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The Heretic’s Apprentice

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Heretic’s Apprentice (1989) Ellis Peters

Set in England in 1143.

Elave has returned from the Holy Land with his Master’s body–the man died while on pilgrimage, not during the Crusades–and bearing a gift for his adopted daughter.

Although the gift causes problems, the first problems stem from Elave thinking on his own about God and faith.

One way to be sure of saying nothing that can be taken amiss is to say nothing at all.

It’s one thing to know that heresey had been a problem in the early church, but it’s something else entirely to see a young man locked up for professing suspect beliefs.

(H)ere is no wild man bent on mischief, but a sound, hardworking fellow, profitable to his master and I doubt not honest and well-meaning with his neighbours. Do you not see how much more dangerous that makes him? To hear false doctrine from one himself plainly false and vile is no temptation at all, to hear it from one fair of countenance and reputation, speaking it with his heart’s conviction, that can be deadly seduction. It is why I fear him.’

…Augustine’s ‘Against Fortunatus’ to read. There he might find, written some years before the saint’s more orthodox outpourings, in one of his periods of sharply changing belief: ‘There is no sin unless through a man’s own will, and hence the reward when we do right things also of our own will.’ Let Elave commit that to memory, and he could quote it in his own defence. More than likely Anselm would take him at his word, and feed the suspect all manner of quotations supportive to his cause. It was a game any well-read student of the early fathers could play, and Anselm better than most.

There might be a bit more theology in this book that some might like, but I rather enjoyed it.

‘I do believe we have been given free will, and can and must use it to choose between right and wrong, if we are men and not beasts. Surely it is the least of what we owe, to try and make our way towards salvation by right action. I never denied divine grace. Surely it is the greatest grace that we are given this power to choose, and the strength to make right use of it. And see, my lord, if there is a last judgement, it will not and cannot be of God’s grace, but of what every man has done with it, whether he buried his talent or turned it to good profit. It is for our own actions we shall answer, when the day comes.’

It’s a nice little mystery, and I love the historical and theological bits, even if they aren’t to everyone’s tastes.

Publisher: MysteriousPress
Rating: 8.5/10

Categories: 8/10, British, Historical, Mystery, Re-Read     Comments (0)    



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