The work of the Hill Country Institute began in 2001 when a group of volunteers in the Austin area, led by Larry Linenschmidt, worked together to present a C.S. Lewis Conference, The Rediscovery of Evil: A Christian Response, to reflect on the events of 9/11. The conference featured worship, internationally recognized speakers, artistic interludes, a panel discussion, and a play in the evening on the life of Lewis. The conference was presented in partnership with local churches, various ministries, and with volunteers from over 20 churches.
The initial conference led to working with a group of faculty from several Austin area colleges and universities to present a three day conference on ethics at the University of Texas LBJ Library Auditorium. The presentation the first day, by Dean Powers of the UT Law School, was on the failure of ethics at Enron. The second day of the conference was for faculty on the topic of teaching ethics, and featured prominent speakers, breakout sessions for faculty to present papers, a luncheon for students, and a dinner and panel discussion in the evening. The third day was a public C.S. Lewis Conference with the same format as the previous C.S. Lewis Conference. Local churches and various ministries partnered for the event.
In 2005 the volunteer teams presented apologetic training events related to the first Narnia movie, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
In 2006 the Hill Country Institute was incorporated and two conferences were presented, Goodness, Truth, and Beauty: Apologetics and the Winsome Christ, in partnership with local churches, and the Hill Country Renovare Conference, in partnership with local churches and Renovare. Both conferences featured highly regarded speakers, worship, and artistic interludes.
In 2007, the Institute presented Irrigating Deserts: C.S. Lewis on Education, in partnership with Concordia University Texas, and worked with other organizations to present a Christian Scholars Forum at the University of Texas-Austin.
In 2008, the Institute collaborated with W. David O. Taylor to present Transforming Culture: A Vision of the Church and the Arts, a symposium featuring leaders in faith and art. Attendees came from 7 countries and 28 states. Partnering groups included organizations of Christians in various artistic disciplines, colleges and universities, and local churches. The symposium brought together pastors, artists, and others interested in a Christian view of faith and art. The Institute also participated in another Christian Scholars Forum and presented A Day with C.S. Lewis: Imaginative Reason and Reasoned Imagination.
In 2009, the Institute presented The Great Debate: Was Darwin Wrong on the UT campus in partnership with national and local ministries, as well as a local atheist group. The debate featured Christian scholars and atheist scholars in an open discussion. The Institute also presented Law and Clergy: Managing Risk for the 21st Century, in partnership with the Christian Legal Society.
During 2009, the Institute began the Vibrant Dance of Faith & Science Initiative. In partnership with Dan Heinze, a geophysicist and co-director of the Initiative, contacts and plans were developed to facilitate dialogue among Christians with varying approaches to faith and science
In 2010, The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science: How Science Supports Christianity and Christianity Explains Science, was presented with several national ministries as well as colleges and universities as co-sponsors. Speakers were orthodox Christian leaders-scientists and theologians representing various views in three days, including plenary presentations, panel discussions, and breakout sessions, with worship and artistic interludes. The symposium facilitated discussion and interaction among Christians leaders which broke down barriers to communication and fellowship as many people met and were on stage together for the first time. The Body of Christ also was encouraged to positively engage science and not to consider science (the study of natural phenomena), as opposed to scientism (science as providing meaning and values), as opposed to Christian faith.
In 2011 the Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science: Theology Edition, was presented in Houston. Speakers included leading proponents of the interpretation of the creation narrative in Genesis from perspectives including Young Earth, Old Earth, and approaches which do not view the creation narrative as specifying time periods for creation. The presentations and interaction gave evidence that Christians with varying views on the interpretation of the creation narrative can enjoy fellowship and work together to advance the Kingdom.
The Institute is now focused on inspiring thoughtful, informed Christians to actively engage contemporary culture with the love and mind of Christ. The Institute continues to plan and organize events which further this objective, and is also developing online resources from past events, as well as written materials for use with those resources.
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