My grandgirls, Nicole and Joy, were in town for the weekend, so we went to see Frozen, a delightful animated fantasy suitable to all viewers. Disney has done it again: They created a great redemption story. Those who know the biblical story line will see biblical themes coming up constantly.
Caution: this essay contains some major spoilers!
Frozen begins in Arendelle, an Edenic world, with loving parents and two delightful sisters, Elsa and Anna who play wonderful creative games. But Elsa’s gift of creating ice and snow gets out of hand. In her shame and sinfulness, she separates from Anna, hides her gift from everyone, attempting to overcome her sin by keeping law. (Genesis 2 through 3:8.)
At Elsa’s coronation party, the world comes to the palace. Hans, a handsome young prince, comes with the crowd, delighting Anna. She quickly accepts his marriage proposal, but Elsa refuses permission for the wedding. That sends Anna into a tirade at her sister’s apparent intent to ruin her happiness. Elsa’s emotions explode. Her curse breaks loose sending icy death through the whole world. There is no hope anywhere. Elsa goes into exile at the top of North Mountain. Separated from everyone she can harm no one. But death spreads throughout Arendelle. (Genesis 3-4 retold.)
Anna goes to find Elsa and get her to reverse the curse. She meets Kristoff and Sven, his reindeer, and they soon team up with a quirky snowman made by Elsa and Anna during pre-fall play. The rescue commences with a most unlikely team – not unlike Abraham and his clan.
In their encounter in the ice palace, Elsa’s ice curse hits Anna in the heart and she is dying. Only an act of true love can melt her frozen heart and reverse the curse. As the evil doer moves to murder Elsa, Anna sacrifices herself for her sister, who is also her enemy, taking death into herself. Shades of Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice.
But the act of love reverses the curse and Anna is resurrected, without even waiting three days. She destroys the evil doer – read triumph theme of the atonement – and life returns to Arendelle.
That movies rip off the biblical redemption story is no surprise. It is a most compelling story: Eden, fall, deceptive evil, very fallible missionaries, and self-sacrificial love leading to substitution which reverses the curse and brings life.
If you choose to watch Frozen, look for the redemptive storyline. Then compare it to the grandest of all redemptive stories. It will be a great occasion to talk about the gospel. All we need are the real characters: God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit – and then some forgiveness of sin.
About Gerry Breshears
Dr. Breshears is a Professor of Systematic Theology and Chair of the Center for Biblical and Theological Studies at Western Seminary. In addition to his three decades of educational ministry at Western, Dr. Breshears has taught at numerous Bible colleges and seminaries around the world, such as Lebanon, Ukraine, Netherlands, Taiwan, Poland, Canada, and the Philippines. He has also been published in numerous magazines and scholarly journals, including the Journal of Psychology & Theology and Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Dr. Breshears is also the former president of the Evangelical Theological Society and continues to serve on the regional executive committee of that organization. Dr. Breshears serves as a preaching elder at Grace Community Church. He and his wife, Sherry, have been married since 1968, have two sons, one daughter, and are enjoying their season of life as grandparents.