Honorable Mention in the Foreword Indies Award in the religion category.
Images increasingly saturate our world, making present to us what is distant or obscure. Yet the power of images also arises from what they do not make present—from a type of absence they do not dispel. Joining a growing multidisciplinary conversation that rejects an understanding of images as lifeless objects, this book offers a theological meditation on the ways images convey presence into our world. Just as Christ negates himself in order to manifest the invisible God, images, Natalie Carnes contends, negate themselves to give more than they literally or materially are. Her Christological reflections bring iconoclasm and iconophilia into productive relation, suggesting that they need not oppose one another.
Investigating such images as the biblical golden calf and paintings of the Virgin Mary, Carnes explores how to distinguish between iconoclasms that maintain fidelity to their theological intentions and those that lead to visual temptation. Offering ecumenical reflections on issues that have long divided Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions, Image and Presence provokes a fundamental reconsideration of images and of the global image crises of our time.
About the author
Natalie Carnes is Associate Professor of Theology at Baylor University.
"A sophisticated and important book, Image and Presence makes a notable contribution to our understanding of what images are and the work that they do. Learned, elegant, and beautifully structured, its great virtue is to engage Christian-theological and secular-theoretical conceptions of the image in a way that deepens both and flattens neither."
—Paul Griffiths, Duke University
"Christians of many epochs—glutted with images, shocked by them—have resorted to the iconoclast's hammer or its successor, the authoritarianism of empty space. Natalie Carnes proposes a better way to live through our senses."
—Mark D. Jordan, Harvard University
"Bold in conception and subtle in its execution, this is a major contribution to the discussion of image as and in theology."
—Judith Wolfe, University of St. Andrews
"As Carnes's study makes clear, the need for fresh theologies of veneration is more desperate than ever. The image retains all its power today and perhaps more in light of the many forms it takes. This book provides much more than a caution for our image-obsessed age. It is, more importantly, a challenging and profound theology of the image that invites readers to dispense with the simplistic labels used to describe these traditions as flatly pro or con and instead recall that all churches share an earnest anticipation of where divine presence might be revealed afresh"
—Taylor Worley, Reading Religion
"Carnes engages theologically with culture at a level much deeper than the standard fare of using ancient theologian X to solve modern problem Y. She deftly interweaves art theory, sociology, literature, and contemporary philosophy into her reflections. The result is a dialogue between theology and aesthetic theory that takes work to unpack....[I]ts implications for Christian life are significant."
—Robert C. Saler, Christian Century
"[This] volume contains many fine spiritual insights, conveys a great deal of information, and introduces some important questions. Carnes does not attempt to do theology in the usual sense; rather, she reflects on images in an imaginative and personal mode. This she does extensively, covering a great number of topics, while reiterating the constant theme of transcending images in our love of them. The abundant footnotes provide the interested reader with sources in which to expand the conversation."
—Richard Viladesau, Modern Theology
"Natalie Carnes' Image and Presence: A Christological Reflection on Iconoclasm and Iconophilia is a very personal account of the author's thinking about the religious image. As such, it may be refreshing to specialists in the field and those with a serious scholarly background in image theory and religious studies."
—Clemena Antonova, International Journal of Systematic Theology