Another Topoi . . . .

dictionary  Topoi:  Definition*

Check out some of the other articles on “topoi” to understand how basic this rhetorical concept of “topoi” is to public speaking.

The Topos:  “Definition.”

The Concept:  In making or explaining a point, you can simply point to what something is “by definition.”  That is, by definition it is this-or-that.  What it is, is consistent with what is happening or one should expect.

The Rhetorical Template:

“That is what it is.”

“Of course . . . . that is what it means.”

Why would you not expect that when you know that it is a _____ (battle, standing, resisting, testifying, witnessing, serving . . . .)

No need to be surprised.  That is why it is called ______.

That is what it is by definition.


“There are some people who say that honesty is so difficult when facing the temptation to lie in order to avoid this-or-that consequence.  No, that is just what honesty is all about.  That is when honesty is needed and when it is difficult when there are painful or negative consequences that accompany telling the truth.  Who can’t tell the truth when the truth is consequence-less.”


“Don’t be surprised as a believer that when you try to navigate your way through this world that there is opposition.  Of course, there is opposition.  This world is not a friend of grace, never has been.  When you navigate, there is both fair and foul weather you have to deal with, which accompanies any voyage.  That is what it means to be a believer — You believe Jesus, not what this world is saying about life and living.”

Actual Sermon Examples:

Here is an example of it being used by John Ortberg.

(audio clip by John Ortberg, on “Nehemiah” )

When Ortberg says . . . .

“No soldier — goes into a battle and says . . . .


Hey they are shooting at me.”

“Nobody goes into a football game —


Time out!

They are trying to tackle me.”

He is explaining, making the argument, or developing the point by using the “topos” call definition.


Other Examples

“It all depends on how you define “good.”  Was having a flat tire on the way to work a good or a bad event?  Well, if after you change your tire, and you come upon a terrible accident on your route to work — was it bad or good that you were delayed?”


“A temptation is not sinful, but the yielding to the temptation is what is sinful.  Let’s make sure we understand which is which.”


“Mistakes are not sins.  Mistakes are the result of being finite.  Sins are the results of doing what is wrong.  Don’t define your sins as mistakes, or mistakes as sin.”


“Boyhood — In other words, if a male is still a boy, then he is looking for somebody else to do it for him.  Somebody else has got to take care of him – somebody else has got to be responsible for him.  Ladies if you have to take care of your man, you are actually taking care of your boy — cause that’s the nature of boyhood . . . .”  — [Returning To Biblical Manhood” by Tony Evans — Tony Evans defines boyhood, and then uses that definition to make his point.]

“Aristotle on Commonplaces

  • – “The commonplaces or topics are ‘locations’ of standard categories of arguments. Aristotle distinguishes four common topics: whether a thing has occurred, whether it will occur, whether things are bigger or smaller than they seem, and whether a thing is or is not possible. Other commonplaces are definition, comparison, relationship, and testimony, each with its own subtopics. . . .”

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