"Therefore, become imitators of God, as beloved children, and live your life in love, just as also Christ has loved us and handed himself over for us, an offering and sacrifice to God, as a fragrant aroma" (My Translation)
In the conservative side of the Christian church, the debate rages over the ordination and equality of women. Many good women and men oppose the ordination of women to the pastorate on the basis of certain biblical texts and their various translations, and some do believe submission in marriage is uni-directional and is based entirely on the gender of the person submitting and the person leading. So when I pressed play on one of Steven Crowder's latest videos (released 18 hours ago according to Facebook at the time of writing this paragraph), I was suspicious that I would find myself in some sort of disagreement, which is normal and healthy in this day and age, provided respect and careful listening rule the day. Then I read the fine print.
The slug line for the video reads: "We lay out the case for exactly why modern feminism is inherently anti-God and incompatible with a biblical prescription for marriage..."
So, yeah, my suspicions were pretty correct. But, being curious and also a bit of a fan (Steven and Jared follow me on twitter), I wanted to hear what they had to say. So this is a sequential response to the latter half of their statement "a biblical prescription for marriage..." Since I am not as politically engaged as I ought to be I think it would be far more beneficial to respond to them on the basis of my knowledge of the biblical texts they allude to and cite. In what follows, I will type out the commentary I will be interacting with, and time stamp the scene so you can follow along. But in order to best interact with their comments, I will offer some hermeneutical ideas for reading Scripture.
The first point is that the New Testament does not assume Western values. The New Testament assumes the reality of slavery (although Paul, in essence, destroys the institution of slavery with the Epistle to Philemon, Galatians 3:26-29, and the call for slaves to seek freedom in 1 Cor 7:21), whereas we who are born into Western values do not assume the reality of slavery—thank God! Western values may have some basis in the teachings of the Bible, but this surely puts the cart before the horse. If you want to understand the New Testament, assuming a 21st-century Western/Eastern/ Modernistic/Progressive/Fundamentalist mindset is the wrong way to begin your argument. Many (most?) Western people have not had to suffer through oppression in the same way as the writer's of the New Testament have. Women back then did not have the same rights or luxuries; for instance, many Western women do not live in fear of dying at age 15 because of a childbirth that has gone wrong or childbirth period. As N.T. Wright has wisely noted
We must all recognize that the question of women in ministry takes place within the wider cultural context of overlapping and interlocking issues. The many varieties of feminism on the one hand and the ongoing modern/postmodern culture wars on the other provide two of many signposts. Part of the problem, particularly in the United States, is that cultures become so polarized that if you tick one box many assume you must tick a dozen other boxes down the same side of the page—without realizing that the page itself is highly arbitrary and culture-bound.
And we begin.
2:18 passim—Steven: "A lot of Christians, for a while, they've been sort of run through the dirt for believing in something called complementarianism. I'm sure you've heard of this, this believes that men and women have complementary roles to each other and that this is foundational to a society. By the way…that's the basis of Western society; it's actually the basis of constitutionalism, the idea of limited government can only function…which is why they encourage the proliferation in the United States of the Nuclear family, before federal government, before state government, before municipal government they wanted mommy, daddy, and kids because they believed that that was the best foundation the bedrock for a society. Not saying that it is necessarily right or wrong…
There are multiple issues with Steven's comments, but I will begin with a positive assertion of my own view: egalitarianism or "Christian Feminism" is the belief that male are female equally bear God's divine and holy image, where husbands and wives submit to one another in holy marriage, and women and men may equally pursue their gifts and calling in Christian ministry with no restriction. Thus, any subordination of one race or gender to another is based on the Fall, a catastrophic event God is working to overcome.
So, back to Steven et al. First, what Steven has said is not complementarianism, because complementarianism as a belief system (men and women are fully equal in dignity and worth before God, but have different roles in the church and home and perhaps even the society) did not come about really until the 1970s. As Dr. Mimi Haddad has conclusively demonstrated, egalitarian theology was an early (much earlier) development in evangelicalism. Many of the early authoritative teachers (Frank Gaebelein, J. Barton Payne, Fredrik Franson, Katherine Bushnell, amongst others) were egalitarian, favoring women as equal participants in the home and in the church and society. So it seems that Steven's recent view is not 'the basis for Western society.' Far from it.
