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In the last decades ‘theologies of retrieval’ have become a popular way of doing systematic theology and reconnecting pre-modern authors with contemporary theological issues. This ‘retrieval’ of history within systematic theology is, however, not without its moral challenges. Certainly, today we have become more conscious of our presumptions and one-sidedness in our interpretations of historical events (e.g. the Dutch ‘golden’ age). A theology of retrieval can hence quickly be used to serve particular contemporary theological ends that fail to do justice to the complexity of the actual sources and run the risk of ‘overemplotting’ the past. Based on an exploration of James McClendon’s retrieval of the Radical Reformation in his baptist vision, an argument is made for a more conscious ‘art of historical conversation’ within present-day systematic theology, especially theologies of retrieval.