This is an awesome post. I had exactly the same thoughts, but this is put into words very well.
Although, this post is not about religion, but, of course, this has implication on “reality” of God. I believe, that it’s completely acceptable to think of Jesus as “fictional” and “real” at the same time. Barack Obama is conceived in my mind from texts and images, much the same way Jesus is. I have not touched or spoke to both of them personally. So, I can regard both of them as fictional characters… or “real” characters for that matter.
But when you read about a fictional character, you read about something. There is something in your mind that causes you to feel and to think. Fictional characters can say things that change your perspective – they have an existence in your mind and can cause real consequences. Fictional characters can inspire people, shape expectations, fulfill our wishes, transport us to faraway places, and model behaviors. They tell can tell us things about ourselves we didn’t know, teach us how to cope, and make us feel grief and despair. Really feel them.
In the same way, I believe, it does not matter whether the Bible describes historic events or not. It still has powerful and real effect on life of humans.