The Purple Cow Fallacy

How do we interpret prophecy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s not a secret to my readers that I am an orthodox preterist in my eschatology. Sometimes, I like to debate with futurists and dispensationalists. Eschatology is just a subject I enjoy discussing. I will also say my wife is still a futurist, though not a dispensationalist, because I do not press the issue on her and want her to come to her own conclusions.

Anyway, one mistake I see futurists often making is what has been described to me as the Purple Cow fallacy. In this, imagine a famous rock star in the 60’s. He predicts after his retirement that one day another great musician like him will show up. It will be known this has happened when the hide of a purple cow is seen across America.

There are two schools of thought on how to interpret this prophecy. The first is the globalist school of thought. This is the one that says that the sky will turn the color of the hide of a purple cow. The other is the localist. These say that a man will take the hide of a purple cow and put it on the back of his car and drive across America.

One day, the localists claim the prophecy has been fulfilled as someone has driven across the country like that. The globalists are immediately aghast. How can you say that the prophecy has been fulfilled? Would not everyone have seen the sky change color that way?

You and I are observers on the outside. We think this whole prophecy thing is a crazy delusion so we have no skin in the game. Still, from our perspective we can point something out. We can point out that the globalists could be right on the meaning, but in this debate, they are begging the question. They are assuming that the prophecy is only fulfilled if their interpretation of it takes place, when what is under question is the interpretation of the prophecy.

We Christians have to deal with this as well and this includes dispensationalists and futurists. How many Jews tell us “How can you say the Messiah has come? Would not the world already be living in perfect peace and harmony and the third temple be built?” Christians have to say that obviously hasn’t happened yet, (And for the third temple I dispute it ever will) but that doesn’t mean the Messiah has not come because that is begging the question about what the prophecy means.

So it is with dispensationalists that I encounter often where it is assumed that a prophecy must be interpreted a certain way and if it hasn’t happened or I don’t think it will happen that way, then I am calling into question Scripture. Not at all. I am calling into question your interpretation and to keep pointing to your interpretation is to beg the question.

This is not an argument per se that futurism and/or dispensationalism are wrong, but it is a request to stop using a fallacious argument. This also does not prove preterism is true either, though I am convinced it is. However, if you do debate this kind of topic regularly, watch for this fallacy. Once you become aware of it, you see it happening often.

In Christ,
Nick Peters