Today I watched the movie, The Hobbit. It gave me a new perspective on perspective.

Before I watched the related movie, The Lord of the Rings, I read a quote from the director, Peter Jackson. He said that whenever they got to a difficult point in the script, they always found themselves going back to the book to decide what to do. In fact he repeated it: ” … back to the book, back to the book.”

Then I saw the movie. I was a little puzzled by what he meant after I saw part one, as there were some extremely significant changes, such as writing the elven prince Glorfindel out of the movie and replacing his role with Elrond’s daughter (whose name escapes me at the moment, but my son says it’s Arwen).

The second movie was even worse, where Peter Jackson made changes that completely changed the, uh, character of certain characters. Most offensive of all to me was when Faramir refused to let Frodo continue on his journey. In the book, J.R.R. Tolkien made that choice by Faramir a sign of his noble attitude. No better, though, was the change in the decision of the Ents at their council. Peter Jackson made the Ents look stupid, uncaring, and selfish.

I have scoffed and complained about Peter Jackson’s quote numerous times, wondering what in the world he was talking about when he said he was returning to the book.

Until today.

Today, I saw Peter Jackson’s perspective on turning a book into a movie. (None of the following will spoil the movie.)

After seeing The Hobbit, it is obvious that, to Peter Jackson, the book is just an outline, providing the major events that are the skeleton of the story. Every detail is up for grabs, and changing the details for the sake of a “better” movie is simply normal.

That’s not my perspective. If I were making a movie from a book, especially a classic like The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, I would use the book as a script, both for the action and for the dialogue. From my perspective he put together the movies with reckless disregard for the book, and, in the case of The Lord of the Rings, even the intent of the author.

From Peter Jackson’s perspective, however, every time he planned the details of some major event in the movie and chose to act out the detail as described in the book, he was “going back to the book.” Thus, he could have accumulated hundreds of “back to the book” moments while all I saw was him slaughtering one of the greatest works of fiction of all time.

The Application of Perspective in Discussion

It is important in a discussion—that is, if you happen to be fortunate enough to be in a discussion with an open-minded person, for those are few and far between—to be able to see the other person’s perspective. If you cannot see from their viewpoint, you cannot adjust their viewpoint. Instead, you will rave meaninglessly about things that seem utterly irrelevant to the person with whom you are discussing, all the while thinking you are presenting insightful arguments.

To use The Lord of the Rings as an example, I could have long discussions with Peter Jackson about the importance of the decision at the entmoot (the meeting of the Ents, where they were deciding whether or not to attack Isengard). I would argue that because it’s so important, he should get it right.

“Right” to Peter Jackson is not the same as “right” to me, however. To me, getting it right means mimicking the book. To Peter Jackson, getting it right would be maximizing entertainment value without losing the story. The more I raved about “getting it right,” the more I would just lose him as an audience.

I get many emails from people who either cannot or will not see things from my perspective. The result is that they send me long arguments refuting things that I have never said.

One of the worst examples is the quite common misjudgment that because I believe that the scientific evidence for evolution is irrefutable, then I must not believe in a Creator. People like this often write me emails arguing that the universe is clearly designed, and thus requires a Designer. Or they argue that the Scriptures are inspired and should be trusted.

Such people are wasting their time emailing me. I already believe that the universe has a Designer. I already believe that the Scriptures are inspired and should be trusted.

Another example concerns church history and the pope. History is very clear that there was no pope in the second and third centuries. In fact, Rome did not even have a singular bishop to possess papal powers until near the mid-second century. History is so clear on these two subjects that I can even quote Roman Catholic historians who agree with me.

These statements, even though historically accurate, are offensive to Roman Catholics (who rarely, if ever, consider that their arguments for the universal authority of the bishop of Rome are offensive as well). It is a rare week that goes by without at least one letter from a Roman Catholic either insulting me (stupid, possessed, gnostic, insane, heretical, moved by satan, enemy of Christ’s church, etc.) or arguing against my presentation of history.

The problem is, virtually every one of these emails assumes I am a Protestant holding Reformation doctrines and a vicious opponent of the Roman Catholic Church, rather than an amateur historian examining their claims.

Based on that misjudgment, I get everything from relatively sweet letters telling me about all the wonderful charity work the RCC does, to emails listing great Catholic saints, to extended arguments against modern fundamentalist Protestant doctrines

I’m not a vicious opponent of the RCC, and I’m not a fundamentalist Protestant, so such emails are irrelevant and off target.

Admittedly, Roman Catholic charities do wonderful work. In fact, in Memphis, which is not far from where I live, the RCC provides money for Protestant medical ministries—more than the Protestants are able to provide for themselves. Concerning the “saints,” I have the utmost respect and honor for Roman Catholics like Francis of Assissi and Mother Theresa. In fact, I find it incredibly offensive that many fundamentalist Protestants believe that Mother Theresa is going to hell.

Further, I agree that on paper the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification is Scriptural (and thus apostolic and traditional), while the Reformation version of sola fide, or salvation by faith, is incorrect and unscriptural. I would even reject sola Scriptura because Scripture repeatedly describes a final authority that is not Scripture.

All of this, however, is irrelevant to the issue of “papal primacy” in the second-century church. Papal primacy in the second century church is a purely academic, historical issue, and it’s not even a difficult one; it’s just a very emotional one.

I suppose that the reason I am writing this is to say that if you’re emotional about an issue, it might be worth putting more effort into understanding how to communicate with the persons you disagree with than into simply venting your anger with pointless arguments because it wasn’t worth your time to consider your opponent’s perspective.

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One Response to Perspective

  1. Your son is correct 🙂

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