Although to most people the question of how old the earth is is not even on their radar, many Christians spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to figure this out. The earth has scientifically been dated as 4.54 billion years old, but there are many who would say that it is actually only around 10,000 years old. The two different sides are called Old Earth Creationism and Young Earth Creationism and are summarized below.
Old Earth Creationists would say that the earth is in fact 4.54 billion years old as evidenced from such things as: scientific fossil records that are aged millions of years old, the millions of years to equate for continental drift and such things as coral reefs that would take much longer than 20 thousand years to grow.
They look at the verses in the Bible such as Matthew 1.8-9 where three generations are skipped in a genealogy section or at Matthew 1.20 where a 1,000 year period is skipped to show us the point that the verse is making. This view would say that the Bible is not trying to tell us how old the earth is was written for very different purposes in mind. They would say that the creation account found in Genesis were not literal 24 hour periods, but were long periods of time.
The supporting arguments for this are that the word for day or “yom” is not only used for a literal 24 hour period, but also as en extended period of time, such as Genesis 2.4 and Ecclesiastes 7.14. Also, day 6 has so many events (creation of animals, creation of man, creation of woman, creation of plants and trees, naming of all the animals by Adam) that it is unlikely that it only encompasses a 24 hour period. The Old Earth argument would also say that it would be deceitful for God to create such scientifically provable dating techniques such as residual heat or the age of stars or even for him to spread fossils that are millions of years old out onto the earth when they are really only 10,000 years old.
The best argument for Young Earth Argument are the creation verses such as Genesis 1.5 that state, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” People who hold this view would say that the earth is really only between 5,700 years and 20,000 years old. One caution about taking this as completely literal, however, is that there was no sun for the earth until day four, (even when there was plants on the earth in day 3) so it was not like a typical literal day that we have today. There are times in the Scriptures that the word for day (“yom” in the original language that the Bible was written in) does mean a literal 24 hour period such as Exodus 20.9-10 and Leviticus 23.27 but again it does not necessitate that this was the usage of the word in the creation account.
To summarize, reading the creation account as 24 hour literal days may seem easier to our western way of interpretation, but there is no scientific data or reasoning to show this. The original account was actually written in poetry and most likely was not even trying to tell us exactly how old the earth is. It is even possible, as Youngblood states, that it was completely poetic and that days one, two and three were just showing us that God created the earth, while days four, five and six are showing that he filled his habitation with creatures. This is known as the Literary Framework Interpretation.
The scientific evidence leans towards Old Earth Creationism, and frankly we should not try to draw a clear conclusion where the Bible has not even given us enough information to do that. Today, take a walk outside and just thank God that he made such beautiful things, including you and me.