I am looking for 2 words or phrases, if such exists, for either side of the following situation:

A pastor was conducting (christian) bible study and was teaching the story of how Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and thus caused the devastation of mankind from then on. The students asked, if God made everything, knows everything, and knows the fruit is harmful, why give Adam and Eve the opportunity to even access the fruit, if God wanted it as an ornament and knew A+E were going to eat it and cause devastation, he could have at least put it out of reach. The pastor replied that it was to test the children (ie, A+E)'s obedience, and the students replied, but you are a parent yourself, would you not make sure your poisonous and hazardous cleaning products and knives etc are out of reach of your own children, lest they hurt themselves, and the pastor said no, they need to learn to be obedient (ie not touch things I tell the not to touch). The students all said nothing but were not convinced.

I am looking for 2 words or phrases, one for the pastor or his action, and one to describe the way the students must have felt upon hearing this.

Note: This has nothing to do with religion itself and I am not here to start an argument about religion.

For the pastor, I thought of "lied through his teeth" but I don't think this works, because 'lying' is saying something false: this would imply he does indeed hides his dangerous things from his kids at home, but simply says he doesn't. What I want to portray is, the ridiculousness of a claim, to stand up to or support a ridiculous claim/something that is just obviously wrong, in order to be "correct" all the time, and not contradict yourself. Again, not meaning to stir up political controversies, another similar, but not the same, example would be when Trump supporters lied through their teeth with no evidence.

Can I say the pastor "changed his goal post and said "No, I wouldn't..."", ie, changing his answer to fit the question?

I would also like a word to describe the students and what they must feel or react to hearing something like this. I thought of "disappointed" or "conned" but neither is remotely close. "Amused (at the pastor's answer)" isn't so great either but better than the former two, the problem is, it is a bit vague and can have a positive connotation. You can be amused by good things too, but I think a word with a more negative connotation here would be better. "Angry" or "irritated" are also not the right word (I think), because the 'deception' doesn't harm them (it's not like the pastor said he prepared lunch for them but didn't so all the students went hungry). "Bemused" is closer, but the Merriam-Webster defines it as "marked by confusion or bewilderment", and the synonyms absent, distracted... The students were not confused, baffled nor perplexed, which would imply they accepted the pastor's answer as fact, but just could not understand it, rather, they all secretly rejected his answer as nonsense.

What I'd like to write is, "The students then looked to each other with ___ understanding" like, "they understood how ___ each other were feeling".

The students then looked to each other with mutual "angry" understanding but didn't say anything?
The students then looked to each other with mutual "baffled" understanding but didn't say anything?
The students then looked to each other with mutual "exasperation"/exasperated understanding but didn't say anything?
The students then looked to each other with mutual "bemused" understanding but didn't say anything?
etc etc. (these sentences aren't necessarily grammatically correct)

Again, a political example would be when anti-Trump people hear Trump supporters lie, and they know it is a lie.

  • I would say that the pastor is rationalising - giving an answer based on the internal logic of the Creation myth rather than on ordinary human experience. Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 10:22
  • The pastor is giving a poor explanation. There came a time when he and his wife had to learn to use potentially dangerous cleaning products, had to grow up; giving up on bleach altogether would be giving in to infections. Not having a cooking device would similarly be tantamount to exposing the family to germs. // The bigger issue, 'Why did God allow a chance to disobey when the consequences would be so dire?' is that he could not have created Man as Man without such sweeping free will. // The students are let down, but then any human interpretation of God's ways and means will be imperfect. Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 12:51

2 Answers 2


The pastor might be characterised as pertinacious or (persisting):

Continuing stubbornly or tenaciously despite challenges; Holding firmly to an opinion or a course of action (WordHippo)

As for the students, I would say:

The students then looked at each other unconvinced.

M-W defines unconvinced as:

not brought to believe or accept something by argument, not convinced

  • They remain unconvinced by her new evidence …

The pastor is sophistic and the students are sceptical.

Sophistic pertains to

sophistry = subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation

Merriam Webster

Sceptical = doubting that something is true or useful:

Cambridge Dictionary

I also suggest that the students were leery of his arguments:

Leery = SUSPICIOUS, WARY —often used with of leery of strangers

”She seemed a little leery of the proposal.”

Merriam Webster

Note that "leery of" may suggest the verb "to leer" but this is entirely inappropriate and should not be used in this context. One can be "leery of" an argument or an idea but the students themselves do not leer.

to leer = to look at someone in a sexually interested way

Cambridge Dictionary

The students may have looked dubiously at each other.

dubiously = in a way that shows you feel doubt or do not feel sure that something is right or true

Cambridge Dictionary

  • Thanks! Sophistry seems perfect, never heard of this word before. Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 11:35
  • Can I say "the students leered at each other in discomfort"? Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 11:50
  • Oh dear me NO. To "leer" is to look at someone in a sexually desiring or unpleasant way. I have modified my answer to make this clear.
    – Anton
    Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 12:31
  • According to the MW dictionary, it defines 'leered' as "eyed, observed, watched, gawked..." not one one word that suggests anything remotely sexual. I want to convey that the students would have raised eyebrows at each other and were astonished at the answer. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 13:05
  • 1
    Don't use "leer". Cambridge Dictionary gives "to look at someone in a sexually interested way". Macmillan dictionary gives "to look at someone in an unpleasant way that shows you are sexually interested in them". Even Merriam Webster's example is consistent with the sexual overtones. "female employees complained that they were being leered at by male employees"
    – Anton
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 13:22

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