Sir Nicholas Gimcrack

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In 1757 Ben Franklin was in England where he rented rooms from Mrs. Margaret Stevenson. Mrs. Stevenson, a widow, had a young daughter, Mary, who was intelligent and inquisitive. She immediately took to Franklin who became a father figure for the young girl and they enjoyed many science experiments together. When Franklin returned to America, they continued corresponding. In one letter he wrote to Mary he was encouraging her to continue her studies, but not at the sacrifice of character. Knowledge has it merits, but without a destination it serves no purpose. He wrote,

Dear Polly,
There is, however, a prudent Moderation to be used in Studies of this kind. The Knowledge of Nature may be ornamental, and it may be useful, but if to attain an Eminence in that, we neglect the Knowledge of Practice and essential Duties, we deserve Reprehension. For there is no Rank in Natural Knowledge of equal Dignity and Importance with that of being a good Parent, a good Child, a good Husband, or Wife, a good Neighbor or Friend, a good Subject or Citizen, that is, in short, a good Christian. Nicholas Gimcrack, therefore, who neglected the Care of his Family, to pursue Butterflies, was a just Object of Ridicule, and we must give him up as fair Game to the Satyrist. 1

I had not heard of this Sir Nicholas Gimcrack before so I looked him up. After a little research I came across an example that delivers a great word picture as to what kind of person this Gimcrack was. In the below dialogue, picture this Nicholas Gimcrack lying on his stomach on a table. In his mouth is a long piece of string which he is holding in his teeth. The other end of the string several feet away, is tied around the belly of a frog in a bowl of water, on the floor. The frog is swimming, or attempting to swim away, from Gimcrack. Gimcrack is watching and mimicking the movements of the frog with his arms and legs flailing off the table. The purpose of this exercise is to learn how to swim, from a swimming master, the frog. In walk two naive admirers of Sir Gimcrack who ask him about his method of learning how to swim.

Longvil: Have you ever tried in the water, sir?
Sir Nicholas: No, sir, but I swim most exquisitely on land.
Bruce: Do you intend to practice in the water, sir?
Sir Nicholas: Never, sir. I hate the water. I never come upon the water, sir.
Longvil: Then there will be no use of swimming.
Sir Nicholas: I content myself with the speculative part of swimming; I care not for the practice. I seldom bring anything to use; ‘tis not my way. Knowledge is my ultimate end.

So as everyone considers what they are thankful for today, be thankful for the example of Sir Nicholas.  What do you do with what you know?


1. Bennett, William J. Our Sacred Honor. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997. Print.

Faith VS Knowledge?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Which is more important, faith or knowledge?

Watch this video before you read my post.
It is only one minute long which is less time than you would take to smoke a cigarette, use the bathroom, or brush your teeth; at least I hope it is less time than you would take to brush your teeth. The video is a cut taken from an interview of Richard Dawkins discussing faith and other topics.

There were several things I was tempted to discuss, but felt the last comment, (and the very first), about faith and Christians was the most important. His final comment was that “…religious faith is based on no evidence at all.”

How many of you have heard the comment, “You just have to have faith.” Faith in what? Faith in something that might happen, or we hope will transpire? Atheists, and even many Christians, view faith and knowledge as not opposites exactly, but different ends of the same rope – as if faith and knowledge are pulling against each other, much like a tug-of-war. The more knowledge you have, the less faith you have. Many think that faith is believing in things you can’t know. If you have all knowledge, (the whole length of rope), then you have no length left for faith. On the flip side, the less knowledge you have, the more room you have for faith. The more faith a Christian has, the more they can do for the Kingdom of God.

If this were true, then it would be better for Christians to avoid learning about the truth and validity of scripture, and tell each other “You just have to have faith.” How can that possibly make any sense? Obviously, it does not if you stop to think about it. The opposite of faith is unbelief and Christians are not called to that, but too many Christians view faith and blind faith as the same thing. The opposite of knowledge is not faith but ignorance, and we are not called to be ignorant. Knowledge and faith go hand in hand, much like pulling a rope and coiling it at your feet.

Tomorrow I am taking my youngest daughter to Shriners Hospital in Sacramento for them to look at her scoliosis. I have faith that the doctors there will be professional, knowledgeable, and have some experience in dealing with scoliosis. My faith in Shriners is not from personal experience, but based on the experience of others who have been there, have shared their experience on the Internet, reports in newspapers or magazines, or simply by word of mouth. I have been hearing about Shriners most of my adult life, and though my faith in the media for unbiased coverage has diminished over the years, I have faith that our visit to Shriners Hospital in Sacramento will be a positive one.

