Apostate Dale Tuggy did a presentation at what is euphemistically called the 21 Century Reformation conference (code language of unitarianism):
1. Since so much of his analysis turns on the definition of terms, I'm going to define how I use my terms:
i) To be a normal human being is to be a composite entity. A complete human being unites a physical body with an immortal, immaterial soul.
ii) Put another way, I subscribe to substance dualism. I regard the human mind or consciousness as ontologically independent of the body.
iii) I'm not using "immaterial" in a merely negative sense. Rather, I view "immaterial" as a synonym for mental.
iv) Human nature isn't something a human being is, but has. A human being is a concrete exemplification or property instance of a human nature. If we view human nature as an abstract universal, then to be human is to be a concrete particular. By "concrete," I mean existing in space and/or time. Angels exist in time, but not in space. Humans naturally exist in both, although humans can exist in time but not in space (the intermediate state).
v) Jesus is a composite individual. Jesus unites a divine nature to a human nature. To be more precise, Jesus unites the divine Son to a human body and rational soul.
vi) Something can be mysterious without being contradictory or unintelligible. For instance, I have no firsthand experience of what it's like to be a wolf. As a human, I can't assume a lupine viewpoint. I can't think like a wolf. I don't understand lupine psychology from the inside out.
By the same token, sight is the dominant sense in humans, whereas scent is the dominant sense in wolves. I don't know what it's like to perceive world through a wolf's enhanced sense of scent. That experience is alien to me.
As such, there are aspects of lupine nature that are mysterious to humans. But it's hardly special pleading to say that.
vii) Apropos (vi), we have no direct experience of what it's like to be God. We have no direct experience of what it's like to be a theanthropic person. The hypostatic union is mysterious to us.
That doesn't mean it's contradictory or unintelligible. We know God by description rather than acquaintance. By that I mean, we can grasp the idea of God. We have some understanding of what the divine attributes mean.
viii) Because God is inhuman, because God is sui generis, we use analogies to understand what God is like. By the same token, we use analogies to understand the hypostatic union. The use of analogies is not unique to explicating the hypostatic union, for we also use analogies to explicate our concept of God. Therefore, it's not special pleading to use analogies to unpack or model the hypostatic union.
ix) Likewise, we can grasp the individual components that comprise the hypostatic union even if we can't fully grasp the relation. This is analogous to the mind/body problem. Even if we can't grasp how body and soul interact, that doesn't mean we can't define "body" and "soul".
x) Humans can die because humans have bodies. Humans are normally embodied agents. God can't die because God isn't biologically alive in the first place. By the same token, angels can't die because angels aren't biological organisms. As I define it, only a biological organism is capable of death.
xi) Christ's human nature didn't expire on the cross. Rather, the body of Jesus expired. Human nature is more than a body. Human nature, as I define it, is a composite entity. Although Jesus died, he continued to exist in a discarnate state, between Good Friday and Easter, because he had/has an immortal human soul united to the Son. The death of Jesus did not dissolve the hypostatic union. At both divine and human levels, Jesus continued to exist during the interim between his death and resurrection.
2. Jesus died in the same sense that ordinary humans die. When a human dies, the body expires, but the soul continues to exist. Consciousness survives. The mind survives. Personality survives.
3. Tuggy picked on a line from Charles Wesley's hymn "And Can It Be, That I Should Gain," in which Wesley says "'Tis mystery All! Th'Immortal dies".
A comparable example, which he didn't mention, is the Isaac Watts hymn "Alas And Did My Savior Bleed," which says "when God, the mighty maker, died for his own creature's sin."
These are examples of literary paradox. A literary paradox is not a logical paradox, but a literary device. Writers sometimes express an idea in contradictory terms for emphasis or shock value. Watts and Wesley are using paradoxical formulations to express the wonder of the crucifixion, given the Incarnation.
For Tuggy to pounce on their paradoxical formulations is pedantic and evinces a tin ear for poetic license. A hymn is not an exercise in philosophical theology. The function of a hymn is perlocutionary (to influence the listener) as well as illocutionary (to assert facts). Not just propositional, but performative.
Tuggy is tone-deaf to the pragmatics of language and the rhetorical strategy of poets and hymnodists. There's more to hymnody than conveying information. In addition, hymns are designed to be persuasive or affective.
The formulations are paradoxical because they are deliberately simplistic. Watts and Wesley omit to mention the two-natures to make the contrast more arresting. But there's nothing intrinsically contradictory about what they said. There's a missing piece of information that harmonizes the literary paradox.
