Episode 50: When God Became an Atheist, with Kutter Callaway, author of The Aesthetics of Atheism

Can someone who is an atheist participate with God in the healing of the world? If a person who doesn’t believe in God volunteers at the local homeless shelter, should Christians dismiss that because the volunteer is not a Christian? If an atheist adopts a child from an abusive home and gives that child a new home full of love and acceptance, a place where that child can heal from the wounds of their past, are we to dismiss that because, well, God is not involved in that?

Those are the kinds of questions that Kutter Callaway and I wrestle with in this episode.  We talk about culture. We talk about the church. We talk about atheism. And we talk about “the previousness of the kingdom.”





  • Kutter Callaway is the Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary and the other of several books including The Aesthetics of Atheism.
  • Kutter makes an interesting comment: It’d possible to close yourself off to other idea or possibilities, even in the name of openness.
  • A formative book that Kutter has read in recent years is Nobody Cries When We Die by Patrick Reyes.
  • Kutter’s colleague at Fuller, Bill Dyrness, defines culture as the stuff we create from God’s creation. It’s what we make of what’s here.
  • Kutter is ordained Southern Baptist, but considers himself a reforming presence.
  • Religion “makes culture odd.” For instance, everyone eats bread and drinks wine. But we do that in an “odd” way.
  • Christianity is not separate from culture. We are called to engage culture because we are a part of the culture.
  • Lesslie Newbigin, in the The Open Secret, talks about “the previousness of the kindgdom.” God is already ahead of us in the culture and we are invited to joing God.
  • The idea that we are taking the kingdom anywhere is a very colonial mindset.
  • In The Aesthetics of Atheism, Kutter interestingly says that theism and atheism need each other.
  • Interesting thought: In that moment when Jesus on the cross feels abandoned by the Father, God becomes an atheist.
  • Can atheism participate with God in bringing shalom into the world?
  • God’s Wider Presence by Rob Johnston addresses this question.
  • The Bible is full of prophetic voices from outside of God’s people.
  • Culture can be a destroyer of shalom. It can also be a restorer of shalom.
  • Kutter explains why he has become critical of social media in recent years. It is based on algorithms that are designed to manipulate our behavior.
  • A healthy posture for pastors and ministry leaders to take toward culture is the posture of the injured man on the side of the road in the Good Samaritan story. It is a posture of humility and receptivity. Culture is like the untouchable Samaritan, but we need to let it help us.
  • The right question today might not be, “How do we help culture?” Rather, “How do we listen to, learn from, and humble ourselves in ways that allow us to be evangelized by the God who is at work out there?”
  • Learn more about Kutter at www.kuttercallaway.com and listen to his podcast, The Kutter Callaway Podcast.




Links to Amazon are affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through any of these links, I’ll receive a small commission–which will help pay for the Spiritual Life and Leadership podcast!  🙂

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