I also have faith that my car will make it to Sacramento and back without any problems. My faith in my car comes from personal experience. I use it just about every day. I have been driving it from home to work for over a year and it has run well. I also know it has just come out of the shop and is running even better than it was a couple weeks ago. The faith I have comes from personal, first hand experience. I have faith that my car will operate as it has been, and tomorrow we will have a drive without any mishaps.

These examples of faith are the much the same examples that Richard Dawkins gave when he was mentioned physics, and that physicists understand that branch of science better than he does. Dawkins has faith in them, (based on their knowledge and experience), so when he references physicists, he believes they know what they’re talking about. Then at the end of the clip, if you watched it, he stated that religious faith is not based on evidence.

What did Moses say to God when he was told to go give Pharaoh a message? “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Obviously Moses was worried, and for good reason. What was the Lord’s reply? “Time for a leap of faith, Moses.” or “Tell them they just have to have faith.” or “Explain to them they must exercise blind faith.” Quite the contrary, he provided Moses and all involved with evidence, starting with the staff turning into a snake, and ending with an angel of death.

Christians ought not to fall into that same trap and define faith as what makes up the difference when we don’t have enough knowledge. Faith is knowledge. Faith is experience. Faith is trusting in what you know, and have experienced to be true. In Hebrews 11:1 Paul says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Greg Koukl says, “The Biblical word for faith, pistis, doesn’t mean wishing. It means active trust. And trust cannot be conjured up or manufactured. It must be earned. You can’t exercise the kind of faith the Bible has in mind unless you’re reasonably sure that some particular things are true.” 1

Atheists like Dawkins imply their faith is based on evidence, but the faith of the religious is faith based without knowledge or evidence. Terms like “blind faith” or “a leap of faith” just add credence to the atheists when used in a way that implies faith covers what we don’t know. Science does not have a monopoly on knowledge and evidence, and to imply Christianity only has faith that is based on ignorance is absurd.

Norman Geisler and Frank Turek list ten reasons we can trust the New Testament authors. Geisler and Turek wrote in their book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, “We have seen very powerful evidence that the major New Testament documents were written by eyewitnesses and their contemporaries within 15 to 40 years of the death of Jesus. Add to that the confirmation of non-Christian sources and archaeology, and we know beyond a reasonable doubt that the New Testament is based on historical fact. But how do we know the authors did not exaggerate or embellish what they say they saw? There are at least ten reasons we can be confident that the New Testament writers did not play fast and loose with the facts.” 2

1. They included embarrassing details about themselves.
2. They included embarrassing details about Jesus.
3. They included demanding sayings of Jesus.
4. They carefully distinguished Jesus’ words from their own.
5. They included resurrection events that would not have been invented.
6. They included more than thirty historically confirmed people in their writings.
7. The New Testament writers included divergent details.
8. The New Testament writers challenged readers to check the facts.
9. The New Testament writers give unembellished accounts.
10. The New Testament writers abandoned long held sacred beliefs and practices, adopted new ones and did not deny their testimony under the threat of persecution or death.

These reasons and many others have raised their faith in the New Testament and the witnesses who have shared their testimony. We can trust the New Testament writers told the truth because of the ‘pistis’, or active trust, we have for the disciples evidenced by historical research.

My faith has increased significantly in the past year as I have studied apologetics. Learning about the historical credentials of Christ and how history supports his life and teachings bolstered my faith. Learning about the different arguments of design and the odds of this earth developing from random processes has magnified my faith. Learning about the short-comings of Darwinian evolution, and that it has serious problems to overcome has increased my faith. Learning about the first cause, (cosmological argument), understanding you can’t get something from nothing, and that time must have a beginning, has inflated my faith. Finally, exploring the powerful moral and philosophical arguments, which I knew little about two years ago, about has multiplied my faith.

Much like a court case, the case for Christianity has significant circumstantial evidence, that, when viewed as a whole, is overwhelmingly powerful for the deity of Christ. No other religion has the evidence available to build our faith as Christianity does. G.K. Chesterton, author of Orthodoxy wrote, “If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, ‘For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity.’ I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in the enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts.” 3

Faith and knowledge are not opposite ends of the same rope, where if you have more knowledge you have less faith. Faith and knowledge start at the same end, and as your knowledge in Christ increases, so does your faith in Christ, which gives you more rope to pull in. The more rope you have coiled at your feet, the more you have to share with others to pull them toward a Christian world view.

Matthew 17:20 says, “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In Hebrews 11:6 Paul writes, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Saint Francis of Assisi – Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith.


1. Koukl, Greg. Faith Is Not Wishing. Signal Hill: Stand To Reason, 2011. Print.
2. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.
3. Chesterton, Gilbert. Orthodoxy. Simon & Brown, 1908. Print

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