The Science of Virtue

Why Positive Psychology Matters to the Church

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Christianity Today Book Award Winner
Outreach Recommended Resource of the Year (Counseling and Relationships)

The church and science have drifted apart over the past century. Today the church is often deemed irrelevant by those who trust science, and science is often deemed irrelevant by those whose primary loyalties are to the church. However, this book shows that the new science of virtue--the field of positive psychology--can serve as a bridge point between science and the church and can help renew meaningful conversation.

In essence, positive psychology examines how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled. Mark McMinn clarifies how positive psychology can complement Christian faith and promote happiness and personal flourishing. In addition, he shows how the church can help strengthen positive psychology. McMinn brings the church's experience and wisdom on six virtues--humility, forgiveness, gratitude, grace, hope, and wisdom--into conversation with intriguing scientific findings from positive psychology. Each chapter includes a section addressing Christian counselors who seek to promote happiness and fulfillment in others.

Introduction: A New Conversation about Virtue
1. Wisdom
2. Forgiveness
3. Gratitude
4. Humility
5. Hope
6. Grace
Conclusion: Let's Work Together


"There are few authors and psychologists that I admire more than Mark McMinn. With The Science of Virtue, he has done it again. He invites the reader to a Christian perspective on positive psychology that ratifies Scripture by presenting the latest evidence-based science. Wise and compassionate, this book is simultaneously edifying and inspiring."

Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology, University of California, Davis; editor-in-chief, The Journal of Positive Psychology; author of Gratitude Works! and Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier

"In The Science of Virtue, Mark McMinn has written an exquisite book on how the psychology of virtue (that is, positive psychology) can bridge theology and science. Mark addresses some of the most important topics in Christian psychology: wisdom, forgiveness, gratitude, humility, hope, and grace. This book can profoundly affect psychologists, pastors, and theologians, but its value to the person in the pew is its real strength. Judging by its quality, this will be one of my top books--secular or Christian--for the year."

Everett L. Worthington Jr., author of Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope

"Thoughtful, balanced, and sensitively written, The Science of Virtue offers a compelling examination of ways in which positive psychology and the church can inform and learn from each other."

Julie Exline, professor of psychology, Case Western Reserve University

"The Science of Virtue is a wonderfully written and excellent book by Mark McMinn on positive psychology and the church, covering six key virtues: wisdom, forgiveness, gratitude, humility, hope, and grace. It presents the latest research findings from positive psychology as well as biblical perspectives on these virtues in a very helpful way. McMinn also shares graciously, humbly, and vulnerably from his own life experiences. Highly recommended!"

Siang-Yang Tan, professor of psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary; author of Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Christian Perspective

"Forgiveness. Gratitude. Hope. Wisdom. Throughout the joy, grief, and trials of life, Christian virtues offer evidence of our love for God--to our neighbors and to ourselves. The Science of Virtue is a helpful, thoughtful work and belongs in every Christian church, school, and home library."

Tim Clinton, president, American Association of Christian Counselors

"Mark McMinn is the rare scholar who can masterfully integrate scientific psychology, Christian theology, and counseling practice. In The Science of Virtue, he places the best of contemporary positive psychology research in fruitful dialogue with ancient Christian wisdom. McMinn's writings are always intellectually stimulating with fresh insights on important interdisciplinary questions, but it is the practical or formational dimension of his writing that sets his work apart. This book not only contributed to my understanding of key Christian virtues but also gave me clear strategies for practicing the virtues."

Steven J. Sandage, Albert and Jessie Danielsen Professor of Psychology of Religion and Theology, Boston University

"Mark McMinn has written an important book concerning the compatibility of faith and science. He marries the role of virtuous living with scientific findings and encourages both the church and the academy to cooperate in an effort to help people become all they were created to be. Anyone of faith who counsels people should use this book as a guide to practice and thinking."

Linda Mintle, Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine

The Author

  1. Mark R. McMinn

    Mark R. McMinn

    Mark R. McMinn (PhD, Vanderbilt University), a licensed psychologist, is professor of psychology and director of integration in the graduate department of clinical psychology at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. He previously helped found the PsyD...

    Continue reading about Mark R. McMinn


Christianity Today 2018 Book Award Winner
Outreach 2018 Recommended Resource of the Year (Counseling and Relationships)

"McMinn argues that positive psychology can be thought of as the contemporary science of virtue. He shows how the basic tenets of this movement--gratitude, wisdom, humility, forgiveness, grace, and hope--could shape more relevant and effective ministry for pastors and counselors. McMinn carefully parses what can be learned from research, illustrates how a biblical understanding of virtues can push the conversation even further, and then introduces ways these important ideas might influence congregational life and the practice of Christian counseling."

Mindy Caliguire,

Christianity Today

"It's high time a Christian psychologist explores the insightful and helpful field of positive psychology from a biblical perspective. This book shows us how we can learn from it--and how it can learn from the church. McMinn does this masterfully."

Les and Leslie Parrott,


"The Christian church has had a tense relationship with science for centuries (to put it mildly), but McMinn's intriguing look at positive psychology is an effort to reinforce the delicate bridge between the two. To do so, McMinn draws upon current and recent research on virtues--much of which is being conducted by Christian social scientists. . . . Treading softly in his exploration, McMinn recognizes that a melding of psychological research with Christian principles may be met with resistance by some readers. Despite the challenges, which McMinn seems well aware of, he persists, and I think his gentle approach has the potential to win over even the most skeptical of readers. . . . McMinn does not shy away from discussing the limitations of science or the studies conducted, and his honesty is both refreshing and helpful in understanding what science can and cannot accomplish in the study of virtues. Nor does McMinn fail to confront the failings of the church in its own practice of the virtues it professes. . . . It's an intricate balancing act, to be both scientist and Christian, and to attempt to weave those two sides together in a way readers will hear, accept, and take to heart, but I believe McMinn succeeds at the task in The Science of Virtue."

Alisa Williams,

Englewood Review of Books