Jonathan Gale ’17, Biology

Posted on July 24th, 2017 by

Jonathan Gale has been surrounded by the sciences since his childhood. His mom is a physician, so Jon has always felt motivated by her to ask questions and think scientifically. “In high school she’d always encourage me to take science elective courses,” he says, “like anatomy and animal kingdom.” Additionally, his father received a teaching degree in math. “He had that foundation in math, and was able to help me with homework when I was younger.” Jon has a few weeks left of his undergraduate career at Gustavus, and hopes to soon go to medical school and become a physician. However, if that doesn’t work out, he’d still pursue a career in medicine in a hospital. He says that “through the Gustavus experience in learning about health disparities, and studying abroad and seeing health disparities in other countries… my experience has just solidified my pursuit in medicine as being for others; as paying it forward to those who have less.”

Jon explained that he used to be very fast-paced, and wanted results, advice, and answers right away. Now, one of his strengths is just to slow down and to truly listen to people, and to think everything through. He’s learned to sit back and say “okay, things don’t always have a quick turnaround.” Jon believes that this is especially true in relationships. “It takes time for someone to reveal their heart to you, and for them to have that trust in you to share it,” he explained. “Being able to slow down and truly hear people has given me the ability to discern… kind of different perspectives, and where that can go, as far as resolving conflict.” Additionally, throughout the last few years Jon has developed into a better leader overall and specifically into a Christian leader. He says that “I’ve learned to approach situations with kindness and patience and empathy; my Christianity can be seen in that.”

Throughout his life, Pastor Brian Brinker from Two Rivers Vineyard Church in Mankato has been an incredibly important mentor to Jon. Jon reflected on this relationship, saying that, “There’s just a way about him that… he’s very life-giving, and every time I spoke with him he would always make me feel valued.” Jon turned to Pastor Brian when he started asking lots of questions about science and religion. He explained that “I felt like my science life was beginning to flirt with my faith life,” and he didn’t know what to make of that. Jon says that he was most scared about saying something that would disqualify him as a Christian because of what he was saying and doubting. However, Pastor Brian “made it very clear that God’s purpose for me was to come to him and ask these questions, and to start wrestling with these harsh topics.” Currently, Pastor Brian is acting as a mentor in helping Jon and his fiance Christine with pre-marital counseling and breathing life into them as they prepare to be married. Additionally, Jon explained that his education has influenced him in many ways. He says that “I struggle with so many questions of life and humanity and why things are the way they are.” Education has opened Jon up to new perspectives, and he explains that “When I struggle with questions… just as someone would turn to a mentor, I turn to my bible or to my biology book or to a philosophy book and pursue answers there.”

Jon is defined by his belief in Christianity, and holds this core belief very close to his heart. “I cling to the identity of Christ, to his teachings, to everything he did,” Jon explains. He lives in and through the truth of Christ. However, the way that Jon’s mind works is that he wrestles with big questions, and he doesn’t identify himself as having a simple, childlike faith. He says that “I’ve always struggled to do that [dive in and just say yes to God], and always just struggle with bigger questions.” Jon has found that through asking the big questions, his faith is reinforced and becomes even deeper. “That makes up a lot of my beliefs. The pursuit of science, the pursuit of answers… it’s been so healthy for me to lean into those questions and to have the question and seek the answer,” he reflects, explaining that asking the question is better than having the question and not answering due to fear or uncertainty of what it means for one’s faith. For Jon, Christ is the center of it all.

When it comes to beliefs common within his scientific discipline, Jon explains that “at the root of all science is the scientific method, and the pursuit of answering questions of observed phenomena in our world.” He believes that science is based on the fact that you can observe something, set up an experiment for it, observe that experiment, and then collect results and try again or tell others about it. However, many scientists see a conflict between religion and science, especially in areas such as the debate between evolution or intelligent design. Despite this commonly seen conflict, Jon says that “what I’m starting to find true… [is] that evolution isn’t at odds with creation, or with God.” He’s come to realize that evolution and the existence of God are not dependent on each other. “Science never aims to explain the supernatural because science is limited to the material,” Jon explains. “We only have material measurements and the material world to seek answers to our questions. In no way possible could a material phenomenon be used to make a supernatural one.” Jon doesn’t believe that evolution and faith need to be in conflict. He explains that we’ve been building off the story of Genesis I for thousands of years and it continues to grow and develop as we explore evolution. And he doesn’t believes that evolution takes away from God’s brilliance, saying “to me, it makes God seem way cooler, way smarter, way more complicated, and way more intricate.”

Jon struggles with biblical interpretations that claim that the world is here for us as humans to use. He believes that this statement can be interpreted in a good way, in that we are shepherds of the world and called to be stewards for God’s glory, but it can also make people very apathetic towards the welfare of the world. Jon finds climate change to be a very daunting problem, saying that “some people of faith are just completely oblivious to climate change. Recently, the Pope has begun encouraging people to take action.” The human-centeredness of Christianity scares him in regards to our future as a global ecosystem. “All creatures, plants, humans; we’re dependent on each other,” Jon explains.

Throughout his journey in faith and science, Jon’s beliefs have gotten both more complex and more simple. He says that “I’ve finally realized that the center of my faith, the center of my identity, is love.” Love radiates into his faith, his doubts, the questions he’s been wrestling with, his relationships, and his biology textbooks. As a physician, Jon is eager to help people who are ill or disadvantaged and who need help developing their own vocation to see love in its full capacity. Jon explains that “I know that I can be that light for somebody through the skills I’ve developed. I know that I can be that person in my patient’s lives that will project them forward to developing their identity, more clearly see their vocation, and receive healing.” Jon’s vocation as a physician is rooted in deep, abounding love.

 

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