The problem with the “context” argument
One of the most popular methods for reinterpreting the plain meaning of a biblical text is to say “well, the context of that passage is different than our current context.” The way this argument is put usually goes like this: “we need to keep in mind that this was a letter Paul was writing to address a certain situation in a certain time in a certain place.” The argument then eventually says “now we’re in a different time and situation, so that text is not directly applicable.” (The teaching that is being reinterpreted is almost always one that offends contemporary politically correct views).
There’s plenty that can be said in favor of understanding the context of a biblical passage. But, I’d also like to point out a major weakness of this method: it can be used to undermine every aspect of Scripture. In law school this is what we called an argument that “proved too much.” What I mean is that, although it’s true that Paul’s writings on (women/sexuality/authority/you-name-it) were meant to address a particular situation, the same is true of all the writings of the Bible. So, to the extent this notion of “context” calls into question any given teaching (say, women’s roles in church), it equally calls into question any other teaching (say, salvation by grace through faith). This is not to suggest that we should question our central doctrines because of context, but rather it’s to suggest that the “context” method is often being used not in pursuit of truth but in the pushing of an agenda.
This isn’t to say that understanding context isn’t important. But it is to say that pointing out that a biblical epistle was addressed to a particular context is often simplistically misapplied by people desiring to justify a convenient re-interpretation of Scripture.