Finally, Watts and Wesley are operating in the tradition of the communicatio idiomatum (communication of attributes), where what is true of either nature is true of their common property bearer. It's not ascribing the properties of one nature to another nature, but predicating both sets of properties to the individual who shares them. Tuggy knows that, but he dissimulates when addressing his unitarian audience.
4. Tuggy distinguishes death from annihilation. Depending on the nature of the creature, I think that's a valid distinction. However, if I understood him correctly, he said it's coherent to say that God could kill an angel without annihilating the angel. If that's what he meant, I disagree.
On the one hand, if a creature is nothing more than a physical organism, then death is equivalent to oblivion. If you kill that kind of creature, it ceases to exist.
On the other hand, by Tuggy's own definition, an angel is immaterial. So the only way to "kill" an angel would be to annihilate an angel. An angel is a discarnate mind. The only thing that could even be destroyed is the angel's mind. That's all it is. An incorporeal mind.
5. Tuggy attempted to construct an inconsistent triad
i) Jesus died
ii) Jesus was fully divine
iii) No fully divine being has ever died
Tuggy said there are three combinations. You can believe any two of them but have to deny the third.
But for reasons I've already given, his triad is vitiated by an equivocation of terms.
6. Tuggy quoted 1 Tim 1:17 & 6:16 as saying "the Father alone has immortality". But he misquoted his prooftexts.
On the one hand, 1 Tim 1:17 doesn't say the Father alone has immortality, but God alone has immortality. It doesn't single out the Father as God. Likewise, 6:16 doesn't say the Father alone has immortality. And Paul doesn't say the titles apply to God in contrast to Jesus.
7. Tuggy says that if you introduce the two-natures of Christ, it's unclear what points (i) & (ii) of the triad now mean. That's just a "verbal" solution. Just "adding words".
But there's nothing unclear about that. What it means to die relative to his human nature is that his body died. His soul was decoupled from his body. Those aren't just words, but concepts.
8. Tuggy reverts to his hobbyhorse about whether it's coherent to posit "two selves one person." He says that when you read the Gospels, Jesus didn't "flip a switch" by "talking in one voice, then talking in another voice."
But as a matter of fact, when we read the Gospels, Jesus makes statements, or the narrator makes statements about Jesus, or normative characters and foil characters make statements about Jesus, that are incompatible with Jesus either being merely human or merely divine.
9. Tuggy says that according to the two-natures doctrine, Jesus had "two selves; one died and one lived on". But that's inaccurate. The rational soul of Jesus didn't cease to exist. Even if, for the sake of argument, we use Tuggy's "two-self" rubric, both "selves" survived the crucifixion. A human being is not reducible to his body.
10. Tuggy says the NT never says that when Jesus died, "only the human part died, one of his two natures died but not the other".
But that's the fallacy of question-framing, where you slant the issue by how you cast the issue. To begin with, if death necessarily has reference to the body, because that's the only component which is capable of dying (i.e. biological death), then we wouldn't expect any additional qualification.
And that isn't unique to the Christology, but includes anthropology. If humans are a union of body and soul, then to say a human dies just means the body dies. That, however, doesn't imply that the human decedent ceases to exist. But the corporeal "part" or component is the only part to which biological death is even applicable. There's nothing more to be said in that respect.
Yet there's exegetical, empirical, and philosophical evidence for substance dualism. In the nature of the case, the phenomenology of death only concerns what is observable. Ordinarily, all you see is a body–be it living or dead. (Even in that regard, there are reported ghosts and apparitions of the dead.)
Tuggy says that according to the NT, "Jesus as human died". Naturally, since that's the only sense in which a human can die. By the same token, we have animals bodies, but that doesn't imply that we're merely animals.
Perhaps Tuggy is a physicalist. But the immediate question at issue is whether the idea of substance dualism is incoherent.
11. Tuggy says that according to the two-natures doctrine, Jesus is "two beings: Jesus in human nature Jesus in divine nature". But that supposedly raises the question, how many Christs there are? One Christ or two Christs?
I often wonder if Tuggy is playing dumb, or if he really suffers from tunnel vision. To comment on the same individual in different respects doesn't imply that he's "two beings". Rather, these are ways of referring to different aspects of the same individual.
For instance, I can say that Abraham died relative to his body, but Abraham still exists relative to his soul. I'm not positing two different Abrahams, but different components of the same Abraham.
Likewise, I can say that David is the son of Jesse, the grandson of Obed, the father of Solomon, and the father of Absalom without positing four different Davids. Is Tuggy really that thick? His unitarianism commits him to using dumb arguments. Not only is he anti-Trinitarian, but anti-intellectual. The two go together.