One of evangelicalism's Master-Signifiers (conceptual objects to which we give our allegience, but in reality are empty at the core) is the belief in an inerrant Bible. Commitment to a high view of Scripture is a defining characteristic of evangelicalism. This belief gained traction during the fundamentalist-modernist debates in the 1920's and '30's, which eventually led to a split from mainline Protestants in reaction to higher criticism.
It's worth noting, however, that the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy specifically denies that "inerrancy is a doctrine invented by scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism." Regardless of the motives behind its origin, to be a good evangelical, one must suscribe to the belief in an inerrant Bible. The Chicago Statement defines the term "inerrancy" as Fitch uses it, but it can be summarized as a belief in the Bible's authority because of its divine verbal inspiration by God, which is "historically, and in every other way, inerrant in every word" (p. 50). Because every word conveys a propositional truth, a close reading of the Bible is encouraged, in attempts to somehow reach the original author's intent. Or for us legal eagles, Evangelicals:Bible:: Scalia:Constitution.
As most evangelical institutions require a commitment to inerrancy, this belief has helped knit evangelicals together as a group. But Fitch questions how this doctrine has actually shaped us as a people. One of the characteristics of a Master-Signifier is its elusiveness, meaning it's difficult to pin down. An inerrant Bible producing "one true interpretation" has been elusive for evangelicals. Fitch says that inerrancy "is mocked each time another set of evangelical commentaries multiplies the possible interpretations for each text in the Bible" (p. 55). Inerrancy as a more conceptual object, though, serves us well, as it helps to rally the troops against liberals (as objet petit a) who would deny the truth of the Bible.
Fitch also points out that the belief in an inerrant Bible does little in the way of unifying evangelicals in practice, because once you state you believe in inerrancy, no one can question the interpretation that results. Thus, the belief holds factions that would otherwise have little in common. Sadly, manipulating Scripture in this way prevents evangelicals from actually participating in and continuing the story that Scripture tells, because the church is too busy defending and upholding inerrancy.
As far as irruptions of the Real, which are in-breakings that expose the emptiness of the Master-Signifier, Fitch points to the disagreement over the Chicago Conference on Errancy's stance on literal 7-day creation, and Hal Lindsey's failed apocalyptic predictions. Through these overidentifications, inerrancy was shown to be "more about 'being right!' than a belief that we inhabit with our daily lives" (p. 59). Fitch also points out that inerrancy is a device used to control the truth.
This chapter is loaded with gems and I can't do it justice with a single blog post. Fitch's discussion of George W. Bush's actions during his presidency is golden.
For me, fewer examples come to mind with inerrancy, because I've spent more time criticizing the other elements in Fitch's triumvirate: a Christian nation and a personal relationship with Christ. However, I did notice that Al Mohler provided a great example in one of his recent posts, The Church and the 'Clobber Scriptures' - The Bible on Homosexuality. Here, as a gatekeeper and controller-of-the-truth in his defense of inerrancy, Mohler refers to his usual objet petit a's: liberals and homosexuals.