From Felicity to Trinity

Thirty-five years ago, I learned the word felicity when I found Jane Austen in the “A” section in fiction at the Loma Linda University library. Austen’s stories motivated me to look up this word since she frequently used it in her stories.

“Felicity is a term for happiness that was used, apparently, in English a couple hundred years ago,” I discovered.

Thus, in 1991 when American Girl introduced the American Revolution-era doll, Felicity Merriman, I already knew the meaning of the doll’s unusual first name – Felicity meant happiness.

But my knowledge of the concept deepened a couple weeks ago while I was reviewing a lecture on the topic of Grice’s Maxims for effective conversation. I learned a different layer of meaning for felicity.

Felicity: the blissful experience of conversation which occurs when the participants find appropriate expression for thoughts that leads to satisfying and effective communication. With my new appreciation for this second dictionary definition, one that I had been oblivious to for decades, I am finding many ways to incorporate the concept of felicity. Beyond being a 19th century relic, felicity can be a relevant idea now.

Similar to my growing understanding of felicity, I am noticing new implications when considering the reality of a Triune God. In fact, a Trinitarian God is an example of felicity. The three beings completely understand one another. Moreover, they are in one accord with no daylight between them, as the saying goes. But, unlike simply reading further in a dictionary listing, finding power in the concept of Trinity is ongoing and nuanced, requiring reflection. Like other Biblical truths that begin with explicit words but take on expanded importance with reflection, Trinity offers multiple facets for one to examine. Thinking about God as Trinity is like looking at a jewel from varied angles. This essay will consider a handful of ideas that a Trinitarian God brings to believers.

My first experience of seeing Trinity beyond a flat, plain, biblical truth was while studying St. Patrick’s missionary efforts in Ireland; I noted that he used a three-leaf shamrock to teach the people about Trinity. Also, I realized that three legs bring stability. Think tripods and three-legged stools. In addition, the idea of a God in three parts is extraordinary, and puts God into a realm of mystery, somewhere far beyond what one can fully know or examine using scientific or rational methods.

A Trinitarian God provides stability in our lives. His existence, in three parts, ensures His presence in all realms: in flesh, in celestial realms, and within our souls.

Trinity demonstrates mutuality and flow within the person of God. This view is opposite of a Static Imperial Image of God or a Terror-Inspiring Monarch in isolation. Not God as the Removed One. Instead, think of God as Most Moved Mover (Pinnock, 2001). The tripartite God has power in concentric circles not in hierarchical structure. He is not a God of celebrity or wealth-based power. Rather, His interlocking power includes shared identity. By beholding we are changed. Maybe like Trinity, Christ followers can also live in mutual dependence and mutual honor – in community.

Trinitarian God is a beacon in an era of individualism where one is easily disconnected from others because of selfishness or fear. Trinitarian God is an example of wholeness and love in an age when it is easy to disconnect even from oneself and live a fragmented life with emphasis of physical over the needs of the soul. Trinitarian God is one that addresses our yearnings as we look inward or outward or upward. Trinitarian God is an example of an existence in loving submission with a bonus invitation for humans to join the tribe. “Partakers of the Divine Nature” is a term made familiar to Seventh-day Adventists by Ellen White.

God invites all to participate in a Divine Dance. It will mean to live fearlessly in absolute relatedness. We call this love. We were made for love. It’s participatory knowledge that matters more than rational calculating. God cannot be fully known but can be loved and invites us into the circle of love. Either we are in it or not. It is like being pregnant. You are. Or you aren’t.

Trinity is a piece of the gospel that shows God living in full participation. And this good news includes no debt codes or worthiness screens or test cases or ritual requirements and achievement goals. Don’t miss the message of gospel. God wants to include each of us to live with Him, in felicity, and to participate with Him in the cosmic drama.

Trinity Prayer

God for us, we call you Father. God alongside us, we call you Jesus. God within us, we call you Holy Spirit. You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things, Even us and even me.

Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness. We can only see who you are in what is. We ask for such perfect seeing– As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen (Rohr, p. 117)

Carmen Lau is a board member of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum. She lives and writes in Birmingham, Alabama.

