For anyone who wants to check out the dialogue, it begins just shy of the 49 minute mark…
I think that I would respond first by clarifying the reference you’re making (since I think you’re making an implicit reference to Scripture incorrectly, and I’d like to start by making sure we have our ducks in a row), and then offering some definitions of terms, and finally examining what these references actually do (or do not!) say…
First off, in your intro to your question, you state that God is looking for ten righteous men in Sodom; you then ask why, in light of Lot’s actions, does God call Lot ‘righteous’ and save him. From the way you ask the question, it seems you’re pointing to the question of ‘ten righteous men’ in Genesis 18 and then pointing at Lot as an example of a righteous man on whose behalf God might spare Sodom. The question, then, is whether the events of Genesis 19 fit your description – that in Genesis, Lot is a “righteous man.” On the surface of it, I would say that this is a premature conclusion that doesn’t necessarily fit the narrative. After all, Sodom does get destroyed, and there isn’t any mention of even nine righteous men, such that we might conclude that Lot is saved through his righteousness!
But… why, then, is Lot saved? The narrative provides an answer: “[God] remembered Abraham and sent Lot away from the upheaval that occurred when God overthrew the cities where Lot had been living.” So, we see that, according to the author of Genesis 19, the reason that Lot is saved has nothing to do with his personal merits; rather, Lot is saved because of God’s relationship with Abraham. This, I think, is critical – but we need to look at two other Scripture references to understand why.
The practical upshot, though, is that we can’t look at Genesis 19 and conclude that God saved Lot “because Lot was righteous.”
So… from where do we get the notion that Lot is righteous? Actually, this assertion is in the Bible, but we have to turn to the 2nd Letter of Peter to find it. In 2 Peter 2:7-8, we find that “[God] rescued Lot, a righteous man oppressed by the licentious conduct of unprincipled people (for day after day that righteous man living among them was tormented in his righteous soul at the lawless deeds that he saw and heard)”.
But, what does this mean? Is it saying that God rescued Lot because he was righteous? Or rather, does it simply assert that Lot was righteous and God saved Lot? I would suggest that it’s the latter. Moreover, I think that this makes perfect sense if we look at it in the context of Genesis 18. There, the writer explains why God bothered explaining His plans to Abraham: “I have singled him out that he may direct his children and his household in the future to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD may put into effect for Abraham the promises he made about him.” So, by this description, God shares His plans for Sodom with Abraham for a distinct purpose – for the sake of helping Abraham teach his descendants to ‘keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just’. And this fits perfectly well into the point of 2 Peter 2:4-9; that is, that “the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment”.
So, according to Genesis 18, God’s actions in Sodom allowed Abraham the means through which to teach his children God’s ways. And, what were these ways? 2 Peter 2 asserts that they are “to rescue the devout from trial”. So, having examined these verses, can we say, as you have, that God rescued Lot ‘because he was righteous’? I would say that this rationale isn’t at all what Scripture is suggesting!
So, if God isn’t saving Lot for his righteousness, per se, what’s going on here? Is this an example of God being inconsistent? I think I would argue that this is not the case; and, to see my point, it’s necessary to define terms. ‘Righteous’, as Donkey suggests, doesn’t mean ‘perfect’ or ‘sinless’. So, throughout the Bible, we see that God saves His people – who are right in His eyes – even though they’re not sinless. I think that this distinction in terms is essential: we’re not saying that God saves the sinless; we’re only saying that God saves sinners who are righteous.
But, haven’t I just taken a long time simply to answer your question – that God saves Lot because he’s righteous? No, I don’t think so: God doesn’t save Lot – or any of us – because of our righteousness; rather, God simply saves. They aren’t saved because they’re righteous, per se – they’re saved because God is God. Am I playing semantic games? I don’t think so: after all, I’m saying that you can’t argue that God saved Lot because he was sinless (since you could disprove that easily), nor that God saved Lot since he was righteous (since you could dispute Lot’s righteousness). Instead, the narrative only shows that God saves because He’s God. That much is indisputable.
Yet, can we object that Lot is righteous? We can’t do so in Genesis (since the author makes no such claim), and I’m not certain that we can do so in 2 Peter (since the author there only claims that Lot is righteous inasmuch as the sins of Sodom were offensive to him).
So, I think that, although you may have received a less-than-satisfactory answer to your call (and hey – it’s probably not unfair to suggest that this is so, due to the time constraints in the program), I don’t think that the case you were trying to make (that God’s saving of Lot, due to Lot’s personal merits) necessarily holds in this case.