NiccolÌ_ Machiavelli and Martin Luther were two contemporaries of the early sixteenth century who recognized a theological-political crisis in their age. Though based upon vastly different foundations, they each diagnosed the crisis, explained what had contributed to it, and sought a way to resolve it. In so doing, their political theories converged. Essentially both men sought to restore temporal government to its place of honor and purpose beyond ecclesial control, and to restore an understanding of political reality so that temporal government could be well founded and efficaciously maintained. Machiavelli claimed that by going to the effectual truth of politics (rather than the imagination of it), he had departed from the writings of others. Luther boasted that not since the Apostles had spoke so highly of temporal government as he. This dissertation accounts for these boasts and their political theories, tracing them first through the common experience of a theological-political crisis, followed by their respective diagnoses and criticisms of the age, their substantive political theories, and finally the common ground between these political theories.
Both men argued against any kind of medieval universalism in government, utopian politics, or any withdrawal from or denunciation of temporal government. Both men saw political reality as imperfect and limited, a world which was morally ambiguous. In so doing Machiavelli and Luther reformed political theory.