This profound moment in our understanding of Joan of Arc’s spirituality (see the previous chapter) leads us now to an expanded discussion and the necessity of a general statement of our thesis. If Joan’s inquisitors in 1431 were part of a new school of philosophical thought, one that endures even to this day, versus Joan herself whose understanding derived from the Church’s traditional orientation reflected in most of the early Church Fathers, then we might say that the “modernists” movement began much earlier than 20th century when Pope St. Pius X warned against it, or even earlier than the so-called Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries.
“The Church Fathers looked primarily to Plato as the foremost Greek philosopher. He first proposed the idea of ‘Universals,’ that is of ideal prototypes of things like ‘Man’ and ‘Horse,’ as well as abstract qualities like ‘Love’ and ‘Honor.’ “
Coulombe, Charles. Desire & Deception: How Catholics Stopped Believing (pp. 17-18). Tumblar House. Kindle Edition.
What, then, was this new movement already in force in the 15th century? It was the introduction of Aristotelianism into the faith-life of the Church two centuries earlier and, more importantly, its usurpation of the traditional Platonic orientation toward belief and understanding.
“Although Aristotle’s works were placed in the curriculum of the University of Paris in 1252, St. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) was the first great scholastic to experiment with integrating Aristotelianism with the Faith. But the greatest exponent of this work was his illustrious pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).”
Coulombe, Charles. Desire & Deception: How Catholics Stopped Believing (p. 45). Tumblar House. Kindle Edition.
To believe like the Platonic-oriented Church of the Apostles, Church Fathers, and early Middle Ages as did Joan of Arc, meant that the good will to believe came before understanding for the true believer. Those of good will first recognized the truth in the faith and thirsted to understand it as a result. For the latter, Aristotelian “modernists” of the Middle Ages, intellect came before will. Those of this skeptical self-will needed to see a matter proven before they could believe it; they needed first to understand it. In the latter, we must understand before we believe, which creates a crisis of faith. In the former, “we believe that we might understand” (St. Anselm) which brings the Kingdom God on earth as it is in Heaven. Joan of Arc held the latter philosophical orientation, which can be described more concretely as follows:
“So two pagans, faced with the Faith, will react differently. The one, motivated to a greater or lesser degree by love of Truth, responds immediately or gradually to the Faith, thereby embracing it despite whatever kind of unpleasantness or personal renunciations might be necessary to do so. The other, whose Will is dominated by love of Self, and reacting strictly in terms of what will please or convenience him (either personally or by means of kindred, etc.), rejects the Faith. Yet both are equipped with roughly equal intellects.”
Coulombe, Charles. Desire & Deception: How Catholics Stopped Believing (p. 19). Tumblar House. Kindle Edition.
Thus, our thesis in this devotional reflection on Joan of Arc is that she was a Platonic Mystic in a newly emerging Aristotelian world, the latter orientation creating a crisis of belief in the world of faith. Joan believed by her Good Will and responded immediately to faith as the result and with obvious good fruits as her validation. This created conflict with the more skeptical minds of her judges. She was executed as much for her Platonic orientation as she was for any supposed heresy or political insensibilities. She believed, and her understanding of what France was, and is eternally in the mind of God, as well as how to save France and crown its King, was based on that Platonic Mysticism. Her host of judges from the “liberal” University of Paris were motivated by a political and theological bias grounded in the new Aristotelian reductionism. Being of the same faith, they nevertheless could not see eye to eye with Joan of Arc because they understood the faith through very different philosophical lenses. This struggle within the Church remains an issue to this day, which is why the study of Joan of Arc is so important.
To be clear, we have no issue with Aristotle’s influence alone. We value “the Philosopher,” as Thomas Aquinas called him, and are edified by his numerous works. Our issue, though, is with the usurpation of Aristotle over Plato as the primary influence in coming to belief and in understanding the eternal nature of the Church and of Christ’s teachings.
In sum, our thesis is that the supremacy of Aristotelianism over Platonism since the 13th century is the cause of the modern crisis of belief and of the split in the modern era Church and that Joan of Arc, as a traditional Christian neoplatonist and victim of a newly emerging Aristotelian world, is a most worthy subject for demonstrating our thesis.