How Does That Work?

When we are kids, we all have questions. We ask, “Why is the sky blue?” “How long is an hour?” and “Why can’t I stay up later?” As we age, our curiosity about the world slowly fades. We learn pat answers and move on with life.

Not the investigator.

This personality type needs to know. They are not satisfied with a surface level understanding. They want to plumb the depths of an issue and learn all the details: the evidence, counterarguments, speculative theories—all of it. They often have a subject or two where they have spent so much effort in research that they are experts by any measure.

What’s Great about Investigators?

People wired this way tend to be more independent and less worried about what others think about them. They don’t mind solitude and are adept at deep contemplation. They don’t allow tradition, comfort, or emotional attachment to stand in their way of discerning truth about a matter with straight-thinking and logic. Their ability to detach enables them an objectivity that lends itself to justice. Highly intelligent, these specialists discover new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking about a problem, and new ways of seeing the world. They may invent a new technology, pioneer a new method of research, or forge a new policy for economics or government. In fact, many of the greatest scientists and inventors were investigators.

Of all the Gospel authors, Luke stands out the most as an investigator. Whereas Matthew begins with a genealogy—a very Jewish thing to do—and John starts off with abstract theology, the meaning of which still puzzles commentators, Luke begins with a clear explication of his historical methodology. He writes:

Luke 1:1-4. Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Luke is aware that others have compiled narratives about Christ based on eyewitness testimony. After following everything closely for a while, he decided to write an account for Theophilus. This would not be just any old biography, but “an orderly account,” resulting in a definitive history that would bolster Theophilus’ certainty about the faith. I can just see Luke interviewing person after person, asking the hard questions. The result? A Gospel that includes all kinds of details and information that does not appear in Matthew, Mark, and John. What’s more, Luke didn’t stop with the resurrection of Christ. He continued his investigation right through to the movement he inspired. This second volume is the book of Acts. Isn’t it awesome to see how God worked through such different Gospel authors to have each produce inspired and authoritative accounts about the life of Jesus of Nazareth in their own unique ways?

We can observe Luke’s precision most clearly in how he introduces the ministry of John the Baptist in the third chapter. He writes:

Luke 3:1-2. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

Luke has done his homework. Ancient histories didn’t have a universal dating system that everyone recognized. Rather, they specified the date based on the year of the reign of Caesar and other regional rulers. Luke includes not only the Roman emperor, but also the governor of Judea, the tetrarchs of three other territories, and the names of the two high priests of the time. To many readers today, these two verses are difficult to pronounce, tedious, and largely irrelevant. However, to Luke’s original audience, such careful details would boost confidence that what follows actually took place as stated. The end result of all this painstaking meticulousness was a Gospel that appealed to the intelligentsia of first-century Gentiles and continues to speak to us today.

The Downside of Investigators

However, like all personalities, investigators have a dark side. Their ability to detach can lead to aloofness, eccentricity, and miscommunication. Fearing incompetence can lead to avoiding new experiences and situations for which they are not prepared. Because of their cerebral focus, people like this sometimes neglect their physical and relational needs. Isolation doesn’t bother them as much as other types and can afford them a refuge from the chaos and drain of life in the world.

When not using their considerable intellect for God’s purposes, these people can produce some of the most compelling arguments against God, the church, Christianity, or the Bible. An example that comes to mind is the group of scribes who attempted to stump Jesus. Of course, I can’t prove that these scribes were “investigators” in the sense that I’ve defined in this article, but it certainly would make sense considering the genius question they brought to our Lord.

Luke 20:27-33. There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

Resurrection is a difficult concept to grasp in depth. On the surface, it’s simple enough. God simply reanimates the dead, healing them of any problems and providing them with an immortal life. However, investigators can’t stop there. They must pry deeper and ask questions like “How is the person raised from the dead the same person as the one who died?” and “How exactly does God plan to deal with situations when bones turned into ash and then became plant food?” Most of us would just move on blithely taking comfort in the knowledge that somehow or another God will sort it out. Not investigators. They want to know. They need to know.

These scribes didn’t believe in the resurrection. They hit Jesus with a puzzle about how marriage will work if resurrection is true. Jesus answered that marriage doesn’t happen in the age to come. Death ends marriages, so unless people were remarried, by default there would be no issue. Then he parried and countered with his own stumper question for them. The scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well” (Luke 20:39). After that, they didn’t ask him any more questions, but neither did they believe in him.

