David Bains helps students understand how theology and culture shape religious life. He teaches course in American religious history, Christian worship, and the history of Christianity. In 2021 he is developing a new course on “Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in America” with support from Samford’s Hull Fund for Christian Scholarship. He founded and edits www.MagicCityReligion.org. It publishes students’ studies of religious life in Birmingham. Dr. Bains’s research on worship, theology, and architecture has appeared in over a dozen books and journals. A native of Hampton, Virginia, he majored in physics and religious studies at the University of Virginia and received his Ph.D. in the study of religion from Harvard University.
His recent publications include “Secularization and Sacred Space” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion, the chapter on Christianity in the textbook Understanding Religions of the World (Wiley-Blackwell), and discussions of worship and architecture in The Future of Mainline Protestantism in America, The Encyclopedia of Religion in America, and the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Christianity.
He leads tours of religious sites at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the American Society of Church History. His current research examines the intersection of denominationalism, architecture, nationalism, and urban development in Washington, D.C. He shares insights about religion in the United States on his blog, https://chasingchurches.com.
A concern for Christian unity animates much of Dr. Bains’s life and work. His early research examined Protestants’ engagement with historic traditions of Christian worship. More recently he co-edited The Development of the Church, a collection of the writings of Philip Schaff, an American pioneer in church history and ecumenism. Since arriving at Samford in 1999, Dr. Bains has actively supported Baptist, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, and United Methodist campus ministries. Throughout his life, he has been involved in both the United Methodist and the Episcopal churches.
He enjoys bicycling, photography, hiking, kayaking, and waterskiing. He and Martha, his wife, especially enjoy entertaining students at their home.
Degrees and Certifications
- B.A., University of Virginia
- A.M., Harvard University
- Ph.D., Harvard University
Awards and Honors
- S. Louis and Ann W. Armstrong Professor of Religion, 2016-18
- Elected to the North American Academy of Liturgy, 2003
- Phi Beta Kappa, University of Virginia, 1992
- “Secularization and Sacred Space.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, article published March 25, 2021
- “Beliefs and Practices.”” In Future of Mainline Protestantism in America, edited by James Hudnut-Beumler and Mark Silk, 59–82. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018.
- The Development of the Church: “The Principle of Protestantism” and Other Historical Writings of Philip Schaff, ed. with Theodore Louis Trost. Mercersburg Theology Study Series. Vol. 3. Eugene, Ore.: Wipf and Stock, 2017.
- “Church Architecture Worldwide since 1800.” In The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Christianity, edited by Lamin Sanneh and Michael McClymond, 386-98. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016.
- “Christianity.” In Understanding the Religions of the World: An Introduction, edited by Will Deming, 325-88. Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.
- “Philip Schaff: The Flow of Church History and the Development of Protestantism.” (With Theodore Louis Trost.) Theology Today 71, no. 4 (January 2015): 416-28.
- "Architecture, Protestant, From the Nineteenth Century to the Present," "Religious Thought," "Worship, Catholic," "Worship, Contemporary Currents," and "Worship, Protestant." In Encyclopedia of Religion in America, edited by Charles H. Lippy and Peter W. Williams. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2010.
- "Contemporary Worship: Trends and Patterns in Christian America." In Faith in America: Changes, Challenges, New Perspectives, Vol. 3, Personal Spirituality Today, edited by Charles H. Lippy, 1-23. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2006.
- "Conduits of Faith: Reinhold Niebuhr's Liturgical Thought." Church History 73 (March 2004): 168-194.
- “Introduction to Islam.” St. Martha’s Guild. All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Homewood, Ala. April 16, 2018.
- “Star Wars and Daoism.” Faith and the Modern Family, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Homewood, Ala. February 25, 2018.
- “Philip Schaff and the Place of the Bible in the Organic Development of Protestantism.” The Bible and the Reformation: 2017 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture. Waco, Tex., October 27, 2017.
- “History of Christianity 101.” Nine-week series. Clark Center for Theological Studies. Canterbury United Methodist Church, Mountain Brook, Ala. March to May, 2017.
- “Congregationalism, Anti-Slavery, and the Claiming of Denominational Ground in Washington, D.C.” Spring meeting of the American Society of Church History, Minneapolis, Minn., April 17, 2015.
- “Job: Wrestling with God.” Four-week series. Grace Episcopal Church, Cullman, Ala. Lent, 2015.
- “Stones and Replicas: Using the Holy Land to Christianize the American Capital.” Annual meeting of the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion, Nashville, Tenn., March 7, 2015.
- “Stones of Hope: American Protestants and Gothic Revival Churches.” Annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Baltimore, Md., November 24, 2014.
- Religious Capital: Representing Religion in Washington, D.C.
- Christian Worship in North America
- American Society of Church History
- American Academy of Religion
- Historical Society of the Episcopal Church
- North American Academy of Liturgy