CSU Faculty Q&A
- Faculty Q&A: Dr. Peter Beck
- Associate Professor of Christian Studies
- Director of the Honors Program
Meet Dr. Peter Beck. He’s served in the military. Beck worked in advertising and marketing. He’s a writer. Beck’s a skier, a biker – of both the motor and pedal variety – and a sports fan, none of which he teaches professionally. While he is commonly referred to as a teacher, Beck prefers to think of what he does as “shepherding souls.” Whether that’s in the classroom at Charleston Southern or pastoring a local church, God is at the center of his world.
The following is a Q&A with Beck, an associate Professor of Christian Studies and Director of the Honors Program:
Q: What is your college background?
A: I actually went to college when I was in my thirties; I went for religion. But it was a late in life decision, so to speak. I had a secular career in advertising before that.
Q:Why did you decide to go back to college?
A: Absolute, complete boredom in my chosen profession. I began to think what else I might do with my life and decided making a living as a ski bum was not a likely call. I realized I was fascinated by things in religion. I felt I was perhaps called to the church and went to school for religion, then seminary and as it turned out I ended up as a college professor.
Q:Did you want to work in ministry?
A: Initially I had no idea. I was the guy who thought he’d never go to college. Out of high school I thought there’s not a chance in the world I’d go to college. When I got out of the Army, I thought, ‘I can’t do college!’ In my thirties, when I went, I spent nine-and-one-half years and went all the way through to the point where, finally, in the end, it became clear I was supposed to be a teacher.
Q: Beyond the Bible, whose writing has influenced your thoughts on Christianity?
A: The most influential is Jonathon Edwards -- early American puritan, 1700s. I was introduced to him by John Piper, fell in love with the idea of what he was teaching and started reading the book. I thought I was reading a book by Piper, it turned out, I didn’t like Piper’s part of the book as much, but I read the second half of the book and it was a direct quotation of Edwards and it launched a whole series of thoughts. It changed my view of ministry. It changed my understanding of Christian life. It became a dissertation topic. It became a book. Now I find myself quoting him.
Q: What about Edwards’ writings shaped your thinking?
A: One of his books early on, in our experience but at the end of his life, was the end for which God created the universe. He asks, ‘Why did God do it?’ The answer seems so obvious, but it’s often overlooked. He said, ‘God did it for his own glory.’ As I began to grasp that it became I’m teaching for His glory. I’m writing for His glory. In the church, I’m preaching for His glory. When I’m challenging my students it’s not just simply just a matter of, ‘Are you learning?’ it’s how is God glorified in this and what is your role does your faith play in how this works out? So it’s really become a paradigm shift. So, it becomes not just the classroom but my marriage, my children, everything runs through the grid and the question becomes: Are we glorifying God? If not, as Paul says in Romans 3:23, ‘We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’
Q: Is there a favorite subject/class you enjoy teaching?
A: That’s tough. My specialty is church history, so I love all the church history. I’m teaching systematic church history and theology and I love seeing the students’ eyes light up when they see this is connected to that. One of my favorites is Evangelism too, but when I teach it, I teach from a perspective of, what do we believe, now how does it change our life? I often tell the students, I can’t teach you a method for evangelism. I can’t make you memorize something that makes you a good evangelist. What I do is teach you what the faith is and you should be able to go out and tell other people about your faith.
Q: Are you more of a pastor or a teacher?
A: Obviously teaching is part of it, but I see this as shepherding souls. Whether it’s the Christian students or the students who are not quite there yet, I see it as a shepherding role. I think biblically the best shepherds are teachers and pastors not either or.