Topoi: Responsibility . . . .

responsibility 2

A generally accepted “topos” in both American culture, and in the Christian community.  When these topoi are consciously identified, they can be used by a speaker or preacher.

“Topoi” are not argued “for,” but are argued “from.”  They need not be “argued” for since they are already generally accepted truths, beliefs, propositions, or opinions.  Therefore, one can mention “topos,” belief, or concept and it furthers the point which is being made.

For example, if a preacher were saying . . . .

The Lord has given you opportunities, gifts, skills, talents, position, power, social skills —  and if you fail to use it — if you do not take what God has given you and put it to use in and for the Kingdom —  you will answer to the Lord for that!  It is irresponsible!  You are irresponsible!

In making the statements, “It is irresponsible,” or “You are irresponsible” a speaker is not arguing “for” but “from” the topos of “responsibility.”

A speaker could argue for the need for and value of personal responsibility by going to biblical passages which teach personal responsibility.  That would be in order if the audience did not agree or believe in the rightness of personal responsibility.

However, if a belief, truth, proposition, or opinion is already understood and accepted, you can argue “from” that accepted proposition.  The speaker only needs to say, “That is not responsible!”

If you said, “That is not responsible” in a one-one conversation, the other person might say to you, “So — Who says I have to be responsible?”  That is, that person (or a member of an audience) may not hold that belief.  If that were the case, it might be necessary to argue for, to support the rightness of that truth or belief.



The Topos:  Personal Responsibility

The Topos Defined:  Men and women have a duty, a liability, or an answerability to do what is commensurate with what they have in their hands, have been given, have been entrusted with, their volition, etc.

The American & Biblical Topos Explained:  While, in American culture, the concept of personal responsibility may be disappearing in some areas of life, we generally hold to the belief that people should be held responsible for their actions and their possessions.

Even though the generally held belief of personal responsibility may be waning in American culture, it is clearly an accepted “topos” in the Christian culture, which can be leaned upon in preaching and teaching.


Examples Of That Biblical Topoi Taught:  There are passages and examples of this generally held belief throughout the pages of Scripture.  If you wanted to argue FOR this belief, there are numerous biblical passages which teach this truth.  These passages argue the rightness “for” holding and believing this truth or belief.  These passages support the presence, truthfulness, rightness, and morality of this biblical topos.

David: II Samuel 12:8

Preface To The Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:1-2

Joseph: Genesis 39:7-9

To whom much is given, much will be required: Luke 12:48

Four Lepers: II Kings 7


Arguing From, Not For:  In using a topos, it is NOT that the speaker argues FOR this topos.  Rather, this topos is already held by the audience, and a speaker argues FROM it.


“Now if that is true, and it is, how does that affect our lives?  How are we to live in light of that truth?  What is the Lord expecting in our actions, reactions, thinking, behavior — our walk based on that truth?

We can’t just read these words and do little to nothing  — and not have it affect what we think and do this week.  That is not how truth is designed to work.  Truth has implications in our life.

Look at what the Lord has said and/or done — and there is always a “therefore” which follows — there is always a responsibility which follows.

We know that!   You know that!  What is the “therefore” in our lives!

We know that the Lord is not just talking — laying out truths with no plan on it affecting our lives.

We understand that God’s truth has life implications which we should well apply to the way we walk, talk, think, interact, do business, raise our family, our marriage . . . .

That truth means that we ought to walk into the front door of our house and say to ourselves . . . . It means that when someone offends us in our workplace tomorrow, we ought to . . . .

We are going to be held responsible for the application of this truth when we stand before God one day — and in our lives long before that day . . . .”




In such a hypothetical sermonic admonition, I am not “arguing” that we the Bible teaches us that we are personally responsible.  Rather, I am assuming that we already believe in “responsibility,” and am “arguing” from that belief —  about how a particular truth carries practical and necessary implications-obligations.



Here is a clip of Tony Evans arguing “from” the topos – Responsibility.    The section below is only part of the audio clip which was transcribed.  The message is titled, “Growing You Knowledge” @ the 22-minute mark.


I don’t what to hear about you not going to class

You not doing your homework

I don’t want to hear about you out partying all night — so you ain’t feel like gettin up

I don’t want to hear about all that

cause the price is too high!

When you think about $38,000 a year, I don’t want to hear you made a “D,” when you had the ability to make an “A” — cause it cost too much – at $38,000 a year.

But if she forgets the high price that has to be paid for her to have a college education — then she going to party, then she not going to be responsible — then she going to hang out with the wrong people – cause she forgot that she didn’t pay the tab

Somebody else picked up the tab, and the tab was $38,000 a year

So you had better be serious about a college education – if somebody picks up the tab — at $38,000 a year

2000 years ago, Jesus picked up the tab

He paid it in full

He doesn’t want you to forget the price He paid at Calvary, for our sins

and become slothful

cause the price was too high that he paid for you to forget the expensive cost of the payment for – our – sins.





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