However, the classical sexist view of women can be amply demonstrated: Augustine in his Literal Commentary on Genesis writes, "I cannot think of any reason for woman's being made as man's helper, if we dismiss the reason of procreation." Kinda gross. Tertullian said in his On the Dress of Women that "God's judgment on this sex lives on in our age; the guilt necessarily lives on as well. You are the Devil's gateway; you are the unsealer of that tree; you are the first foresaker of the divine law; you are the one who persuaded him whom the Devil was not brave enough to approach; you so lightly crushed the image of God, the man Adam; because of your punishment, that is, death, even the Son of God had to die." Since the Constitution of the United States preexists modern complementarianism by nearly two hundred years, one cannot accurately say "complementarianism" is or was the basis of Western society.
Also, as an egalitarian, I believe that my wife is a complement to myself. I cannot, for instance, bear children. That’s a major complementary difference exemplified in Genesis, but it does not mention patriarchy or matriarchy. This issue of inserting a gender-based hierarchy based upon the biology of an individual needs to actually be defended by Steven, as he simply states his view as if it is fact. "Complementary" does not necessarily include additional biological authority over another person; that's a hidden premise. In fact, this gender-based hierarchy seems to run counter to the idea of Western society as a whole.
For instance, based on the arguments of Dr. Jamin Hübner, there is a libertarian impulse in Christian theology (ancient and modern), and while Hübner does not make this explicit, I suspect that the autonomy of the individual would include an avid exclusion of a gender-based hierarchy. I would encourage Steven, Jared and Gerald to give Hübner's work a fair listen, especially if you can get ahold of his scholarly articles on Christian Theology and Women.
3:30 passim—Steven: "Jesus, for example, was one of the first radical feminists, by the way, classical feminist. If you look at teachings from the Bible it talks about husbands being gentle and kind to your wives, loving, providing, and it tells wives to be submissive to your husbands, now the word 'submit' means 'to respect the authority of your husband.' … but again, that submission meaning respecting the authority, in other words, a man receives love not by 'sweetie I love you honey honey,' but when he slaps his kill on the table, having a woman who will help him to put his feet up and recharge for the next day because his wife loves him enough to take care of him. That is what is occurring in the Bible, its saying, 'this is clearly how men receive love, which we now know to be true, this is how women receive love…feminists absolutely despise it because they want you to believe that men and women are interchangeable, and men can do anything women can do and women can do anything men can do and it's a general rule there's no difference they can do it with equal or greater efficiency, and its just not true."
This description of Ephesians 5:21-28 sounds like Homer Simpson hermeneutics: where the satisfaction of the man is supreme and the wife is to make sure he is able to relax. This sort of "feet up" mentality may be more conducive to the Stone Age, but it is foreign to the New Testament—as I will demonstrate.
First, it must be said that if the moral vision of the New Testament for marriage is egalitarian and not complementarian—as it is—then Steven's entire argument collapses. This is a point worth noting up front before I begin my response.
First, Steven actually does not offer any of Jesus' words in support of his claim about Jesus being a "radical." There is nothing from the Synoptic Gospels or the Gospel of John. I was surprised by this, as Steven leads off by talking about how radical Jesus was. Of course, I affirm this premise in Jesus having female patrons like Mary, Joanna (likely the Junia of Rom 16:7), and Susanna among "many others" (Luke 8:1-3), women disciples (Luke 24:10), including women who sat at the feet of Jesus; meaning, Jesus was the first recorded Jewish rabbi to have female disciples! Quite radical! This affirms the principle that Jesus believed women were not bound to the household, nor that they were incapable of virtue, and were eminently worthy to be taught the good news of the Kingdom of God. Women are the heart and soul of the Gospel accounts, and without their testimony, we do not have Gospels. Period. Without apostles and missionaries like Junia, we may not have churches of God at all. Period.
