The Word on the Week

Stress Test

In the past stress tests were applied to manufactured goods to ensure they could be used safely. Thus testing to destruction was the method and the product was produced with a warning which ensured that it was used at far lower stress limits. It is difficult to test a bank to destruction although the CEO of Anglo-Irish inadvertently did just that with his bank and, like lemmings blindly following their leader over the cliff, the other banks followed. The fact they were reigned in before extinction appears to have been due more to their inability to keep up with Anglo’s lending bonanza than prudent testing of their loan books. All this is history but was brought into the present this week by the publication by the Central Bank of the report on stress testing of our remaining banks by Black Rock Solutions who were themselves overseen by the Boston Consulting Group. The results produced a few more billions of Euro which, when added to the amounts already required, was rounded off at €70 billion! Naturally, when faced by such a mountain, alternatives such as default or “burning the bondholders” have been mooted by the more aggressive elements in our society. Tempting as they are, the short term gains they produce could well be followed by a long term in the economic wilderness. The possibility of making the guilty pay has been abandoned as they have spent their stash long ago! What has the Bible to say on these matters? The biggest stress test Jesus had to face during his ministry was in the garden of Gethsemane where he agonised in prayer till he literally sweated blood. His prayer was answered in the negative – there was no other sacrificial lamb – to be followed by the ultimate stress test of Calvary. Modern people have an enormous difficulty here. Having removed the word sin from their vocabulary, Jesus death is robbed of its significance. No longer, they say, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace “. (Isaiah chapter 53 verse 5) Peace with God becomes another victim of modern thought as God is edited out of their thinking so Jesus death loses its vertical dimension and becomes simply another miscarriage of Roman injustice. But the poet has captured the truth: “T’was not the mortal pain he bore, when hanging on the awful tree, But his pure soul in touch with sin, that crushed him in such agony.” Jesus passed the stress test so that repentant sinners, who acknowledge that they have turned their back on the God who loves them, might have a way out of their spiritual wilderness. Banks cannot pay. Taxpayers cannot pay. Economically we need another way. This is paralleled with our inability to ever pay for our own sins we need a savour who was stress tested to death and rose again to redeem all those who trust in him.