My freshmen roommate in college once told me that if you're having a bad day, or something's troubling you, you could flip open the Bible to a random page, and you'd find your answer.
Over the last couple days we've been hotly debating the underlying message in Shakespeare's works - did he write himself into the plays, or are we just reading ourselves into it? It's certainly true that many people over the years have taken comfort in the wisdom and philosophy they find in the words of Shakespeare, regardless of how and why they got onto the page in the first place.
See where I'm going with this?
We may *want* Shakespeare's works to be some sort of recipe for what it means to be human, his gift to the infinite, a tome where you can, literally, open up to any random page and find the answers to all of your troubles. The Bible, on the other hand, is supposed to be exactly that. It was written, the story goes, by a group of people who *were* being guided by an overseeing force, expressly for the purpose of being just such a book.
So, then, what's the difference?
Each book tells stories of people in situations similar to our own (albeit dated, usually, and often with language we no longer understand and must have translated). We watch as these people react, and then we get together and discuss why they reacted in that way, and whether we would do the same thing.
So then how come one book is fiction and we assume that any universal message we get out of it must only be our own projection of ourselves into what we want the message to be, while the other is assumed to be true and any messages we find in it were put there for us to find in the first place?
Imagine if it was the other way around.