Second, all Scripture has a context. Eph 5:1-2 sets a sort of thematic stage and that is why I began this post by offering my translation of it above. All people—men and women—are to be imitators of God. We imitate God by self-sacrifice, by yielding to one another in love. This sort of mutual ethic continues on throughout chapter 5, although it begins in 2:1-22 with a brand new humanity. Vv.3-5 exhorts all Christians—men and women—to not participate in sexual immorality and sin. Vv.6-12 continues on and includes a plural neuter address to the Ephesians as "children" (τέκνα), which includes a multitude of both men and women as children of 'light' (v.9). So far, all people are in view, without discrimination regarding gender.
V.15 with the "therefore" conjunction indicates a continuance of thought but not at the expense of the previous material. The use of the verb περιπατεῖτε ("walk" or "conduct your life": see also 5:2, 5:8) is central here to living as "wise people." "Being filled with the Spirit" (v.18) is thus the beginning of the so-called "household code." Vv.18-20 describe community activities of worship. No issue of gender is noted in the sense of a hierarchically ordered relationship.
V.21 is the most important verse of the chapter, and I am glad Steven included it on the slide in the video—although I wish he included it in his comments. I will include v.21 with v.22 to give full context:
21: ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ ("submitting to one another in reverence of Christ")
22: Αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ ("wives, to your own husbands as to the Lord").
Notice anything? The verb in v.22 is not there. V.21 supplies the verb "submit," and thus the injunction to submission begins with mutual submission. This is unheard of in the ancient world simply because wives were not addressed as active moral agents. Most "household codes" were directly entirely to the man of the house, and the wives, children, and slaves were not directly addressed. Here, the wife is not only addressed first (which suggests a type of honor) but both husband and wife are told to "submit themselves to one another." The reciprocal pronoun here denotes mutuality. The participle ὑποτασσόμενοι is in the middle voice, suggesting an action done by the person being addressed (i.e. "submit yourself"). This is directed to husbands too. So the entire thrust of the passage is on the mutuality of the new people of God, and this includes a restoration of the marriage relationship that was ruptured in Eden so long ago. Everything that follows must, in order to be consistent and coherent, flow from the idea of mutual submission. The language of authority will be dealt with below.
"If you look at teachings from the Bible it talks about husbands being gentle and kind to your wives, loving, providing, and it tells wives to be submissive to your husbands…"
That is what the Bible says in some sense, but as has been shown that is not the whole story. 1 Cor 7:4 speaks directly to authority relationships: "For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (NRSV). This is the most explicit language about authority ever used between husband and wife relationships in the entire Bible, and it concerns the totality of the human person as "body." Steven misses this entirely, as uni-directional submission is not talked about at all in 1 Cor 7:3-4, but the authority of both husband and wife over the other person. Both male and female have equal conjugal rights (v.3), equal spiritual insight into each other's most intimate areas of theology and prayer (v.5), equal divorce rights (vv.10-13), and equal soteriological input in the other (vv.14-16), as both parties may sanctify the other unbelieving spouse. That is a very narrow way to interpret Scripture, and Steven does this sort of hermeneutical move later on in the video. In reality, " The mutuality in the household codes subtly challenged the pervasive cultural values, especially those regarding women’s social status." When Steven's interpretation looks like the 1950s, and not like Paul's liberating rhetoric in 60 CE, we have a problem of perspective.
"…now the word 'submit' means 'to respect the authority of your husband.'"
No, it does not. Here, submission is classified in the context of imitation of Christ and God (vv.1-2) and being filled with the Spirit (vv.18-20). The use of "head" is not a one to one correspondence between Greek and English. The husband is called "head," not "authority." The use of "head" in v.23 reveals that Paul is playing with an organic metaphor. Here, "head" is a metaphor for source of provision, as ancient physiology has shown: the head takes in food for the body, the head being the source therefore of the body's life. The use of "savior" reveals a continued idea of 'sustainment' and deliverer. Hence, "head" is grammatically parallel with "savior." If a husband in the ancient world did not provide, very likely the wife and children and slaves would die. So, no, Steven is simply incorrect. Submit here refers to a voluntary act of self-giving in a context of mutual submission—wives are reinforced, but vv.25 passim is where Steven's argument really collapses.
