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What is the Nature of Beast's Faith?

In Disney & the Moral Imaginary (Book II of the Disney & Apologetics duology) Zachary Schmoll and Neal Foster explore two perspectives on hospitality in Beauty and the Beast. Since Schmoll's approach is discussed elsewhere, this post will focus on Foster's unique contribution.

Foster uses the transformation within Beast as an opportunity for inquiry concerning the nature of Beast’s faith in love, and he questions whether Beast qualifies more as a Kierkegaardian knight of faith or a knight of infinite resignation. The knight of infinite resignation may act heroically but does so out of an irrational hope rather than a leap to embrace absurdity, whereas a knight of faith purposefully exercises a trust in the absurd. Foster believes that Beast’s actions align with the former, rather than the latter. Yet, he suggests, perhaps we can learn from Beast that the choice need not be dichotomous if both paths can lead to growth in Christlikeness.

One of [Søren Kierkegaard’s] most famous concepts, especially in regard to Christian faith, is what he calls the “absurd,” used to good effect in Fear and Trembling when he contrasts between what he calls the “knight of infinite resignation” and the “knight of faith.” The knight of infinite resignation unconditionally gives up what he loves or desires for a greater cause or reason; in other words, he can logically justify the resigning of an otherwise good thing. The knight of faith performs the same outward action but makes an additional move to believe, “absurdly,” that what he gave up will be returned to him. Mere irrationality and absurdity must be distinguished here. Although Kierkegaard did think faith could not be logically justified, he goes further to describe the “knight of faith” as recognizing the impossibility of regaining what he has sacrificed, but “in the very same moment he believes the absurd,” that somehow, some way, he ends up attaining his desire. The distinction may be thought of this way: an irrational belief has little to no evidence for it; an absurd belief has all evidence against it….

At the moment of resigning Belle, it would seem that the Beast qualifies only as a knight of infinite resignation—not a knight of faith. For in what would he have faith exactly—breaking the curse? Would it break the curse if he chooses to “love” so that the curse is broken (believing in faith that the curse would be removed as a result of that love)? That would not be love, because in love there is no so that—at least, not in a selfish sense. The paradox of the curse is that in order to be free, the Beast must truly love, which implies he must stop selfishly seeking his freedom by somehow “earning” the love of another. For the curse will not break until the Beast becomes the type of person who genuinely cares for others, even at his own expense. Truly, if he fails to do that, he is “doomed to remain a beast for all time,” because his character will not change. As we see in the story, the expense he pays includes his own death, after which the curse is reversed, and he is resurrected and transformed (an obvious Christian allusion).
At this point an objection may be raised, especially when one considers the 2017 live action film. Does the Beast have any sort of hope when he gives up Belle? In other words, can his sacrifice be understood as a loving costly yet rational action in hope of breaking the curse? The live action film includes a song by the Beast whose lyrics, or at least their literal meaning, seem to point to the Beast acknowledging an absurd belief in Belle’s possible return. He proclaims his desire to wait for her “forevermore” while also insisting that she will never leave him and declaring that he will continue to wait, by an open door, for her to walk back in. Are these expressions of faith?

This post is meant simply to offer a glimpse into our Disney & Apologetics project. Excerpts alone, however, cannot stand for an entire chapter, nor can they stand as representative for all the other ideas to be explored and arguments to be made in this 500-pp, two-volume work. There is much more to ponder within these pages! If you want to think more carefully about morality, about using the formative artifacts of pop-culture to approach Christian apologetics, and about the connections between imagination, aesthetics, and theology, buy this book! You can see what others say about it here and here.


Neal Foster holds an MDiv in missiology and a BS in science education. Hailing from Oklahoma, he previously served as missionary in Africa, and currently serves as staff member for Peace Catalyst International. He facilitates and supports Christians and Muslims in dialogue and community building, through practical application of Jesus’s teachings. He enjoys exploring existential crisis and meaning through Kierkegaard, Camus, and heavy metal guitar solos.

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