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Disney as Doorway to Apologetic Dialogue

Jeremy E. Scarbrough

with Pat Sawyer

“This book is an excellent introduction and guide to the personal background and biblically-shaped vision of Walt Disney and of many of the films he and his company would create. These movies so often depict crucial themes in the biblical metanarrative—the reality of the conflict between good and evil; the need for a champion to step in and overthrow the forces of darkness and reverse the curse; the importance of self-sacrificial love and the value of community; and the good ultimately triumphing over evil. This book serves as a valuable resource to show how Disney films provide not only illuminating insights and inspiration for our children and our congregations; they also serve as bridges for the gospel in a world of people longing to find their true identity and true home and to see fulfilled their deepest desires to ‘live happily ever after,’ which are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is, as C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘myth became fact.’”

—Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University (Florida), and author of The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas and Is God a Vindictive Bully?

"Disney as Doorway to Apologetic Dialogue is a great example of cultural apologetics done well. We need more deep-dive theological analyses of Hollywood—resources that go beyond superficial readings and model substantive, layered engagement with an eye toward common grace engagement rather than critical dismissal. This scholarly, insightful book is a fantastic resource for both students and creators of pop culture."

—Brett McCracken, senior editor, The Gospel Coalition, author of The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World

"As a parent of four school-age children who have grown up with Disney, this fascinating book helped me more deeply appreciate the themes of virtue, justice, love, and sacrifice that permeate the Disney canon. Good stories move us because they point to a greater story. This volume is an excellent way to start conversations about our longing for a perfect kingdom, for true beauty, and for the ultimate conquest of good over evil."

—Dr. Neil Shenvi, Author of Why Believe? A Reasoned Approach to Christianity

“More sense needs to be made of the relationship between the world making we have all been enchanted by in Disney and the Christian faith. For a century now, Disney has invited us into stories that have shaped our worldviews, our hearts, and our imaginations.  Much of what we've come to know of truth, goodness, and beauty, both culturally and personally, we've known through Disney's animated world-making.  Yet, it could be argued that Christian believers have not thought deeply enough about Disney's importance in crafting conversations about these virtues. In Disney as Doorway to Apologetic Dialogue, Scarbrough and Sawyer have revealed just what depths there are to plunge.  Scarbrough and Sawyer do a beautiful job of theologically and apologetically walking us through Disney's spiritually latent worlds, showing us glimpses, in fantastic castles, princesses, and beasts, of a very real Kingdom.”

—Corey Latta, Vice President of Academics at Visible Music College and author of numerous articles, poems, and three books, including, “Election and Unity in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans,” “Functioning Fantasies: Theology, Ideology, and Social Conception in the Works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien,” C. S. Lewis and the Art of Writing, and When the Eternal Can Be Met: A Bergsonian Theology of Time in the Works of C. S. Lewis.


This work begins with an exploration of Disney’s seeming moral meta-narrative and argues that Disney’s vision of ethics and the kingdom-ever-after often aligns strikingly with the Christian vision of reality. It concludes with a philosophical investigation into the nature of justice and questions of social goodness. The book is divided into three parts, progressing from a discussion of goodness exemplified in Disney stories, to beauty inferred, to the consideration of how this points to an expectation of the Kingdom, and finally to a dialogue on the nature of the justice anticipated in light of our longing for such a Kingdom. Part one sets the academic tone and apologetic significance of our approach—though the work proceeds at more of a high popular rather than high academic level of writing, as this book is written as much for the lay reader and student of apologetics as it is for the interdisciplinary scholar and seasoned apologist. Part two explores moral motifs and theologically rich symbolism recurrent in Disney narratives. Here we draw out key strands of Disney’s moral meta-narrative viewed through the lens of Christian theology. Part three is more philosophical, with Disney films functioning less as the object of study and more as applications of argumentation, as stories are able to awaken, more powerfully than propositions, certain convictions within us.

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