To recap, Steven says: But again, that submission meaning respecting the authority, in other words, a man receives love not by 'sweetie I love you honey honey,' but when he slaps his kill on the table, having a woman who will help him to put his feet up and recharge for the next day because his wife loves him enough to take care of him.
I challenge Steven to actually show this from the text. This sort of machismo is directly at odds with the rest of the passage, as will be demonstrated. V.25 harkens back to v.2 (as does most of this passage) with the use of παρέδωκεν ("handed over"). This is the first example of mutual submission on the part of the husband: he gives himself entirely over for his wife, a radical in the ancient world. Cynthia Long Westfall notes:
Then the husband is instructed to love his wife as Christ loved his church (5:25). Christ's love is illustrated by the sanctification of the church, which is described in terms of domestic chores normally performed by women: giving a bath, providing clothing, and doing laundry (including spot removal and ironing) (5:26-27). Through the use of analogy and metaphor, Paul has told the husband to follow Christ by serving [i.e. submitting, my emphasis] his wife's needs; this is a brilliant description of servanthood…the Greco-Roman distinctions between males working and providing in the high-status public sphere (rural, forensic, and political) and females working and providing in the low-status domestic sphere are broken down, as Paul unmistakably assigns intimate domestic service to the husband.
The idea of a man propping up his feet is a foreign concept on the text, although it oddly enough matches Greco-Roman culture and the culture of complementarianism. How does a husband, by propping up his feet and ignoring his responsibility to continually serve his wife, show mutual submission? This looks like a theology of self. This places actual pagan servanthood on the woman and permits the husband to ignore treating his wife as his own flesh. How do women receive love by putting her husband's feet up? This seems remarkably shallow. Women, from the beginning, have been involved deeply in Christian mission and theology, and Steven does them a disservice by this sort of lazy rhetoric. There is nothing inherent to Christian theology that demands the subordination of women, wives, or daughters to men. Period. In fact, the language of adoption and freedom to the oppressed seems to disrupt any sense of hierarchy within the Biblical narrative (c.f. Rom 8:22-23; Luke 4:18; Gal 3:23-29; 5:1). All of this evidence renders Steven's commentary deeply problematic.
6:44—Gerald: "yeah men and women are created equal in value, but not equal in ability and role and you see that play out throughout society but you're supposed to serve one another, you're supposed to be subject to one another. I love that part in Ephesians was like, 'men be ready to die for your wives just FYI…(some verbal overlap made it difficult for me to understand exactly what was said: just noting this) are you ready to lay down your life for them just like Christ laid down his life for the church?"
Riffing off this, ability for what? Weightlifting? Picking up a rock? True. But brute strength is not a successful indicator of much of anything, especially since Scripture does not make physical 'strength' a reason of biological superiority or service in the church. Far from it: "[God] gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless" (Isaiah 40:29). Indeed, for the eternal Son of God to become human was to adopt the very assumption of slavery and weakness (Phil 2:5-11).
What Steven says next is quite shocking, and I think his words are the absolute low point of the show, insofar as Steven contradicts himself and reveals his ignorance of Scripture.
7:02—Steven: "By the way, that's never prescribed for women…[i.e. giving their lives for their husbands]"
Earlier I mentioned a contradiction. Here it is. Steven believes the passage is about how a man/husband and a woman/wife "receives love." This applies to both in the passage. Yet, here, without any evidence or reason given, "dying for your wife" is prescribed only to men." This is hermeneutical gymnastics. Steven does not get to claim "love" as a prescription for both, even though wives are not explicitly told here to love their husbands, and yet withhold a prescription of "self-sacrificial dying" from women. This is a contradiction, and Steven will need to do some serious exegetical work to get out of it. I look forward to his answer on this point, should he be willing to try.
First, reread Eph 5:1-2 and consider the "gifts of the Spirit" in 1 Cor 12:1-31, Rom 12:1-8, and Eph 4:1-16. None of the gifts of ministry (prophecy, apostleship, pastors, teachers etc.) are gender-exclusive or sectioned off only for men or for women. The complementarian interpretation of v.25 offered in this video is in contradiction with Paul's entire theology of the Holy Spirit and of the gifts the Spirit freely gives to his church. So some serious harmonizing must happened in order to the offered interpretation to be valid or even preferable.
