If my accounting is correct, there are more references in the Bible—Old and New Testaments, combined—to God’s fury, anger, and wrath than to His love, tenderness, or grace.
Perhaps more interesting, however, is the fact that the Bible—Old and New Testaments, combined—mentions “glory” more often than all the references to wrath and love combined.
The Bible refers to the idea of “glory” and related variants (such as “glorious” and “glorify”) more than 500 times. It is among the most frequently used words within the entirety of the Bible, which I interpret as an indication of its thematic importance for the Bible as a whole book.
Curiously, the theme of “glory” (or “gloria”) is also thematically important in the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli.
For Machiavelli, “glory” is the highest aim for human action. The quest for glory motivates the rare soul filled with ambition to do something truly big, something world changing.
The soul who pursues “glory” is the kind who ushers in wholly new “modes and orders” that change forever how the rest of mankind live their lives, how they understand their world, and how they view themselves and others.
For Machiavelli, “glory” is the lofty goal reserved for rare souls who exercise what he refers to as “virtù,” which sounds similar to the classical idea of “virtue,” but in the hands of Machiavelli becomes something very different.
For Machiavelli, “virtù” is the willingness coupled with the power to accomplish whatever goals one desires, period. Not only does the end justify all means, for Machiavelli, considerations of whether the end is right or wrong are irrelevant for two reasons:
- A creator of moral modes is beyond good and evil.
- Any acknowledgement of a moral principle outside of or higher than one’s self becomes a constraint of conscience on one’s will.
GLORY & POWER
If the Bible suggests that glory and might, power and right, can all be the same thing at the same time, Machiavelli surely agrees.
So what would it mean to read Machiavelli from a Biblical point of view? What would it mean to read the Bible from a Machiavellian point of view? On what points do they concur? And where is there disagreement?
These are opportunities to plunge into the depths of human thought, to push philosophic and theological reasoning to their limits, regarding the highest and ultimate subjects. For those looking for a learning challenge, I say: Give it a whirl. And let us know what you discover.