This also touches upon the notion of hierarchy, which is just as decisive as the other issues. If you assert a genuine hierarchy, you're self-condemned since Luther and Calvin (and others) weren't hierarchy. If you assert no hierarchy, then each man's authority to judge/interpret is by *definition* equal.
This is a bit confusing. It doesn't follow that because Luther and Calvin "weren't hierarchy," Protestant belief is "condemned." I can still hold to a belief in hierarchy and say that the hierarchy of the Church during the Reformation was mistaken on critical issues. That's within the possible appropriate evaluations of a subordinate authority. It's also congruent with Scriptural precedent (e.g. Apostles disobeying the valid Jewish hierarchy in the New Testament, Old Testament prophets disobeying the divinely established monarchy and its temple priests and prophets, etc.).
And Luther's ultimate "middle finger" was when he said: "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils" How is this not individualism at it's bedrock?
Let's assume your quote is in context and that we can conveniently ignore all the other statements Luther made regarding the authority of the Church (or, for that matter, the good that came from the Papacy). It seems you're simply trading on different senses of what it means to be individualistic. That someone can disagree with an authority figure (or that someone ultimately does disagree with an authority figure) does not entail individualism in the sense of thinking all authority is rooted in the individual. The former is describing a basic fact of being an person with a will--that individuals can ultimately attempt to do whatever they wish within the pool of talents, resources and opportunity they've been given by God. That's a different (metaphysical?) concept than what is meant by individualism in the post-Enlightenment West. Granted many Evangelicals, products as they are of a country deeply influenced by Enlightenment, engage in individualism as properly construed, this does not reflect the attitudes and preferences of the Reformers and their faithful followers.
Also consider that lay-Catholic apologists disagree with priests and scholars within their denomination from time to time, even though these figures (who are sometimes even bishops and scholars at the same time and appointed by other bishops to commissions with oversight from the Magisterium) are authorities (in various sense of the word) above them. They do this because they believe these priests and scholars are not accurately representing the teachings of Tradition; they are failing in their roles as subordinate authorities. (And sometimes they are correct in this assessment, e.g. Luke Timothy Johnson on homosexuality.)
Likewise, Protestants can also speak of rejecting certain manifestations of hierarchical structures if it seems they have over stepped their bounds of authority or violated the principles of Scripture, God, etc. to which they have sworn allegiance as officers of the Church. How this entails individualism as construed by the post-Enlightenment conception of a self-determined identity (and all of its philosophical baggage) is unknown. Indeed, the very idea of disagreeing with an authority means that a valid authority already exists. But radical individualism denies the presence of authorities outside of man (or Scripture, in the case of the Anabaptists) from the beginning; it's not even part of the discussion.
In other words, the approach of Luther and Calvin is decidedly different than the idea that all authority ultimately rests in the individual—that the individual decides first and foremost without any respect or regard or deference to the established structure of the Church, whether in elders, councils or pastors.
Don't be simplistic in confusing similar results in some cases, where, for example, someone in the PCA who decides that Sartre's philosophy is to be preferred to the standards of the WCF, with someone who was born into a deeply anti-authority Evangelical culture and lives her entire life deciding that she'll live however she pleases. The structures are significantly different, especially when we consider the threats of excommunication and discipline--which constitute authoritative action--on an individual in a properly functioning Reformation church.
I'd be interested to see how you'd reconcile deeply individualistic approaches to Scripture with the measured approach Turretin outlines should someone find himself unable to accept the teachings of the church under which he submits:
...they ought to undertake nothing rashly or disorderly and unseasonably, so as to violently rend the body of their mother, but to refer the difficulties they feel to their church and either to prefer her public opinion to their own private judgment or to secede from her communion, if the conscience cannot acquiesce in her judgment. Thus they cannot bind the inner court of conscience, except inasmuch as they are found to agree with the word of God (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 3 [Phillipsburg: P&R, 1997], 284).
Consider also how Turretin distinguishes between various kinds of judgments:
Three types of judge must be carefully distinguished. The first is the ultimate and authoritative who decides authoritatively and absolutely, as supreme ruler, and from whom there is no appeal. The second is that of a functionary or minister, who gives a decision as a public official. The third is personal or private-the individual's decision regarding either the law or its interpretation. In the first case, the decision is final and absolute. In the second, it is official, but subordinate and limited by the law. In the third case, it is a personal opinion without official standing (The Supreme Judge of Controversies and the Interpreter of Scripture).
In the radical individualistic approach, at the very least, the second kind of judge is completely removed from the picture.
As for Calvin, I've read Institutes 4.9, and he clearly reserves the right to object or toss out anything he thinks doesn't conform to (his interpretation) of Scripture. I've also read where he went line by line on the Council of Trent (especially on Justification) and single-handedly rejected anything he didn't agree with.
And you reserve the right to object or toss out anything you think doesn't conform to your interpretation of the Magisterium's official documents—Tradition.
This isn't unique to Protestantism, and it isn't unique to those outside of Catholicism. You are inconsistently applying the simple fact of life that all people are ultimately free to disregard whatever anyone says. If it's a problem for Protestantism, it's a problem for Catholicism.
I'd also add that your picture of Calvin doesn't square with what I've already quoted from him in the previous thread and what he wrote on the authority of the church elsewhere (cf. Institutes, IV.x.18). Consider also what I've quoted from him in this thread.
Nick writes elsewhere:
The *catch* is that the (pretend) Reformers' actions paved the way for radical individualism since in principle each layman could fall back on their own interpretation of Scripture, just as Luther and Calvin did when they disagreed with someone else.
This eventually led to watering down the Christian Gospel as a whole, and where the radical individualism really began to show - and eventually became so common that most Protestants see it as "normal" in Christianity.
In the sense you're using the concept, it seems everyone could "fall back on" whatever interpretation of Scripture they hold. I don't see how you connect that with the Reformers in a meaningful fashion; it's not as if people didn't engage in this kind of behavior before the Reformation.