Second, Deuteronomy 20:17 is about coveting: since it is not prescribed to wives, is it appropriate for a woman to covet her neighbor's husband since she is not mentioned? Hardly, I would think.
Third, see above the women who served in the church (and are serving in the church now), placing their lives on the line and were likely in prison (Rom 16:7). Being in prison in the ancient world is a bad thing, and I suspect Paul put many Christian men and women in prison, where they suffered and may have even died (c.f. Acts 8:3; 9:2; 22:4). So the active presence of women in the Pauline churches and in the ministry of Jesus really ruptures Steven's point, in the dangerous mission of proclaiming a counter-imperial Gospel certainly put them in danger for a cause greater than worrying about not 'giving up themselves' for their husbands.
Fourth, sexual ethics and vice lists in Paul clearly include women by implication. See the injunction in Rom 1:26-27, where women are directly accountable for sexual sin. Are women excluded from the repercussions of sexual sin in Eph 5:4-5? Just because a woman is not named does not automatically mean she is permitted to act like a sinner. Steven has really missed the boat on this one, unless he believes women are permitted to sin without fear of reprisal if they are not named directly in a Pauline vice list.
7:19—Jared: "Feminists…don't view it through the biblical definition of lovingly affirming your husband's leadership and lovingly seeking to carry that out with whatever talent…I think John Piper talks about that a lot of affirming your husband's leadership in way that is honoring to him, its not an oppressive…It doesn't mean you always agree with him or anything but it is a loving affirmation of his leadership."
I think Jared actually has some salient points here, but like Steven and Gerald, he has really missed the mark of Eph 5:21-33. Again, where does the text under question mention the husband's "leadership?" "Savior," when paired appositionally with "body" does not equate to "leadership." I've already demonstrated a more probable reading of "head" as 'source of provision' and other scholars have amply and convincingly argued for this broad understanding of "head" in Paul. So the question remains, where is the biologically determined leadership manifesting itself in this passage?
However, when Jared said "submission means like submitting to authority" and describes the [secular] feminist aversion to the word…I am left wondering why they wouldn't be offended by this. Steven has described "submission" in this exact way! He explicitly said, " now the word 'submit' means 'to respect the authority of your husband." When you describe authority in the way of 'respecting your husbands' authority,' then you are simply putting forth the exact model they are rejecting. The husband definitionally—as male—has authority! If authority is defined as being an exclusively male trait (or husbandly trait, seeing as how Steven has used both interchangeably), then we have every right to cry foul because Scripture does not make this point. In fact, Scripture points against lording authority over others (c.f. Mark 10:42, par. Luke 22:25 and Matt 20:25). It is not to be so with Christian men and women, and with husbands and wives.
Much of what can be said has already been said, especially regarding Eph 5 in context regarding mutual submission. So the comments about it being oppressive are simply irrelevant. Biology does not dictate authority. Period. We should affirm what Scripture affirms, and Scripture explicitly affirms mutual submission and self-sacrifice in place of a rigid biologically determined hierarchy that looks more like paganism than Christian theology. As Cynthia Westfall has said so well, "male domination is part of a biblical doctrine. It is called 'total depravity.'"
In summation, I applaud Steven (and Gerald and Jared also) for being willing to offer their thoughts on all things theological. As a regular listener to the show (although I do not have the money for mug club, nor the time to keep up with their daily show sadly), I greatly enjoy theological banter and political analysis.
But Scripture is our paradigm for how we live and treat one another, and I think Scripture is far more radical and counter-cultural than Steven, Gerald, and Jared seem to say.
If you three are ever near Pasadena, beers, theology conversations, and bad jokes are on me. God bless, Steven, Jared and Gerald. I hope my words are more constructive than snarky—although admittedly I kept some of the original snark.
As an aside, only Big Squirrel affirms uni-directional biologically determined submission.