Image Credit:

Notes & References: Pinnock, Clark, “Most Moved Movers: A Theology of God’s Openness,” Grand Rapids MI, Baker Academic 2001 Rohr, Richard, “The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation,” New Kensington, PA, Whitaker House 2016

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A different view of the trinity by a Russian painter. Father, Son, Holy Spirit sharing at meal time.
But if you notice there is a 4th place seating. Originally there was a small mirror attached to the painting. This allowed the one viewing the painting to see themselves as a participant at the meal. Enjoying the shared meal with the Trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

This picture is on the front cover of Richard Rohr’s book, The Divine Dance – The Trinity and Your Transformation. A MUST read for anyone who wants to sit in the 4th place, partake of heavenly food, and engage in heavenly conversation with 3 wonderful persons.
An except as Richard begins the conversation – “The Blessed Trinity is supposed to be a central-- even the paramount-- foundational doctrine of our entire Christian belief system. And yet, we’re told, at least I was told as a young boy in Kansas, that we shouldn’t try to understand it.
“Just believe it!” we were admonished. But there it stopped. Irish born Sister Ephrem just held up the shamrock to my totally trustworthy third-grade class. We surely believed, if not in the Trinity, at least in her Irish faith.[Although maybe that is exactly how the divine flow has to start! With sharing a bit of earnest and deep goodness.]
Yes it was indeed a mystery. Sort of a mathematical conundrum to test our ability to believe impossible things to be true.” – end of quote. pg 25.
Pg 27-- The very mystical Cappadocian Fathers of fourth-century eastern Turkey eventually developed some highly sophisticated thinking on what we soon called the Trinity. It took Three [3] Centuries of reflection on the Gospels to have the courage to say it, but they of this land – which included Paul of Tarsus before them and Melvana Rumi of Konya afterward – circled around to the best metaphor they could find: – Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three – a circle dance of love."
He quotes Karl Rahner, “The Trinity” [1999] pg 10-11. “Christians are, in their practical life, almost ‘monotheists’. We must admit that should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.” [THIS IS SCARY!!]

DEFINITION – “Tri…” whatever. Just means THREE [3].
A difficult concept to surround. “The Lord our God is ONE”, and YET “GOD” is Three [3].


Carmen Lau’s brilliant essay and Steve Mga’s eloquent and thought provoking response are indeed a blessing to me this morning. This is SPECTRUM at it’s best “Community Through Conversation” .
We need to have many more such conversations as we establish community in our churches. Thank you for your ministry!

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I agree with the verses James Peterson used as I was also going to use those as well. I don’t use the term trinity because it comes from Catholicism. I do believe in the Godhead that has 3 personalities as EGW refers to them and they are God the Father, Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit.

Y[quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:13960”]
A Trinitarian God provides stability in our lives.

It has to. After all we are all born into a triad relationship of father, mother and child. But as soon as we feel “stability in our lives,” our developmental task mandates us to separate from the triad relationship and develop our own dyad relationships, son and his wife, daughter and her husband. The history and impression of our triad relationship is imbedded deeply in our psyche and leaves a lasting affective preverbal memory. A memory of what heaven can be. But how we reject our own same/opposite sex parent will haunt us throughout our lives and will manifest in various behaviors, maladaptive or not, including how we perceive the “Trinitarian God,” issues of WO and LGBTI among others.

Wasn’t that because the Holy Spirit is here among us. Jesus sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who also assisted with creation and the immaculate conception.


Judaism is/was monotheistic, surrounded by polytheistic religions. It grew up amid religions that worshipped triune gods - the Sumerians (Anu, Enlil, Enki); and the Egyptians (Isis, Serapis, Serapis), both, worshiped triads.

The TRINITY became established as one of the Christian tenets after the Council of Nicaea (fourth century) declared it as such. It was Constantine that called for the the council to clear up various issues that were causing disruption in his empire. This is how the “festival of the sun” was incorporated as “Sunday worship”, (from Easter being also established).

Pope Gregory the Great - You must not interfere with any traditional belief or observance that can be harmonized with Christianity. (Laing - p,130)

The Bible does not contain the word TRINITY. The only statement used to back up the idea of the TRINITY comes from !John 5:7 - For there are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and those three are one. This statement was never in the original transcripts, added later, after t he idea of the TRINITY had been accepted. Most Bibles will have a note to that effect in the margin.

The “Holy Spirit” is personified in the Bible, just as “wisdom” is personified in the Old Testament book of “Proverbs”. The Bible also states that God is SPIRIT (Jn 4:24), which makes two member of the godhead “spirits”, one holier than another? - somewhat of a problem.

Look, we are trying to describe GOD and how He works. If it helps to think of God as having three parts - OK. Personally, it doesn’t help or clarify God. For me, there is God; His Son (another earthly relationship we can identify with); and the real influence of having God in our lives, as an influence in all that we are.

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