If you are a Christian or familiar with Christianity at all, you may know that submission is a hot-button topic in the Christian world and among those who are not Christians. Numerous debates have been sparked about complementarianism vs. egalitarianism and the varying spectrum of views found in each overall category. In day-to-day conversation I have discussed this issue with my peers. There are a lot of misconceptions about submission and specifically, complementarianism. A while back, a friend showed me a video of a pastor preaching a sermon on feminism and submission. This man exemplified the very essence of everything non-Christians think submission is and everything it should never, ever be. You may be familiar with him. The man is Steve Anderson and he’s the pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church. He is known for his controversial, ultra-conservative, IFB beliefs. His sermons are loud, harsh, and action-packed (as in, there are pictures of him standing on top of his podium and clips of him kicking podiums, yelling, and screaming). But somehow, he has managed to garner a following of people who believe what he has to say about Scripture. After listening to his sermon on feminism and submission, I cringe and weep for those who have been deceived by Anderson.
It’s easy to be drawn in by him, despite his vehement preaching style. He believes strongly in the authority of Scripture. He preaches that what God says goes and that the Bible is the true Word of God. All things I believe and agree with. Unfortunately, two people can believe the same things about God, Scripture, and their authority and have very, very different takes on what Scripture has to say. When it comes to comparing Steve Anderson and Rose Elliott (that’s me, in case you forgot), this is absolutely the case. On the surface, you may even think we believe the same things about feminism and submission. We both believe the man is the head of the home, that women should not be pastors, and that feminism is a plague on our culture. But what those beliefs manifest is where our stark, obvious differences lie. This post is a summary of his beliefs on submission based on his sermon, “Feminism in Light of the Bible.” What he has to say about submission reflects the stance of many IFB churches that hold to what could be considered an extremely conservative view of submission. I will then, in a future post, contrast this view with a more biblical look at submission, even using some of the same verses Anderson uses in his sermon.
You can watch the sermon on YouTube if you’d like (there’s a link embedded in the title), but I watched and took notes on it so you don’t have to. I noted both the words he said and the tone he used while preaching. I will do my best to stick to what he said and the message of what he said. It will do me no good to attempt to twist his words to show how ugly his beliefs are in comparison to the biblical view of submission. Mostly because he doesn’t need any help with that, but also because my integrity is on the line. It is my duty to you as my reader to be as honest as possible about what Steve Anderson preaches and what the Bible teaches.
I was originally going to walk through Anderson’s sermon and break it down part-by-part. But the sermon is over an hour long, the man is literally all over the place, and honestly, I don’t want to give him that much of my or your time. So I am switching gears and summarizing his overall stance on submission, including his tone and the implications behind his beliefs and why he holds them.
There are two things I feel the need to bring up right away about Steve Anderson, even though I have touched on them briefly. First, is his preaching style. It is abrasive, loud, rude, hostile, aggressive, and honestly, downright scary sometimes (as in don’t sit too close or blink funny or he’ll take you out). When preaching the Word of God, it is of the utmost importance to preach with strength, boldness, and confidence. But this is not what Steve Anderson does. His rants, screaming, and name-calling are not becoming of a preacher of the Word. This alone makes him a dangerous pastor to be sitting under (and not in a good way). Even if what he was saying was sound and not harmful, the temper tantrums he throws in the pulpit alone disqualify him from the pastorate (if you don’t believe me about his tantrums, enjoy this little joy of a compilation).
The second also relates to his preaching, and that is the manner in which he approaches Scripture itself. I mentioned briefly a couple paragraphs up that Anderson is all over the place. During his sermons, he hopscotches through Scripture like there is no tomorrow. He uses passages as “proof texts” for what he believes, rather than expositing Scripture to draw out the meaning and commands found in it. He also admits to taking a passage out of context for his own means at least once in this sermon, and does so without admittance several other times. For anyone with a decent seminary education, listening to him preach – regardless of whether or not you agree with him – can be a very frustrating experience.
Now that I’ve brought these important points up, I will actually for real steer into discussing his beliefs on submission. There’s a reason this post is only part one. 😉
Like I mentioned previously, I listened to and made notes on Anderson’s sermon where he spent a lot of time on feminism and submission. I am focusing primarily on his discussion of submission, as that was what he focused primarily on. If I wanted to summarize his position on submission in one or two sentences, it would look something like this: he has a very high view of males, and a very low view of females. Woman who are doing anything other living at home under their father or keeping house for their husband are in sin.
If you’ve read my posts on purity culture or what it means to be a help meet, you should already be able to spot the problems. Honestly, anyone with a basic knowledge of Scripture may already at least feel uncomfortable by my summary of his beliefs. Or, maybe you’re wondering, what is so wrong with a woman staying home? The answer is nothing at all. I, for all intents and purposes, went straight from my father’s home to my husband’s. I did several years in a dorm room during parts of college and grad school, and my last year at home was a very independent one. But I never truly lived on my own. As a full-time writer, I work from home writing blog posts, working on my book, and picking up freelance jobs here and there. But much of my day is also spent cleaning the house, doing the dishes, cooking food, and taking my husband to and from work. There were a lot of reasons our system even started that I am not obligated to share with the world. The point of explaining how things are in my home is to say that while there is nothing wrong with a wife working a professional job, there is also nothing wrong with her staying home and devoting all of her time to the upkeep of the household (which is seriously no small task, even with just two adults and two cats). My husband and I have a middle ground and it works nicely for us.
