Scott’s Column: Don Wester
June 14 2019
Last week I made a quick trip to Shawnee, Oklahoma to attend the funeral of Don Wester, Senior. Many of you will remember Donald Wester, Junior and his wife Cathy who were former members of First Central. Donald Jr. was ordained by our church in 2010 and served briefly on our staff before moving to Arkansas where he is now pastoring.
That First Central already had a Wester connection when I moved here was one of the surprises that also assured me this church was the right place. It was the second time I had pastored one of the Wester boys, continuing to deepen my relationships with this family.
I first met Don Wester, Sr. in August 1992 as a naïve freshman in his Intro to Philosophy class. My first impression was that I didn’t understand what he was saying, but I was fascinated anyway. I think that was also part of his magic as a teacher. The students who fell in love with him worked their butts off with the hopes that they would finally be able to understand him. By then you had been seduced into the discipline.
That fall semester of 1992 Don Wester turned me into a philosopher. He became my major professor, director of my undergraduate honors thesis, and my employer, as I worked as his grader for three years.
Don Wester’s intellectual project was shaped by his desire to be a foreign missionary. He was smart enough to realize that much of the Christianity he knew was deeply Western, influenced by Greco-Roman thought forms. He didn’t think Indonesians should have to first accept the legacy of Greco-Roman thought before becoming Christians, so he realized he needed to figure out what Christianity was more basically, freed of Greco-Roman philosophy. Or to put it more simply, Christianity without Plato.
This is a more challenging project than you might realize. And it is one I have adopted. Many of Wester’s concerns and influences became mine. For instance, he first taught me William James, Alfred North Whitehead, and Wendell Berry.
How does one measure the gift of an intellectual worldview? Especially when his teaching helped me to keep my faith by seeing things in a new light?