May 1, 2013

Evolutionary Psychology and Christian Views on Human Thriving

Thrive faculty and students engage scholars on evolutionary psychology, spirituality, and thriving.

Project Dates

May 2013—August 2015

Thrive Research Team

  • Pamela King, Principal Investigator
  • Justin Barrett, Principal Investigator
  • James Furrow, Principal Investigator
  • Tyler Greenway, Student Researcher
  • Sarah Schnitker, Consultant
  • Oliver Crisp, Consultant
  • William Whitney, Consultant

Funded By

This study was made possible by the BioLogos Foundation.

Project Overview

In this project, we demonstrated the fruitfulness of placing evolutionary psychology and Christian theological anthropology in direct conversation by considering the question: What is human thriving? Even for Christians open to evolutionary creation, evolutionary psychology is still regarded with anything from suspicion to outright hostility. Evolutionary psychology need not be practiced in a way hostile to theism or Christianity. It holds intellectual and methodological resources that may invigorate Christian psychology around some of humanity’s biggest questions. We proposed to diffuse the enmity between Christians and evolutionary sciences by taking one topic of great importance to Christianity (human thriving) and examining how Christian theology and evolutionary psychology working together can be more productive and fruitful than either working independently, or worse, working against each other. The result will be progress (or increased understanding) toward human thriving—and also an example for other Christianity-evolutionary psychology engagements.



As part of the “Evolutionary Psychology and Christian Views on Human Thriving” project, our team hosted three forums to receive feedback from experts in different fields. These valuable suggestions have helpfully shaped this project into what we hope we will be a useful guide for both better understanding human thriving, but also for understanding how evolutionary psychology and Christianity may work together to produce richer resources.


Theology Forum

Our first forum was held in September, 2013 and was focused on thriving from a theological perspective. Our team prepared a position paper presenting the contributions that a variety of doctrines have made to understanding what it means for humans to thrive. Forum participants brought with them their comments and critiques helping us shape our theological stance on thriving and focusing us more intently on topics such as pneumatology, ecclesiology, eschatology, sin, suffering, and non-Christian thriving.


Evolutionary Psychology Forum

Our second forum was held in June, 2014 and was focused on thriving from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. Our team prepared another position paper presenting our thoughts on how evolutionary psychology can guide notions of thriving and create a framework for understanding why a thriving life is often difficult to obtain. Experts in various fields of psychology brought their unique expertise with them and helpfully critiqued this paper. These critiques further drew our attention to the importance of the strengths of the human species and how these strengths contribute to our evolutionary fitness.


Clergy Forum

Our third forum was held in November, 2014 and was focused on the application of thriving research in ministry contexts. Some members of our team prepared a manuscript describing our previous work and how this work might apply to Christians. Forum participants again responded with helpful critiques detailing what they believed would be a useful resource for the Christians in their parishes. Their comments highlighted the importance of applying research on thriving to ministry contexts.

Related Publications

Thriving with Stone Age Minds

Justin Barrett, president of Blueprint 1543, and Pamela King, executive director of the Thrive Center, examine evolutionary psychology as a tool for understanding human nature and our distinctively human purpose. The first of its kind, this book combines evolutionary psychology with Christian theology to focus on the question: What is human thriving, specifically in a modern world? Dr. Barrett and Dr. King dig deeper by exploring how we can close the gap between our natural psychological capacities and the environments in which we’re forced to function.

Available to order on Amazon and InterVarsity Press.


  • King, P. E., Barrett, J., Greenway, T.S., Schnitker, S. A. & Furrow, J. L. (2017). Mind the gap: Evolutionary psychological perspectives on human thriving. Journal of Positive Psychology13(4), 1-10. doi:10.1080/17439760.2017.1291855
  • Greenway, T.S., Barrett, J.L. & Furrow, J.L. (2016). Theology and thriving: Teleological considerations based on the doctrines of christology and soteriology. Journal of Psychology and Theology44(3), 179-189.
  • King, P.E. & Whitney, W. (2015). “What’s the ‘positive’ in positive psychology: Teleological considerations based on creation and imago doctrines,” Journal of Psychology and Theology, 43(1), 47-59.


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