Thriving with Stone Age Minds: Evolutionary Psychology, Christian Faith, and the Quest for Human Flourishing, By Justin L. Barrett

Thriving with Stone Age Minds

Evolutionary Psychology, Christian Faith, and the Quest for Human Flourishing

BioLogos Books on Science and Christianity

by Justin L. Barrett
With Pamela Ebstyne King

Thriving with Stone Age Minds
  • Length: 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: July 13, 2021
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 5293
  • ISBN: 9780830852932

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What does God's creation of humanity through the process of evolution mean for human flourishing? The emerging field of evolutionary psychology remains controversial, perhaps especially among Christians. Yet according to Justin Barrett and Pamela Ebstyne King it can be a powerful tool for understanding human nature and our distinctively human purpose.

Thriving with Stone Age Minds provides an introduction to evolutionary psychology, explaining key concepts like hyper-sociality, information gathering, and self-control. Combining insights from evolutionary psychology with resources from the Bible and Christian theology, Barrett and King focus fresh attention on the question, What is human flourishing? When we understand how humans still bear the marks of our evolutionary past, new light shines on some of the most puzzling features of our minds, relationships, and behaviors.

One key insight of evolutionary psychology is how humans both adapt to and then alter our environments, or "niches." In fact, we change our world faster than our minds can adapt—and then gaps in our "fitness" emerge. In effect, humans are now attempting to thrive in modern contexts with Stone Age minds. By integrating scientific evidence with wisdom from theological anthropology, we can learn to close up nature-niche gaps and thrive, becoming more what God has created us to be.

BioLogos Books on Science and Christianity invite us to see the harmony between the sciences and biblical faith on issues including cosmology, biology, paleontology, evolution, human origins, the environment, and more.

"There are many books that discuss why faith and science need to be related, but there are few that move on to discussing how to relate them. Thriving with Stone Age Minds is an exciting exception. Justin Barrett and Pamela King are able guides who give us a way to think about evolution in such a way that doesn't flatten the world but opens us to mystery. Beautifully written and richly argued, this book is a must for anyone who is interested in evolution and faith. For pastors and students in practical theology, this book is a treasure."

Andrew Root, Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, author of The Congregation in a Secular Age

"The nature of the flourishing life has been at the heart of debates for millennia. Competing and often incommensurable traditions describe, articulate, and recommend their vision of the good life. For centuries, the question of what it means to flourish was at the heart of great religions and philosophies, and science took a back seat. No longer. Barrett and King's goal is to bridge the historically unbridgeable gulf between Christian theology and evolutionarily psychology. Their rapprochement is intellectually engaging, emotionally satisfying, and spiritually illuminating. This book is required reading for the thinking Christians wrestling with the most important human question: What is the true, flourishing life, and how can we live it?"

Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, and author of The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns

"The kingdom, church, and world need more writing with this kind of thoughtful critical analysis. Thriving with Stone Age Minds is a welcome addition to the canon of faith and science and provides abundant examples for how to incorporate evolutionary psychology into one's daily Christian life."

Matthew Nelson Hill, associate professor of philosophy at Spring Arbor University

"This elegant, engaging, and at times witty book brings evolutionary psychology into constructive dialogue with Christian theology. With exemplary conceptual and logical clarity, it works toward a vision for human thriving that is congruent with both contemporary psychological science and biblical tradition. Full of scholarship but always grounded in the recognizable world of everyday human life, it offers some intriguing possibilities for further reflection and practical action."

Joanna Collicutt, University of Oxford, author of The Psychology of Christian Character Formation

"In a world that seems to change at ever-accelerating speed, Justin Barrett and Pamela Ebstyne King help us understand how our evolutionary past gives us particular, ancient tools for negotiating our world and why that's dizzying. At the same time, they demonstrate how our 'Stone Age minds' can be transformed so that we thrive in the telos of the Gospel."

Greg Cootsona, author of Mere Science and Christian Faith, faculty in religion at Chico State University

"This book articulates in a fresh way why and how purpose and other virtues are essential to human flourishing. Educators, parents, and others concerned about our public and private thriving need to fully understand these critically important ideas. Barrett and King's account expands the reach of these ideas through a close look at the intersection of three frames of reference: moral psychology, evolutionary biology, and Christian thought. The result is unique and fascinating."

Anne Colby, coauthor of The Power of Ideals

"This book is a model of Christian discernment, considering the latest scientific research in the light of Christian faith to address challenging questions of our day. Barrett and King explain the established findings of evolutionary psychology (EP) while shedding the pop psychology and anti-God baggage that is often added to it. Yet their goal is not merely showing the intellectual compatibility of EP with Christianity but 'placing evolutionary psychology in the service of Christian theology' to address larger questions. By better understanding human nature and the traits that make us unique from animals, we can better fulfill our purpose as God's image bearers and work more effectively to build communities that thrive in the ways God intended. The book's readable style, vivid examples, and helpful study guide make it a great book for students, book clubs, science fans, and pastors."

Deborah Haarsma, president of BioLogos


1. Wrestling with Evolutionary Psychology, Embracing Christian Theology
2. What Is Thriving?
3. Why Aren't We Thriving?: Nature-Niche Gap
4. Social Gaps
5. Getting and Using Information
6. Self-Control
7. A Summary and a Puzzle
8. What Is Your Telos?
Study Guide by Madeleine Hernandez and Justin Barrett
General Index
Scripture Index


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Author photo of Justin L. Barrett

Justin L. Barrett (PhD, Cornell University) is the founder and president of Blueprint 1543 and adjunct professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he was formerly director of the Thrive Center for Human Development and chief project developer in the Office for Science, Theology, and Religion Initiatives. His books include Born Believers and Cognitive Science, Religion, and Theology.