You cannot tour Florence, Italy without hearing the names of the great celebrities of the past. In one church alone La Chiesa della Santa Croce (Holy Cross Church) three famous people are buried there: Michaelangelo, Galileo, and Niccolo’ Macchiavelli.
Macchiavelli was one of the most influential political theorists of all time. His ideas (in his book “The Prince”) were decidedly anti-Christian. He believed that public and private morality were two separate things. A good ruler is concerned with the stability of his reign first, then with the stability and prosperity of his subjects second. It is better for a prince to be feared, than loved. Therefore, a good prince must be willing to do whatever it takes to secure his rule and pacify his people. Brute force, deceit, and terror are all on the table of options for a “wise” and “virtuous” ruler.
Macchiavelli used biblical characters to illustrate his views. He saw Moses as a success, while he thought Jesus as a failure. Moses was a military leader who wiped out his enemies and led his people to the edge of a new world. His Law code with its numerous capital and corporal punishments would keep people in line.
He saw Jesus as too lenient and pacifistic. Jesus did not establish an earthly dynasty, and He actually allowed His enemies to kill Him. (Apparently Macchiavelli was not a great student or admirer of the Bible.) In his day, Macchiavelli believed that Savonarola was too much like Christ, too merciful, too peaceful, and that is why he failed.
Savonarola’s revival fizzled, but Macchiavelli’s writing flourished in the politics of his day–and even today. What he wrote was really nothing new, he just said it “better”.
What if Renaissance Italy had experienced a true biblical revival and reformation?