If we put our faith in the literal words of Holy Scripture we have to make the assumption that this troubled 19th Century impressionist Dutch painter did indeed go to heaven. For we read in the Word:
To whom shall I speak and testify, that they may bear; behold their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken (Jeremiah 6:10).
Therefore, by cutting off a piece of his ear Vincent Van Gogh may have inadvertently spared himself from this awful situation of eternal damnation. Or, maybe he didn’t. So before you do some snipping perhaps there is a less bloody approach to winning God’s favor. But this approach requires that we elevate our minds to a more rarefied sphere.
First of all, the ear is constructed to draw sound into its internal mechanism and towards the auditory nerve. How can one hear God’s words better by clipping off parts of this sound-focusing structure? Is there something spiritual, rather than physical, being communicated here?
The reason for my daring to think this way is that if you have made a serious reading of Scripture you will have also learned that God asked His followers to perform surgery on other body parts as well. In one case people were told to circumcise the foreskin of the penis. In another, devotees were expected to circumcise their hearts! Good grief!
Surely, heart surgery is a deadly peace of advice. However, since a religious life refers to a life of love and goodness perhaps God’s advice has a deeper meaning. Circumcising one’s heart (to the understanding of an elevated mind) would then mean that we are to cut away and remove the negative things, hatreds and compulsions we hold in our hearts.
Doesn’t that option make more sense when it comes to obeying the Lord God?
Cutting the foreskin of the penis has a similar spiritual meaning. It signifies removing the “outer” vanities and allurements of the physical world from our spirit. It symbolizes that in order to live a spiritual life there must be purification from filthy loves (just as a circumcised penis is easier to clean).
The ear also symbolizes a spiritual quality. “Hearing” represents what a person listens to, and thus what a person obeys (hearkens). Those referred to in Scripture with uncircumcised “ears” represent individuals who choose not to hear (obey) God’s instructions.
God’s Holy Word is full of statements like those above that seem to make no sense to the rational thought processes of many people in our post-modern world. The irony here is that current worldviews challenging the authority and inerrancy of the Bible come from those who are not challenging their noggins to look beyond mere physical descriptions. All new worlds of meaning are waiting to be revealed from God’s Word.
So, to answer the question proposed by the title of this post I don’t really know if Van Gogh went to heaven. I do not know the quality of his heart.