Justin Barrett | A Psychology of Human Thriving

Throughout his journey as a Christian and a psychologist, Justin Barrett has often lamented the widespread separation between his faith and his work. As a result, much of his recent work is aimed at bringing the two together so that each can enrich the other. He is now founder and president of Blueprint 1543, a new organization aimed at integrating faith with the human sciences. Justin joins Jim to discuss Blueprint 1543 and what it means to be human in light of the truths of Christian faith and evolutionary psychology.

We are also giving away 3 copies of Justin’s new book, Thriving With Stone Age Minds on Instagram. We’d love it if you popped over to enter!

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Looks interesting and I hope to read the transcript ASAP. I applaud his goal.

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After reading the transcript I don’t have much hope for anything good in the future from this effort. I understand a short interview can not reveal everything but the most important issues with mankind were not addressed. The Law of Sin that is in the flesh that man is a slave to. No amount of trying harder to be good and do what is best for the community is going to free mankind from their slavery to sin. Sin is mankind’s master without Christ in them. The good news of death to sin through union with Christ’s death and resurrection is what mankind needs to hear. That is what the Lord accomplished in His coming and His death and resurrection, death to the lordship of sin over us. That is the message that the apostles proclaimed to set the captives free. Jesus Christ crucified and risen.

Mankind can’t thrive by any of their efforts. Eternal Life (not length of life but the nature of life, God’s life) is what must be obtained. And it only comes through union with Christ’s death and resurrection, which produces a New Creation, a New Birth. Life is found only in God and that is obtained only through union with Christ and being filled with His Spirit.

Mankind without being Born Again by the Father’s will is dead and will remain dead. Death is the nature of mankind even as they continue to breath, move and exist in this present age.

The only way mankind can thrive, live, is to know, trust, love and obey Jesus. Christ in us is our only hope, now and forever.

Again, due to the kind of animal we are, but also due to what we read about what kind of animal we are, in Scripture, what a theology teaches us about the kind of animal we are, is that we’re immensely social relational kinds of creatures.

“Evolutionary psychology and Christian theology, we think converge on that point. And so for us to thrive as individuals, the communities we are in need to be thriving as well. And if we as individuals are detracting from the thriving of, say, our family, that actually weakens our own thriving. So we all thrive, well, we each thrive when we all thrive. So that’s a starting kind of commitment.” Justin Barrett

@jstump
How does this square with the “selfish gene?” Are humans primarily selfish individuals as Dawkins says, or social creatures as Wilson says? Before we begin to apply the “truths” of evolution to human psychology we need to establish what they are.

I do not think that it is helpful to think of humans of having “Stone Age minds.” Our minds have continually changed as our culture has changed. However we seem to be stuck today in western dualism, which is flawed since it is not complete.

We need to move onward and upward to the trinitarian understanding of Reality. We need a new philosophy more than a new psychology, but a new philosophy will bring a new psychology

I started to read this transcript. What does the following mean, please?

And that’s the idea. Well, if you think about it, you don’t even have to have a real deep view of time. You know, two to 200 years ago, huge, sort of a huge portion of the world was actually living in stone age conditions.

I am part way through. I should listen through before commenting, but I fear my memory will fail me.

I have real difficulty accepting the “thriving” angle in his pitch. It seems very self-absorbed, to me. It brings to mind “prosperity gospel.” As Christians we are here to glorify God, surely. And as an agnostic, too, I thought “self help/psychology” to be the most vainglorious subject to see on the back of a book I’m looking at buying. “We all know what grant proposals are like” doesn’t reassure me on that front, either… having been there myself… sorry to be negative…

The “stone age” jibe is really problematic, too, but lemme give him a bit more rope before I get to that…

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I really enjoyed the interview, though it only gave a taste, and I look forward to reading the book to get a fuller idea of his work.
I think that what he meant by 200 years ago we were largely in the stone age, is that in the pre-industrial society, the majority of the population was still rural and dependent on small groups, Sure there were some big cities, but most people worked the land either as farmers or raising animals, and those that didn’t were in trades to support those who did. Relationships were limited to smaller groups, closer family units, and more interdependence within those groups. Today, we are isolated in big cities where our contacts are spread out, We count internet friends as close friends but have never heard their voice, In those conditions, it is difficult to be what God meant for us to be, And recognizing that can help us adapt to the new reality.

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But that’s not the stone age!

Technically no, but functionally from a psychological perspective the same dynamics were still in place.

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Ask him what he means please.

Other than Justin Barrett, can you please point to another (perhaps evangelical) Christian psychologist who is currently “working in” and promoting “evolutionary psychology”?

The promotion of eVopsych by BioLogos hasn’t done well in the past. Most Christians reject evolutionary psychology for very good reasons. Would you invite a discussion with Justin Barrett to discuss those reasons, Hillary, which are widespread even among American Christians? Or is not just acceptance of, but actual promotion of evolutionary psychology also part of BioLogos’ mission?

