I looked at heretical marriages here. Hopefully marriages are wonderfully healthy and Athanasian. If they are they will have a proper co-ordination of unity, distinction and equality (they should be in the middle of the triangle).
But when they go wrong they become either Tritheist, Modalist or Arian. To recap…
At position A we have the Arian marriage: they are united and distinct but not equal. Here you have the Noble Rescuer married to a Poor Unfortunate. Or an Abuser and a Victim. Or your garden variety Superior Patroniser and their Silent Admirer.
At position B we have the tritheist marriage: they are equal and distinct but not united. This couple runs on parallel tracks, more like a working co-operative than a marriage.
At position C we have the modalist marriage: they are united and equal but not distinct. Here the couple get lost in each other. Not in the Christ-like way of losing your life in order to gain it. This is more like strategic people-pleasing – squashing their distinctives for the sake of an unhealthy one-ness.
Anyway, read here for more.
What about families? Well I aint no expert. But wouldn’t it go something like this?
A tritheist family have 300 enagagements a week and no time together. The children growing up have a lot of ‘freedom’ but they don’t feel ‘known’. Christmas is hard because it’s impossible to get everyone under one roof.
A modalist family have very few outside friends – everything’s ‘kept in the family.’ Members think in the collective: “My family says… My family wants…” When the kids hit adolescence they will long for a bit of freedom but be terrified of leaving the nest. Christmas might be cosy (outwardly) but it’s highly pressured.
An Arian family is dominated by an exasperating parent (i.e. this is not godly Ephesians 6:4 leadership – this is a power trip). The children will feel the opposite of the tritheist children – they have no freedom but the interest their parent(s) take will either be abusive or manipulative. The abusive variation is not difficult to explain. The manipulative variation is easily seen when you think about one of Arius’s big problems. For him, Christ exists for the sake of the world, since what God really wants is a world, therefore He needs Christ to act as go-between. In the Arian family something similar can happen. The children become mediators of the parents’ desires for success in the world – living through their kids and all that. Everythings a power play. And Christmas is just plain dangerous.
What’s interesting is that, just as in trinitarian theology modalism and Arianism are not so different, so too in families. A modalist family will probably not survive adolescence without turning into an Arian family. Once differences are asserted by those growing up, maintaining this unhealthy oneness is going to require the imposition of force or silencing of dissent. You will probably see some serious scape-goating here.
Of course there are families that are worse than these! You can think of many ‘families’ that experience only distinction. But of course, many families are also healthy and exist towards the middle of the triangle. And what’s more, when we go wrong it won’t always be in the same direction. I guess we can identify with all of these errors to one degree or another. And our experience of these types will change over time.
Imagine a woman who’s grown up in a modalist-become-Arian family. After years of scapegoating she learns that she is a problem person that no-one would want to know. If she enters marriage – a tritheist one might suit her fear of intimacy.
Or imagine a man growing up in a tritheist family. When he finds Miss Right he determines that he’s going to get the intimacy he’s always craved. They have a modalist marriage and raise a modalist family… until the wife or kids want to assert some freedom/independence/distinctions. And then we enter Arianism.
Anyway, I aint no family therapist. And I’ve only read a couple of books on family. So take those sketches for what they’re worth and feel free to shoot me down or add comments…