How can God be perverse?
That’s the question AMU Ph.D. student Andrew Olson plans to answer in his doctoral dissertation. In Psalm 18, David prays:
With the loyal thou dost show thyself loyal;
with the blameless man thou dost show thyself blameless;
with the pure thou dost show thyself pure;
and with the crooked thou dost show thyself perverse.
(Psalm 18: 25-26, RSV/CE)
The claim that the Lord would deal “perversely” with the wicked caught Andrew’s attention. “I want to write about what David is talking about there,” he says, “and what it looks like. I will confront some of what Pope Benedict XVI referred to as the ‘dark passages’ in the Bible.”
One key passage that Andrew plans to explore in his doctoral work is the exchange between the prophet Micaiah and King Ahab in 1 Kings 22. “You have someone [Ahab] who tries to act sneakily with the Lord, and the Lord beats him at his own game,” Andrew explains. “It’s not just that the Lord is trickier than Ahab; the Lord is honest about it. He sends a prophet to explain the trick while He’s doing it—and the trick still works! The Lord is a trickster on a different level, and you can’t play His game.”
While a freshman at Yale University, Andrew was received into the Roman Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2005. He earned his B.A. in Linguistics and went on to work for the Federalist Society in Washington, D.C., with the thought that he might go on to study law. After some time in D.C., Andrew decided that law school was not for him. He resolved instead to study Theology. In 2012, he completed his M.A. in Theology from Christendom College; he wrote a thesis on the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, and how such a way of thinking about the Church can provide an organizing framework for thinking about ecclesiology.
While on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Andrew was speaking with the theologian and Catholic apologist Scott Hahn, who recommended that Andrew pursue further academic studies. After applying to several programs, Andrew came to Ave Maria University in 2012 to begin his doctoral work. When he arrived, the Theology Ph.D. program offered only two majors—Moral and Systematic Theology. Biblical Theology was added after his arrival, and Andrew is the first student to go through the program on the Biblical Theology track.
Andrew passed his comprehensive exams in Spring 2015, and he has begun teaching a section of THEO 105: Sacred Scripture. “I have no past teaching experience, but Sacred Scripture is my field,” Andrew says, “and I have my own definite ideas about how to teach Scripture.” Andrew pointed out that the Old Testament makes up about 80% of the Bible, and so he is devoting more time and attention to it than it usually receives. “You can’t know what’s new about the New Testament unless you know what’s old about the Old Testament; it’s difficult to appreciate what Jesus is doing that is new if you can’t recognize what is new—which means you need to know what is old.”
“I try to emphasize to my students,” Andrew continues, “that my real goal is for them to learn the material… I am doing as much as I can to help them. It’s been a blast. It’s much more fun than I expected—and I was expecting it to be a lot of fun.”
While teaching, Andrew continues to work on his dissertation, exploring the Bible’s “dark passages” and seeking to answer how God can be perverse. He plans to finish in the spring and hopes to continue writing and teaching at the college level.