Here we have the Messiah, the second Adam, the ruler of the age to come, standing right in front of their faces, and instead of bowing to him, joining his movement, or following him, they challenged him! Sometimes investigators can be looking right at someone or something and miss it because they are too in their heads, working through all the logical steps to a conclusion. Jesus had performed healings, nature miracles, and even raised the dead. He had taught authoritatively from Scripture, had fed the multitude twice, and had constantly submitted to God’s will over his own. Still, the scribes could not see what was right in front of them.

Here’s something to consider: you’re never going to understand everything to its very bottom. There’s always another level of assumptions or first principles or data to gather. Faith always involves a leap. That’s not to say we should blindly believe whatever, but the investigations we can mount will only lead us so far. All our evidence can point in the direction of Jesus as Messiah, but in the end, you will always need to take that leap. Absolute certainty is not possible. That’s why faith is such a big deal in Scripture.

The Gospel for Investigators

Investigators are awesome people! They don’t settle for pat answers and handwaving problems. They aren’t afraid of jargon or meticulous data collection. They often change the world with their new ideas and approaches, leaving the rest of us asking, “How in the world did you come up with that?” Still, the investigators will never find rest for their souls until they find God.

God is the source, the original intellect who engineered human cognition and cogitation. As the designer and sustainer, God actually knows the bottom of the matter—every matter. He alone comprehends the way the world really is, right down to the last electron and quark. He was there in the beginning, and He’s already written the ending. He knows what really happened throughout history as well as the biased accounts that have shaped how later generations perceive the events. He understands technology, economics, psychology, and philosophy. He invented life and comprehends how it all works from the muscles to the neurons to the circulatory systems. And He knows you. He gets you. He’s aware of your physical capabilities and limitations, your experiences and memories, your hopes and dreams, your questions and provisional answers, your acquaintances and close friends, and your intentions and motivations.

And He loves you!

Tim Keller put it this way: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is…what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”1

God demonstrated His love for you on the cross, when His precious Son willingly gave his life as humanity’s representative. After our initial rebellion, God could have let us all live out our natural lifespans and then disappear forever. Instead, He got involved in the long process of redemption, working with Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the judges, and the kings and the prophets. He stayed engaged with humanity, bringing about His eventual redemption plan, culminating with Christ on the cross. He did this because He loves you, enjoys being with you, and wants to have you in His Kingdom in the age to come.

By raising Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, God showed everyone that this man really was the true Messiah, the Savior of the world. He brought him to His right hand where he continuously carries out the intercessory work of our high priest until the time comes for his return. Then, finally, God will bring our entire world under his reign through His anointed king. Judgement will put an end to injustice, predation, and tragedies. Humanity will transition to an age of beauty, immortality, and meaningful work. And investigating…lots of investigating.

Let’s face it, we have explored, charted, and cataloged so little of our world. There’s still so much more to learn about geography, biology, and the stars. In God’s Kingdom, we’ll have all the time in the world to ask intriguing questions, design experiments, and acquire knowledge. I don’t see anywhere that Scripture says God will zap our minds with all His knowledge. This means investigators will have the time and access they need to plumb the depths of their interests.

The Challenge for Investigators

Turning to God requires humility. You have to admit you don’t know everything. You’ve been wrong about some things—some big things. You’ve made mistakes, hurt people, and defied God. You need help. You need forgiveness for your sins.

Only when you arrive here does the mystery of salvation begin to work in your heart. God is eager to forgive. Afterall, He loves you! He’s happy to cleanse you and set you on the true path—a path grounded in love toward God and people.

Loving God is pretty easy, but people are another story. Sometimes, they are annoying or difficult or dumb. Sometimes, they are deceptive or patronizing or vain. Surely, God’s not calling you to love these kinds of people, is He?

Yes.

He wants you to show love to everyone, especially the difficult ones. Christ taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), love one another as he loved his disciples (John 13:34), and even love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). This is quite a challenge, but with the power of God’s spirit dwelling in you, you can do it!

Although it may be scary, transparency and vulnerability are very important for close personal relationships, especially if you’re married. Letting someone into your internal world can feel threatening, but if your sense of value and self-esteem are grounded in God’s love for you, you can handle it if someone doesn’t get you or even criticizes you. The challenge is to be able to love God and people well without giving up on your God-given inquisitiveness and proclivity for investigation.

I want to watch the universe expand. I want to break it
into pieces small enough to understand, and put it all
back together again in the quiet of my private collection.
…A white flag waves in the dark between my head and
my heart. My armor falls apart, as if I could let myself
be seen, even deeply known. Like I was already brave
enough to let go.2

Notes

1 Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage (New York: Riverhead Books, 2011), 101.
2 Sleeping at Last, “Five,” Asteroid B-612, 17 on Atlas: II, November 1, 2019, Spotify.

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