Pleins earned his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the University of Michigan in 1987. Having done archaeological work in Jordan, Pleins' research and teaching interests include the religious debates around Charles Darwin, mythology, biblical social ethics, and the problem of evil. He latest book brings to light the long-lost "Memorial Poem" penned by George Romanes, a prominent colleague of Darwin. His current research concerns the debates over the book of Genesis in the 19th century and the on-going creation-evolution controversies. Professor Pleins retired in June 2020.
In Praise of Darwin: George Romanes and the Evolution of a Darwinian Believer (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014).
The Evolving God: Charles Darwin and the Naturalness of Religion (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013).
When the Great Abyss Opened: Classic and Contemporary Readings of Noah's Flood. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
The Social Visions of the Hebrew Bible: A Theological Introduction. Nashville, TN: Westminster John Knox, 2001.
Psalms: Songs of Tragedy, Hope and Justice. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1993.