Hello Gregory!
Can you expand a little bit? I don’t know what reasons you’re referring to and as I looked into related topics only few months ago, I’m intrigued by what you mean by that.
Regards
Marta

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They did discuss this a little in the interview, but it was cut for time, unfortunately.

https://thethrivecenter.org/ This is the center at Fuller Seminary that has been running a program called TheoPsych, to help Christians explore the intersection of psychology and theology. Some of them there may be connected to evopsych also. Pam King is the co-author of the book they discuss in this episode.

I don’t know that it’s our intention to accept anything without critique and evaluation. But we are certainly exploring human identity here in a way that it’s important to be aware of this field. Hope that clears things up.

The referenced new book recognizes this at the very beginning, in the intro and first chapter. “Wrestling with Evolutionary Psychology, Embracing Christian Theology.” I think he takes a very balanced approach, not claiming to have all the answers or deem all aspects of either right or wrong.

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I’m sure that he will talk about it in the book, if you’re interested in knowing more. There’s only so much that can be said in an episode without also giving spoilers of a book. But it IS the title, so I’m sure he will get into it there.

I don’t see how answering a question like this would be considered a spoiler, but whatever…

Well. We can’t “ask him,” exactly. So I’m just saying it might be easier to read the book to get the answers you seek.

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Hello Marta,

Glad to make an offering in concern for the health of any Abrahamic believer here, who is contemplating whether or not to try to “marry” evolutionary psychology (eVopsych) with “(evangelical) Christian theology”. May the Lord’s people be healed from unholy alliances!

Barrett & King’s entire premise for trying to marry eVopsych with evangelical Christianity is flawed. This was demonstrated comprehensively by a philosopher in 2020, exposing eVopsych’s major oversight, which has not yet been corrected or satisfactorily answered within the field, from what I’ve read so far. So, it’s not as much just about a “Christian perspective on eVopsych”, but rather a massive general reckoning against eVopsych that would probably be worth addressing more widely, instead of just sweeping it under the rug. This will be the first time this major flaw with eVopsych or its author has been mentioned at BioLogos.

Original article: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13752-019-00336-4

In short, Barrett and King have left out far too many voices in their “analysis” of the subfield to be able to consider this book as a “balanced” approach. Instead, it reveals a highly unorthodox, problematic, and disproportionate approach.

I’m curious what your thoughts are up to this point about eVopsych, Marta, after recently looking into related topics.

Good wishes,
Gregory

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Hello Gregory

I have read the links provided, apart from the actual paper, and I did find them very interesting, thanks. But I’m not sure whether we can call it “massive general reckoning against eVopsych”, after all it’s just one paper and the author herself admits she didn’t have huge response apart from some dismissiveness. Still, I think she makes some interesting points.

  1. I’m guessing that the “major oversight” you mention is the “problem of matching”? It’s certainly true we can’t possibly know ACTUAL behaviour of our ancestors, but at the same time we can observe certain traits that exist in modern Humans that are similar to behaviour of animals. Good example would be the way some men are trying to impress women, especially with things like cars and watches, it’s very similar to some animals creating “displays” or making themselves look physically bigger in order to attract females. So at the very least, this particular behaviour must be evolution driven.
  2. Regarding dangers of over relying on eVopsych, the author mentioned male guarding behaviour of female partner, which is just nice way of putting jealousy and possessiveness, which in turn is harmful to women. Quick note here, I’d rather blame eVopsych here, rather than, like a lot of religiophobes do, blame religion, but that’s probably a whole new thread to discuss.
    Back to main topic.
    Trying to justify negative behaviours like this is certainly unacceptable, but then I can’t see how this negates evolutionary origins. We can accept something’s a result of evolution, but deny using this as an excuse, or for political purposes.

I will perhaps go into more details later, but my main area of interest a few months ago was evolutionary origin of religion, something Justin Barrett has a lot to say about. I would like to stress here that I’m absolutely not a psychologist, and in fact not ever terribly interested in psychology (because I have plenty of other interests…and it makes me think of those dreadful self-help books lol) therefore my views on the topic may not necessarily be correct, but I’m interested in having this discussion.

Regards
Marta

But you’re selling his book.

The real question as always is how do we, you and I, decide what is right or wrong. If evolution is good, that is, if it comes from God, then we need to learn to adapt to and work with others. On the other hand, if evolution is evil, that is if it is based on conflict and strife, dog eat dog, then Christians need to avoid evolutionary behavior like the plague, because it is sin…

Darwin and Dawkins seem to say that evolution is the later. My understanding of the science favors the former. It seems strange to me that someone has not come out with strong evidence that cooperation is the best way for humans to thrive that show that Darwin and Dawkins are wrong, although non-zero game theory is very close.

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