Theologian John Frame asked the question once, “Can modern people be brought to worship a God who is an intellectual authoritarian?” Of course, this can only happen if God changes a person’s heart and grants regeneration. Frame goes on to say: “The fact is, however, that this authoritarianism is the source of true intellectual freedom. Human thinking must be subject to a norm, to a criterion. If we reject God as our norm, we must find another (rationalism) or despair of knowledge (skepticism)” – From his book The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 124.
I bring this up because I think J. I. Packer was on to something when he said, many years ago, that intellectual pride is the “root sin” of humanity (Fundamentalism and the Word of God, 153). We see this clearly in the present day where many people conceive of freedom as the “absence of external direction” (Peter Jenson). Without reference to any metaphysical realm, however, how can we account for our most deeply held intuitions and beliefs? San Diego State law professor Steven D. Smith is right that most of our most deeply held beliefs cannot be accounted for on purely naturalistic grounds.
The late philosopher Hans Jonas commented once that all ethics must be grounded in metaphysics. He went on lament the current state of affairs in his book Philosophical Essays:
Living now constantly in the shadow of unwanted, built-in, automatic utopianism, we are constantly confronted with issues whose positive choice requires supreme wisdom–an impossible, and in particular for contemporary man, who denies the very existence of its object: viz, objective value and truth. We need wisdom most when we believe in it least. . . . The very nature of the age which cries out for an ethical theory makes it suspiciously look like a fools’ errand. . . . Now we shrivel in the nakedness of a nihilism in which near-omnipotence is paired with near-emptiness, greatest capacity with knowing least what for.
Admittedly this is a grim outlook. Thankfully, we believe in a God who can raise the dead.