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Faith Sees Best in the Dark: Joe Biden, Søren Kierkegaard, and the education of suffering

Vice President Joe Biden has frequently acknowledged that only his faith has enabled him to endure the untimely death of his son, Beau. In a talk show in September, Biden revealed that his wife Jill had taped an expression from philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) to his mirror: “Faith sees best in the dark.” At the recent White House Easter prayer breakfast, Biden echoed that same half sentence. But what do those simple six words from the Danish firebrand mean?

The expression that has provided such sustenance to Mr. Biden can be found in Kierkegaard’s 1847 book, Uplifting Discourses in Various Spirits,* in a section of text entitled “The Gospel of Suffering.” The paragraph from which Biden cites reads:

“The believer humanly comprehends how heavy the suffering is, but in faith’s wonder that it is beneficial to him, he devoutly says: It is light. Humanly he says: It is impossible, but he says it again in faith’s wonder that what he humanly cannot understand is beneficial to him. In other words, when sagacity is able to perceive the beneficialness, then faith cannot see God; but when in the dark night of suffering sagacity cannot see a handbreadth ahead of it, then faith can see God, since faith sees best in the dark.”


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