Reflections on Genesis 18
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Reflections on Genesis 18

Will God intervene in world affairs and spare humanity from the consequences of humanity’s selfish, destructive behavior? I am skeptical that God violates the laws of nature, for at least two reasons. First, experience tells me that the laws of nature seem to be followed regularly, regardless of the consequences for individual humans and animals. Jesus said that God “makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” Matthew 5:45. When planes crash, we do not find corpses of evil people while righteous people walk away unscathed.
Second, I would not praise God if God had the power to prevent the torture and murder of innocent individuals yet chose not to intervene. Such a God would strike me as a monster unworthy of respect. Yet, I do believe that God does intervene in world affairs, and I think God’s humans and nonhuman beings are the vehicles. I come to this conclusion by noting that consciousness is not, as best we can tell, a product of physical forces, which suggests that consciousness derives from a divine force. I believe that all conscious beings (human and nonhuman) have a spark of the divine, and this gives us the potential to be vehicles of divine action in the world.
This leads me to reflect on Genesis 18, in which Abraham asks God if Sodom will be destroyed if there are 50 righteous men among the wicked people of the city. God says that the city would be spared. Abraham keeps lowering the number until it reaches 10, and God says that God will spare the city if there are only 10 people. God then leaves Abraham, and the reader does not learn the smallest number of people needed to spare Sodom. 
Recalling last week’s discussion about how violence and injustice are ultimately self-destructive, I think that the lesson here is that, if there are enough righteous people, they can change the ways of the wicked and spare the city from self-destruction. What if there are less than ten righteous people? What if there is only one? I think it is important that we not have the answer – there is always a possibility, however remote, that one righteous person can start a change that will ultimately spare the city.
One might wonder who is righteous, since Paul said, “None is righteous, no, not one” Romans 3:10 and “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God” Romans 3:23? I think we all have the capacity for righteousness and evil, and none of us is purely one or the other. Perhaps none of us can count as one full person in the quest to bring righteousness to a world filled with evil, but we are called to our best. This, I think, is what faithful living is about.

Go on to: Essay: Can We Be Spared?
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