A summit conference of conservative Protestant evangelicals in Chicago last week adopted a 19-point statement proclaiming the Bible to be "wholly and verbally God-given . . . without error or fault in all its teachings!"
The three-day gathering, attended by 284 persons, is the latest salvo in the battle among Christians over how to view the central source book of their faith.
The Chicago meeting, called by a California-based organization called the Internationan Council on Biblical Inerrancy, reflects the views of more conservative evangelicals.
The "Chicago Statement on biblical Inerrance," agreed on by the gathering, calls the Bible "God's own word, written by men prepared and superintended by (God's) spirit . . . of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches.
"It is to be believed as God's instruction in all that it affirms; obeyed as God's command in all that it requires; embraced as God's pledge in all that it promises."
Liberal Christians view some parts of the Bible as allegory, poetry or cultural myths. They make a distinction between such literary devices and historical fact or doctrinal statements which they believe are also contained in the Bible.
Scholars from the liberal tradition subject the Bible to the same kind of scholastic scrutiny, particularly in determining authenticity and accuracy of translations, that they do any other kind of literature.
In recent years one Protestant denomination - the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod - has split and others have been wrenched by adherents who hold differing views of the Bible.
Some observers have expressed fears that formalized positions, such as the one from the Chicago meeting, might be misapplied in ways to further dissension or even theological witch-hunts.
Asked how he expects the document to be used, the Rev. Dr. James Boice of Philadelphia, who chaired the Chicago meeting, acknowledged that "there's chance that people will use it in all kinds of ways."
Boice, a United Presbyterian minister and radio preacher, told Chicago Sun-Times religion editor Roy Larson that it was the group's intention that the Chicago statement "will be a tool in the hands of those who are concerned about the health of their institutions. I can see how some will say to a teacher, for example, that 'If you don't really believe this, you shouldn't be teaching here.' It should be clear though, that we are trying to reclaim people, not drive them out of their institutions."
The inerrancy controversy is most heated within generally homogeneous donominations or institutions rather than between liberal and conservative groups where differences are perceived to be more sharply defined.
In recent years, for instance, Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., once virtually synonymous with evangelical thought in America, has been under attack from the evangelical right for being soft on inerrancy of the scriptures.
Boice told the Sun-Times that the Chicago group believes "the Bible is God's word to us. Unless one believes this, it is inevitable that one will come to the place where he regards the Bible as just human thoughts about God. We are opposed to such drifts into subjectivism."
The evangelicals met at a relatively expensive hotel near Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The conference, partly under written by a grant from an unidentified conservative organization, cost $45,000 altogether.