*edited for clarity and to correct some grammar mistakes*
 This could be a point of initial critique since Steven does not engage with the issue of slavery in his comments. This is relevant because of the household code—which he cites in support of complementarianism—also includes slaves in the pericope. This also ignores the issue that Christians, for a very long time, supported the institution of slavery. So hermeneutical care is a must for interpreting Scripture, and I am not certain Steven has fully appreciated this notion.
 For a sobering and detailed survey of the ancient data regarding childbirth in the ancient world, see Lynn H. Cohick, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians: Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 135-140, although the entire work is outstanding. Dr. Cohick is a Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.
 N.T. Wright, "The Biblical Basis for Women's Service in the Church," Priscilla Papers 20.4 (2006): 5-10, 5
 There is a little stumbling here, so I replaced it with an ellipsis. It is nothing against Steven; I am particularly awful at speaking off the top of my head about topics I am passionate about!
 The Christians for Biblical Equality statement is one to which I fully subscribe: https://www.cbeinternational.org/sites/default/files/english_3.pdf . In this statement, the totality of biblical theology is included, particular the co-sharing of redemption in God's eschatological movement toward final universal peace.
 Mimi Haddad, "Egalitarians: A New Path to Liberalism? Or Integral to Evangelical DNA?," Priscilla Papers 29.1 (2015): 14-20.
 Elizabeth A. Clark, Women in the Early Church (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1983), 28-29.
 This absolutely contradicts the message of the New Testament about the nature of redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. C.f. 2 Cor 5:16-21 and the language of "new creation."
 Genesis 1-3 never mentions Eve "persuading" Adam. In Gen 3:6 it just says, "and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. " Nothing about persuasion or coercion: Adam is fully culpable in forsaking the Divine Law, and in 'unsealing the tree' along with Eve.
 Again, one looks in vain for the Genesis account in providing this reason for the Serpent approaching Eve instead of Adam. Supplying motive where none is provided is often a very shaky hermeneutic, as we can see perfectly exhibited by Tertullian.
 In Gen 1:26-27, both are created in the image of God, both have authority over the land, and both are told to multiply, indicating interdependence rather than a hierarchy of gender roles. The land and all of its goodness was given to both male and female. It is funny how Genesis is far more egalitarian and complementary than many modern Christians.
 Both are removed from the garden, and the tree of life, indicating that death is the consequence of their sin. Though immortal, whether through nature or through subsistence of the tree, they became mortal and subject to death.
 For instance, you can read Dr. Hübner's articles on https://independent.academia.edu/JaminH%C3%BCbner/Papers.
 See the detailed argument by Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of the named Women in the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 181-203. For a definitive case that Junia is a woman and an apostle (contra the ESV), see Eldon J. Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), Linda L. Belleville, "Ἰουνιαν… ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις: A Re-examination of Romans 16:7 in Light of Primary Source Materials," New Testament Studies 51 (2005): 231-259, and Richard Cervin, "The Name 'Junia(s)' in Romans 16:7," New Testament Studies 40 (1994): 464-470. Contrary to some sections of modern evangelical scholarship that try to assert otherwise, we have strong evidence of a female apostle who preexisted Paul's own apostleship (i.e. being "in Christ" before him).
 Shi-Min Lu, "Woman's Role in New Testament Household Codes: Transforming First-Century Roman Culture," Priscilla Papers 30.1 (2016): 9-15, 13. See also Gordon D. Fee, "The Cultural Context of Ephesians 5:18-6:9: Is there a Divinely Ordained Hierarchy in the life of the Church and Home that is based on Gender Alone?," Priscilla Papers 16.1 (2002): 3-8.
 Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle's Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016), 94.
 I do not distinguish between either husband/male or wife/female because you have incoherently collapsed the two into a gender-based hierarchy.
 In the sense that Jared is far closer to the actual intent of the passage under discussion, and sees the obvious language Paul is using. So I have to give props.
 C.f. Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul's Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), esp. 113-139 and 271-290. See also Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Revised edition: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015) and Westfall, "This is a Great Metaphor," and Paul and Gender, 38-43, 79-96.
 Westfall, Paul and Gender, 88 n.74.