Theistic evolution is the idea that classical Jewish, Christian, or Muslim religious teachings about God and creation are compatible with the scientific understanding of Darwinian evolution. Theistic evolution claims that God created the universe but that he uses evolution and natural selection to generate its biological complexity. Adherents of theistic evolution vary in the degree to which they postulate intervention by God -- some might say he intervenes personally to create new types of species, others that he just set the initial conditions and lets things run pretty much on their own. Terms largely synonymous with theistic evolution include "Christian Darwinism" and "Evolutionary Creationism."
Though theistic evolution has gained popularity only with the introduction and adoption of Charles Darwin's theories on evolution and natural selection, it is based on the older idea that the creation story in the book of Genesis is allegorical rather than literal. This concept appears in the Christian writings of St. Augustine (4th century) and the Jewish writings of Philo of Alexandria (1st century), Maimonides (12th century) and Gersonides (13th century). Modern adherents of theistic evolution point out that the Bible was written in a pre-scientific age for the purpose of spiritual instruction, and it would be a mistake to take it as scientifically literal. Other Christians and Jews disagree and argue that the creation story in Genesis should be taken literally, with man created on the sixth day of the universe's existence.
There are many Christian, Jewish, and Islamic denominations that are accepting of or at least neutral towards biological evolution. One example would be the Roman Catholic Church -- Darwinian evolutionary theory is commonly taught in Catholic schools. However, the Catholic Church has been somewhat vague about its positions in official pronouncements. Of the four major denominations of Judaism (Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox), three accept theistic evolution, with parts of one, Orthodox Judaism, especially ultra-Orthodox Judaism, rejecting it. There is great debate on theistic evolution within Orthodox Judaism, where many recognize the Talmud as scientific truth. In Islam, theistic evolution is accepted among the more liberal camps.
Though there are thousands of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic scientists who believe in theistic evolution, no amount of arguing or persuading is likely to convince the millions of believers that regard Genesis as a historical and factual scientific account of the creation of the earth. The diverse interpretations of Genesis used by these believers can be found in our articles on Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism.