Q & R: Complete Silence! No Breathing!

Here’s the Q:

In our small group we are going through … “We Make the Road.”
Here’s the challenge: For the last three weeks, I come to the end [of reading the chapter] and am greeted with complete silence. I mean like I can’t even hear anyone breathing, it is that palpable! I think this may be because everyone (or almost everyone?) is finding it difficult to find the meaning you are expressing, because they are pretty much literalists to some degree. So, I continue on to the discussion questions. We have had some “good” discussions” but I have this overwhelming feeling that they just cannot seem to accept this way of reading and interpreting the Bible. I suggested to them that this is an “and” – not an “either/or” situation. If you want to keep your literal interpretation, fine, but that doesn’t negate this way of looking at it.
But it is, as you put it, the difference between FACTUAL truth and ACTUAL truth. And I;m not so sure this can be an “AND” situation. Someone questioned: “If these are just stories passed down from one generation to the next, and they evolved along the way, where is the TRUTH in that?” We didn’t get very far in that discussion.
I guess maybe an unspoken question goes something like, “We understand the Bible is GOD’S WORD.” So how can just stories made up and changed through verbal telling also be God’s Word? Aren’t they just stories?”

Here’s the R:
The chapters dealing with violence, contrary voices, and historicity are probably the most difficult in the book for what I call “innocent literal” readers. As you say, I try to create space BOTH for literal readers – AND for non-literal ones.
The best short answer I can give to your question is this: Consider Jesus’ parables. Nobody thinks they are factual or historical; the whole point of a parable is that it tells the truth through a work of short fiction.
Would someone say the parables of the prodigal son and good samaritan are worthless because there never was such a father with two sons or a man mugged on the Jericho Road as the stories describe?
The stories weren’t “just made up” – they were carefully crafted to convey a point, and for those of us who believe Jesus, we believe their meaning is profoundly true. The factuality of the stories is irrelevant; their meaning is what matters.
If we believe Jesus really is “the Word made flesh,” and if Jesus told lots of fictional stories to convey true meaning … then we should understand God to be an author of both non-fiction and fiction, always guiding us into truth, but doing so in many wonderful, beautiful, and creative ways.