Personal Autonomy & Agency

The most fundamental principles of our existence may be that we have been endowed by our Creator with agency, or personal autonomy.

Contributors to Wikipedia have explained, “In developmental psychology and moral, political, and bioethical philosophy, autonomy is the capacity to make an informed, uncoerced decision. Autonomous organizations or institutions are independent or self-governing” (Wikipedia).

On a more individual, physiological level, agency describes the personal autonomy we exercise as we consciously act for ourselves.

For those familiar with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, agency is a prerequisite and assumed condition for self-actualization. Self actualization is the pursuit of “self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”

In order for us to “self-actualize” and expand to reach our full capacity—becoming everything that we are capable of becoming—we must exercise the agency to act for ourselves.

At its core, this means that our conscious mind must have the capacity to control the actions of our bodies. Without conscious control of our physical bodies, we are merely objects to be acted upon by the persons and forces around us.

We did not create our bodies, we don’t truly understand how they work, and there are many things we cannot do with them. The degree to which our conscious minds can control our bodies defines the degree of agency with which we have been endowed by our Creator.

This agency has also been called free will. Although there have been clever attacks on the principle of free will/agency by those advocating reductionism and determinism, evidence of free will remains strong. 

If agency does not exist, then we are biological robots that are trained to behave in a predetermined way without any intelligent, conscious decision-making.

Additionally, if we have no agency or free will, then we do not choose our actions and thus cannot be accountable for them. For many, agency incorporates not only our personal autonomy, but also the accountability that we owe to our Creator.

Principle #5: All things were created by God, therefore upon Him all mankind are equally dependent and to Him they are equally responsible. (The 5,000 Year Leap)

Thankfully, few are ready to accept either the idea that we are biological robots or that we should not be held accountable for our decisions. It may be that this deeply ingrained sense of justice and desire for accountability is the greatest proof we have of our own free will and agency.


  • Our bodies were designed and created by God.
  • God has given us personal autonomy or free will, which is the power to control our bodies.
  • We are accountable to our Creator for the exercise of this power.
  • The dual power and accountability we carry can be called agency.

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