Countercultural

Look Deeper, See Clearer, Run Harder

The Beauty, the Beast, and the Gospel

Why should we watch—even enjoy—modern-day movies like Beauty and the Beast? These stories carry redemptive elements that point us back to the Gospel.

Beauty and the Beast

When an artist is telling the story consistent with the biblical narrative of creation, fall, redemption, consummation, or some aspect of it—and it could be anything—then we can enjoy that beauty because it’s telling the story truthfully.
–Steve DeWitt, author of Eyes Wide Open

I’m a big fan of Disney. There’s something beautiful about a story well told. Of all the classic Disney movies, my favorite would have to be Beauty and the Beast, which is why I was so excited to see the updated release of the movie on opening night.

Certainly the nostalgia trip was part of the reason this film broke spring box office records. But as the title song says so clearly, this story is a tale as old as time. And true beauty is timeless.

Call it extreme fandom or over-theologizing, but I believe there are many ways Beauty and the Beast reflects the Gospel story, the truest and most beautiful story of all time. Consider these parallels:

The story begins with a prince, one made to rule the land, falling from his place of honor because of pride. Because of his sin, a curse is placed on the land.

Adam and Eve sinned and brought a curse upon all people.

The only way to break the curse is for the Beast to find love before his enchanted flower withers, and the question is asked, “Who could ever learn to love a beast?”

There is nothing lovely about us in our sin; we should be despised and rejected by God. How could He love us?

Belle is the hero of the story, and she’s presented as an outsider in two senses. First, she’s perceived as different than the other villagers and generally rejected. Second, she enters into the Beast’s domain and lives as the only person unaffected by the curse.

Jesus entered into our world as one of us, unaffected by the curse of sin yet rejected by men.

The story is saturated with self-giving love. Belle gives herself in place of her father, who is both victim and perpetrator.

Jesus takes our place as sinners and slaves to sin.

An act of redemptive love breaks the curse, and the dead Beast is literally transformed to new life.

Christ died for us to raise us to new life in His renewed image.

Contrasted with these similarities are many stark differences to the Gospel story—and that’s okay. Recognizing the differences make the Gospel far more attractive than a Disney movie. Consider, for example:

  • Belle didn’t know what she was getting herself into—Jesus did.
  • Belle fell in love with the Beast—Jesus loved us unconditionally from before the dawn of time.
  • It took death for Belle to realize how much she loved the Beast—It took Jesus dying for us before we could realize how much He loved us.

The True Nature of Beauty

I would pair beauty with what we call the “general revelation” of God—we identify beauty in a sunset, a landscape, a dance, a sculpture, or a story. Whether natural or created, they echo the work of God in the world and in us, and they evoke an emotional response.

But if God is the creator of beauty, then nothing can be more beautiful than God. God certainly can’t create a rock so large He can’t lift it—which means He also can’t create anything more beautiful than Himself.

The perfect, unhindered expression of God’s beauty is Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus is the perfect revelation of God’s beauty because He is the perfect revelation of God. And at the culmination of Jesus’ beauty is the cross. Therefore the cross, while being a bloody and gruesome scene, is the greatest beauty in the universe.

The self-giving love of Jesus for sin-stained beasts like us is what makes the Gospel so amazing. As Tim Keller says, Jesus didn’t stay on the cross because we were attractive to Him. “He loved us,” Keller said, “not because we were lovely to Him, but to make us lovely.”

At the end of watching Beauty and the Beast, there was a joy and contentedness in my heart. I realized I had just watched an incredible, redemptive story. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize the truth in what C.S. Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

If God is the creator of beauty, then nothing can be more beautiful than God.

Every good and pure pleasure we feel in this world is only a dim reflection of the “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11) we are meant to experience in the presence of Jesus. God cannot make a pleasure greater than He can give in Himself. Therefore every good pleasure is not a reflection of heaven but merely a dim, jaded foretaste.

So watch Beauty and the Beast. Enjoy a story well told that rings with redemptive themes. But always remember the greatest story—a true, living story—about a fallen, beastly people who were saved by the most beautiful One of all.

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  • Josiah

    I’d be curious to know what your take is on the movie with respect to it having Disney’s first gay character. A lot of friends were excited to see the movie, but were unsure whether they ought to support it on account of that.

    • I’d definitely be willing to discuss it more in person. My main criticism, and why I avoided the topic entirely here, is that Christians are quick to point out what’s wrong in secular culture and very slow to acknowledge the ways in which secular works of art point back to the Gospel. That seems backward to me.

      • Josiah

        Gotcha

  • Thanks Camden – interesting isnt it just how man modern day films are based on a redemptive story.
    Also on the point raised by Josiah’s friends … I would add that as Christians we are often guilty of double standards – we often watch soaps and films portraying adultery, and sex outside marriage, and dont even question it. But somehow when it comes to the gay issue we are quick to draw a line and line up behind it.