But that’s the trouble with Steven Anderson (and the multitudes of people like him): it’s his way or the highway. If you disagree with him, you disagree with God. You may think you believe in submission, but if it doesn’t fit within Anderson’s model, you thought wrong. He even makes a point of saying, “If you’re mad at me, you’re mad at God.” This way of thinking is actually a type of propaganda called transfer. Those who use transfer essentially trap you into a belief by making you think if you question an unbiblical part of it, you must question all of it. This is what Anderson does all throughout his sermons.
If you take a bigger step back, despite all the scattered-ness of everything he says, there is a big picture to everything Anderson believes. If you look at my notes on his sermon, he jumps from thing to thing and passage to passage every couple of minutes. Like I said previously, it all comes back to his high view of men and low view of women. At one point, he even compares the authority of a man over his wife to that of the authority of a parent to a child (no, seriously). But all of the things he says come back to one central belief, and that is Eternal Subordination of the Son (or ESS). Proponents of ESS essentially believe that Jesus is eternally submitted to God the Father, and thus that the members of the Trinity are not equal in authority. If you’re looking at your computer like this, there’s a reason. This is far from the correct view of the Trinity. But Anderson clearly states this view (without naming it that I can recall) in his sermon by saying that Jesus Christ is equal with God, he still obeys the Father, and he has a different role to play than the Father. Proponents of this view, like Anderson, then go on to compare this “submission of the Son” to the marital relationship. The Father is to the Son as the husband is to the wife. If you want to deepen your understanding of ESS and its dangers, the wonderful ladies over at Theology Gals have done several podcasts on it. This one from July 2017 talks specifically about ESS, this episode and its follow up address the patriarchy, this one on Genesis 3:16, as well as this one on women’s roles. They’re a great podcast and have put a lot of work into discussing submission, complementarianism, women’s roles, and many related issues. There are other episodes related to these issues and others, so definitely take a look around.
The fundamental problem with ESS is that it takes what was only temporary and makes it permanent. When Jesus came to earth, he temporarily submitted to the will of the Father in order to fulfill his plan for salvation. This was not permanent. Jesus, as a member of the Trinity, is equal in value, role, and authority to the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is not a holy hierarchy of different parts of God or different gods altogether. The Trinity is complex and difficult concept to understand. But ESS is a complete misrepresentation of the Trinity, and essentially pushes the person of Jesus out of it. Not only that, but the marriage relationship should never be compared to the Trinity. This was not God’s intent, and nowhere in Scripture does he compare the husband-wife relationship to the God the Father-God the Son relationship in the Trinity.
The comparison God does use, however, is that men are to love their wives in the same way that Christ loves the Church, for she is his bride. Scripture is filled with marital analogies about Christ and the Church, from the Old Testament all the way through the New Testament. If we are to follow God’s pattern for marriage, this is the pattern we need to be looking at. To the best of my knowledge, in the sermon I am referencing, Anderson’s comparisons to marriage and God’s relationship with the Church are limited to him using this analogy to make a case for husbands exercising authoritarian rule over their wives.
There is a reason I zero in on ESS and the fact that Anderson holds to it. There is a fairly consistent correlation between people who believe in ESS and people whose views on submission and marriage serve to belittle women. After making his ESS-esque statement, Anderson makes multiple very troubling statements about women (you can watch the full sermon for the full effect). He asserts that a woman working outside the home is in sin, women who are allowed to make their own choices will always choose poorly, and even says single women are a parasite to the church. He paints the husband-wife relationship like that of a parent-child relationship. He attributes sin and the Fall to being the only reason women have any sort of independence. He claims that any single person (male or female) living on their own (e.g., not in their parent’s home) is in sin. And I could go on.
But why am I discussing Anderson? Why spend so much time on a person I dislike giving so much time to? Because while Anderson’s screaming and shouting and aggressive assertions of his views may seem extreme and outside the norm, his views are not. These ideas and beliefs are unfortunately very prevalent among the Church, if not in word in attitude, action, and implications. And as I’ve already said, these dangerous and harmful views on submission and women in general more often than not stem from both holding to ESS and/or a gross misinterpretation and misapplication of Scripture.
Part two of this post will be on biblical submission and what that looks like. But let me leave you with this until part two goes live: If you are a woman reading this, you are not inferior. You are not a child that needs to be kept under supervision by either a father or husband. Your worth as a woman is not placed in your marital status, employment, education, or in what you or others think of you. If you are a believer, your worth is found in your identity in Christ.