Let’s begin with a very simple definition.
GOD is one in Being and three in Person.
Is this a contradiction? Not at all.
If we said, “God is one and Being and three in Being,” that’s a contradiction.
If we said, “God is one in Person and three in Person,” that’s a contradiction.
The Trinity is not three Beings. The Trinity is not three gods.
“The triune God is one in Being and three in Persons” is not a contradiction.
Obviously the next question is:
What is a Being? What is a Person? What’s the difference?
BEING is the quality that makes you WHAT you are.
PERSON is the quality that makes you WHO you are.
Let’s explore this a little further.
WHAT I am is very different from WHO I am. That does not mean there is two of me, it’s still me.
WHAT I am is a human being. But WHO I am is, John or Zulkifli or Rina.
Does that make sense?
If I ask you, “WHO are you?”, you won’t answer me, “I am a human being.” That’s not WHO you are! You would say, “I am Susan, or Ali….” That’s WHO you are. Not WHAT you are.
But if I ask you, “WHAT are you?”, then you might say, “I am a human being – bones and skin and heart and organs and nerves and ligaments…”
That’s WHAT you are. That’s not WHO you are!
Your BEING is your WHAT-NESS. Your PERSON is your WHO-NESS.
Imagine the conversation between Mary and the angel that appeared to her.
Mary: WHAT are you?
Angel: I am an angel, a ministering spirit (according to the Bible) or fire (according to the Quran)
That is his WHATNESS.
Mary: WHO are you?
Angel: I am Gabriel, messenger from God.
That is his WHONESS.
The angel is one in being and one in person.
Satan is one in being and one in person.
We humans are one in being and one in person. That’s just the way we have been created. Our WHATNESS and our WHONESS.
What about God? Does He have a WHATNESS and WHONESS?
What is God? Who is God? Those are two very different questions.
According to the Bible, God is Spirit, One Being, divine and eternal.
That answers the “WHAT is God” question.
Who is HE? He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, (Yahweh, three in person equal and divine, infinite and existing from the beginning.). That is WHO He is.
Yahweh is a higher being than all his creation. One in Being and three in Person. Of course the concept is difficult to grasp by our mortal minds. Can the finite completely understand the infinite?
How would Muslims answer these two questions about their God?
Who is God?
What is God?
Is Allah one in being and one in person? That would mean he is on par with you and I.
One in being and one in person also means being limited in time and space. You and I can only be at one place at one time. An angel can only be in one place at one time. Satan can only be in one place at one time. Can Allah only be at one place at one time?
Yahweh is not limited by time and space. He is beyond time and space. He is omnipresent. The God who is one in being and three in person can be in heaven and earth at the same time.
[With thanks to Nabeel Qureshi]