I have a detailed treatment of this subject on my website. The broad points made in that article are as follows.
First, scripture is is clear that the creation in and of itself is sufficient evidence of God's existence that mankind is held eternally accountable on the basis of creation alone:
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Romans 1:19-23 (ESV; emphasis mine)
Second, ancient Hebrew is a language much more limited in vocabulary than modern English, some 10,000 words to the latter's 150,000 words in common usage. This means that Hebrew words have multiple literal meanings, and discerning which of the multiple meanings was intended requires other evidence, from context, from the common knowledge and from sources completely separate to the text.
English boasts one of the richest vocabularies in the world. It gives those who speak and write the language an ability to make very fine distinctions. The Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines approximately 160,000 English words. Ancient Hebrew, by contrast, has a very small vocabulary. In fact, the entire OT was written using only 8,674 Hebrew (and Aramaic) words, and these words are formed from only 2,552 unique root words. Due to the disparity, Hebrew terms are typically far broader and less specific than their English counterparts. Each Hebrew word can, on average, be translated into several possible English words depending on context.
Reasons to Believe
The old-creation position takes Genesis quite literally and as an historic account; but words like Yom (Day) and the phrase "there was evening and there was morning" have much deeper meaning than that implied by the English translations.
The Hebrew word Yôm, as used in scripture, has three different literal definitions:
- Any part of the daylight hours,
- a twenty four hour period, and
- any finite period of time.
The same is true of the phrase, "And there was evening, and there was morning". Not only does this seem to be idiomatic Hebrew connoting an progression from something less ordered to something more ordered, but the underlying words for evening and morning connote "hiding" and "revealing", respectively. And have you ever wondered that the phrase actually does not include the daylight hours?
Hebrew scholar and physicist Gerald Schroeder, in his Book Genesis and the Big Bang, makes a compelling case that the Hebrew phrase has a deeper meaning than modern English speakers appreciate.
The Hebrew word for "evening" is erev. This is the literal meaning of the word, although the root of erev carries with it implications far beyond that of a setting Sun. What is the visual sensation for evening? Darkness begins. Objects become obscure, blurred. The root of erev means just that, "mixed up, stirred together, disorderly".
The Hebrew for "morning" is boker. Its meaning is quite the opposite of erev. Morning brings first light. Objects, visually mingled by the dark of night, become distinct entities and this is the root meaning of boker, "discernable, able to be distinguished, orderly".
Had the text said, "and there was morning and there was evening," our concept of a day might have been better satisfied. The sequence would have at least included the light of the day. But had the text followed this human logic, it would have forfeited its cosmic message. [...] We are being told, that within this parcel of space where mankind was to stake his first roots, there was a systematic flow from disorder -- chaos or "evening" -- to order or "morning".
Genesis and the Big Bang (Chapter 6)
Third, and this bears back on Romans 1:19-23, the old-creation position expects that observations of God's creation should reveal God; the Bible says that this is so. For the Bible to make such a claim and for the creation to then appear to be old while in fact being young would make God a cosmic deceiver and liar.
And it's not as simple as claiming that God created with the appearance of age; the best example of that is light from distant galaxies (and that these galaxies are far, far away is no longer contested). Such light, has either been travelling for billions of years, or it was created "in transit"; but if the latter there is a problem because the light carries information of past events and if the events never happened then the created light is a created deception (my article has a detailed explanation of this problem).
Fourth, there is no compelling biblical evidence that animals did not die before the fall and certainly no support for the idea that animal death is of any eternal significance at all. The scriptures usual used to argue that there was no death before the fall are usually quoted out of context and can all be clearly shown to be referring to human death, not animal death. For example:
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned -- 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:12-17 (ESV; emphasis mine)
Finally, the issue of this creation (a) being temporal and finite, destined to expire and (b) having fixed laws of physics, coupled with Revelations description of a new eternal creation with quite different laws of physics make it abundantly clear that this creation was always an interim step in God's plan, and was never the end-game:
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV)
And that it was always in the plan of God for this creation to pass away and for a the new heavens and new earth to replace this creation seems clear from Jesus himself when he said:
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Mathew 25:24 (ESV; emphasis mine)