the dilemma posed by Camus is a false dilemma. 

1 comment:

  1. Good answer, thank you. This is also sometimes couched in terms of, if the curse is God's will, then aren't we being disobedient when we develop medicines or practices that extend life, reduce pain, etc.