It's me. MidnightCafe. (So as not to confuse people who might think it's Heather responding. ;) )
"My first thought I wanted to share with YOU was about the Bible. With a one sentence description on my feelings and struggles with it: it's scribed by men from men from men...and to me it becomes the "telephone cup" game of sorts where you pass along a message so many times that "I love to eat bananas" becomes "May I shovel the feet of camels". Know what I mean? I do believe THIS about the Bible - the essential meaning and lessons give a great "to do" list for living a good, honest, meaningful and CARING life."
I wanted to respond to this, if I may be so bold as to jump in the middle of this discussion. You have a lot of things going on here in this one sentence. First, it seems that you're wondering about the accuracy of the Bible as an ancient book passed on over time. But, also, you seem to wonder how it is that the Bible is God's book...not just the thoughts of a bunch of people.
I tend to begin by approaching this stuff intellectually. I enjoy theology, and I love to explore the details. Bear with me.
There are a number of books and articles out there attesting to the historical accuracy of the Bible and also the integrity of the book as it has been passed down over time. Late manuscripts of the Bible have been compared to very early manuscripts, and the consistency has been remarkable. The people charged with copying the text were held to a very high standard, and several manuscripts are out there demonstrating that the words have, in fact, not been changed over time. In spite of it seeming like it would turn into a big game of "telephone," the documents themselves demonstrate that this is not what happened.
Aside from that, there are some "proofs," if you will, that the Bible is historically accurate, meaning that the historical events recorded in the Bible are the same as the events recorded by other historians at the same time period. Current archeology also supports the historical accuracy of Biblical events. It's actually pretty amazing.
These things, of course, say little about how it is that the Bible is God's book. People can, on their own, record history and even accurately pass down manuscripts and texts. It's still a book written by people about people, right? Interestingly, I kind of agree with you there. There are a lot of different schools of thought about the way that the Bible is God's book. People have different theories about how it was written, if the words were given directly by God or if the people were simply prompted or inspired by God to write the stories in their own words. I believe the latter, that God prompted people to write the stories. I don't believe God held their hand and literally wrote the text through them.
For me, though, this doesn't make the Bible any less God's book. It's a book about God moving through the lives of people, weaving a story of love and reconciliation through the ages. The stories are true, and they're all about God. So, that makes the Bible God's book. We know that it was really God speaking in and moving in the lives of people because of the number of prophecies recorded in the Bible that were later fulfilled. Do you know that the books of the Old Testament contain something like 2000 prophecies that have all been fulfilled? And we know that the books were not written after the fulfillment because the early manuscripts have been clearly dated before the time when the events happened. It's wild and amazing.
I *do* believe that the Bible is inspired by God. I believe that God inspired the people to write their stories and experiences. It's not something I can prove, as Heather mentioned. It's more that it's very clear that the Bible is true on other levels. So, I choose to believe in this one last area that it's truly inspired by God.
I don't actually think you have to believe the Bible is inspired by God when you're first exploring it, though. I think it's important to know that the stories are historically accurate and that people appear to be telling the truth, that the prophecies were accurately fulfilled and that even many of the miracles are historically and archeologically supported. Then you just go from there. You read the stories to find out what those people knew about God, how they experienced God, who God was to them. You listen to the stories and the way they tell God's story. And that's all. (And you skip the family genealogies and the several repetitions of the laws until some other time....)
I hope I haven't said too much. I, personally, didn't really get "into" the Bible until I started studying it in college & seeing it as a whole unit that tells the story of God bringing redemption/reconciliation/ whatever-you-want-to-call-it to the world, to all of us human beings, individual people who are each made in God's image.
Oh, can I say just one more thing? I don't want to wear you out, but that reminded me. You were saying something about how people ought to live good lives, care about others, etc, etc...because it's human, not because it's Christian. What I just said there in the last paragraph is why I believe that it's both. Human beings, if I believe the Bible, were created in the image of God. We have a teensy bit of the character of God in us, and that is why it's human to love, to care, to have compassion, to do good. God is all of those things and we are made in God's likeness. So, it's human to do those things. It's the humanitarian, if you will, way to be. And it's also Christian, because we have that likeness, that character, that image of Christ, of God, in us. That's what makes us human.
Phew. That was a lot.